Posts Tagged ‘PM Benjamin Netanyahu’

US ‘Victory’ in Settlements Row Short-Lived

March 21, 2010

Netanyahu Vows to Continue East Jerusalem Construction

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, March 21, 2010

Last week’s declaration of victory in the ongoing Israel row by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to have been a short-lived win, and media claims that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had “bowed” to US demands appear to be premature.

In his most recent public comments, Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated that he would like to see the “indirect talks” with the Palestinian Authority resume, but that he absolutely would not ever agree to restrict construction in occupied East Jerusalem, the issue upon which the talks have stalled.

With Netanyahu on his way to the US for AIPAC’s policy conference, and expected to focus his visit on pressing President Obama for more advanced weapons with which to attack Iran, it was widely expected that the Netanyahu government would try to defuse the tensions over the East Jerusalem move, which US officials considered a public insult.

And indeed the tensions do seem to be dying down, though the only thing resembling a concession made by the Netanyahu government was to implement a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy wherein the Israeli government would continue to expand settlements in East Jerusalem with impunity but would stop publicizing them at inopportune times.

But even if US-Israeli relations return quickly to normalcy, there appears to be no rapprochement forthcoming with the PA. This may serve as a recipe for the Obama Administration to default back to chastising the Palestinians for “refusing” negotiations (just two weeks after they agreed to those negotiations, only to see them torpedoed by the most recent construction), but it seems unlikely that it will restart the peace talks.

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U.S. gave Israel green light for East Jerusalem construction

March 12, 2010

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
(AP)

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By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent, Haretz/Israel,  March 12, 2010

The apology offered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Eli Yishai recalls the joke about the servant who pinched the king’s bottom. En route to the gallows, the servant apologized: He thought it was the queen’s bottom.

The statement issued by Netanyahu’s bureau said that in light of the ongoing dispute between Israel and the United States over construction in East Jerusalem, the plans for new housing in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood should not have been approved this particular week. It also said the premier had ordered Yishai to draft procedures that would prevent a recurrence. In other words, Yishai is welcome to submit more plans for Jewish construction in East Jerusalem next week, when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will no longer be here.

Based on Biden’s reaction, it seems that he (and, presumably, his boss) has decided that it is better to leave with a few sour grapes than to quarrel with the vineyard guard. In his speech at Tel Aviv University, he said he appreciated Netanyahu’s pledge that there would be no recurrence. But what exactly does that mean? That next time he comes, the Planning and Building Committee will be asked to defer discussion of similar plans until the honored guest has left?

With the media storm dying down, Netanyahu can breathe a sigh of relief.

In a sense, the uproar actually helped him: To wipe the spit off his face, Biden had to say it was only rain. Therefore, he lauded Netanyahu’s assertion that actual construction in Ramat Shlomo would begin only in another several years.

Thus Israel essentially received an American green light for approving even more building plans in East Jerusalem.

Biden might not know it, but the Palestinians certainly remember that this is exactly how East Jerusalem’s Har Homa neighborhood began: Then, too, Netanyahu persuaded the White House that construction would begin only in another several years.

When Biden arrived, the Arab League had just recommended that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accede to Washington’s proposal for indirect talks with Israel.

But instead of being able to leave with an announcement that the talks have officially begun, Biden is leaving with the news that the Arab League has suspended its recommendation.

Netanyahu can thus hope that the Ramat Shlomo imbroglio has deferred the moment of truth when he must reveal his interpretation of “two states for two peoples.” And just in case anyone failed to realize how impartial a mediator the U.S. is, Biden said in his Tel Aviv speech that the U.S. has “no better friend” than Israel.

For Netanyahu, the cherry on top was that the onus for advancing the negotiations has now been put on the Arab states – just two weeks before the Arab League summit in Tripoli, where the league’s 2002 peace initiative will again be up for discussion. For months, U.S. President Barack Obama has been trying to persuade Arab leaders not to disconnect this important initiative from life support. His argument is that nothing would make Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad happier than a final blow-up of the peace process and the outbreak of a third intifada. And his joy would be redoubled if the fire started in Jerusalem.

But while the U.S. may be papering over the rift for now, Western diplomats said the bill will come due once the talks with the PA begin (assuming they do). The U.S. has already said it will submit bridging proposals of its own during these talks, and its anger and frustration over the Ramat Shlomo incident are likely to make it far more sympathetic to the Palestinians’ positions, the diplomats said.

For instance, Netanyahu wants security issues to top the talks’ agenda, an Israeli source said. But the Palestinians want the first issue to be borders, including in Jerusalem.

And the European Union, which had planned to upgrade various agreements with Israel this week in honor of the resumed talks, has now postponed the upgrade until it becomes clear whether the talks will in fact take place.

Sources: Israeli PM approved Mossad murder

February 22, 2010

Middle East Online, First Published 2010-02-21


Netanyahu to murderers: ‘The people of Israel trust you’

Report: Hardline Netanyahu wished assassins ‘good luck’ before they murdered Hamas man.

LONDON – Hardline Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met members of an assassination squad at Mossad headquarters shortly before they went to Dubai to murder a Hamas commander, Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper reported.

Netanyahu was welcomed to Mossad by its chief Meir Dagan and briefed on plans to murder Mahmud al-Mabhuh, a top commander of the democratically elected Palestinian movement, the paper said, quoting unnamed sources with knowledge of Mossad.

The prime minister reportedly authorised the mission, which was not seen as complicated or risky.

“Typically on such occasions, the prime minister intones: ‘The people of Israel trust you. Good luck,'” the paper added.

It also quoted a source saying burns from a stun gun were found on the body of Mabhuh, a founder of Hamas’s armed wing who was killed on a visit to Dubai, and that there were traces of a nose bleed, possibly from being smothered.

The high-profile killing has caused diplomatic tensions between Israel and four European countries — Britain, Ireland, France and Germany — whose fake passports were linked to the hit.

Interpol has issued arrest notices for 11 suspects, while Israel has shrugged off calls for Dagan to be arrested over the January 20 killing.

Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim has said it was “most likely” Mossad was behind the crime and wants Dagan to bear responsibility if it was.

“The Dubai police have provided no incriminating proof,” a senior Israeli official said Friday, asking not to be identified.

Mossad has used agents with fake passports for operations in the past. Experts say it is highly unlikely that those who carried out the killing will ever be caught.

Obama’s lost Senate seat is a victory for Netanyahu

January 21, 2010
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz/Israel, Jan 21, 2010
The Republican upset in the race for the U.S. Senate seat held for nearly half a century by liberal Edward M. Kennedy reflects a huge victory for opponents of U.S. President Barack Obama – and also for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Scott Brown defeated once-favored Martha Coakley for the Massachusetts seat even after U.S. President Barack Obama rushed to Boston on Sunday to try to save her candidacy.

Over the past nine months, Netanyahu has managed to curb pressure from Obama, who enjoys a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. Now, however, Obama will be more dependent on the support of his Republican rivals, the supporters and friends of Netanyahu.

No Israeli politician matches his steps to the political goings-on in the U.S. as much as Netanyahu. He dragged out negotiations over the settlement freeze and then decided it would last for 10 months and end in September – just in time for U.S. Congressional elections in which Democrats are expected to suffer heavy losses.

Netanyahu understood he must withstand the pressure until his right-wing supporters recapture a position of power on Capitol Hill and work to rein in the White House’s political activities. The election in Massachusetts, one of the most liberal states in America, will from this moment on be a burden for Obama.

Proponents of the peace process will view this as a missed opportunity for Obama, who spent his first year in office on fruitless diplomatic moves that failed to restart talks between Israel and the Palestinians. From now on, it will be harder for Obama. Congressional support is essential to the political process and in the current political atmosphere in the U.S. – in which the parties are especially polarized – Netanyahu can rely on Republican support to thwart pressure on Israel.

If Obama’s popularity continues to dive and the Republicans recapture at least one of the houses of Congress in November, Netanyahu and his partners will be able to breathe deep and continue expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel dismisses UN war-crimes charges

October 14, 2009
Morning Star Online, October 13, 2009

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Tuesday never to allow the state’s leaders or soldiers to stand trial on war-crimes charges for their attacks on Gaza last winter.

Earlier this week, a UN report written by former war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone accused both Israel and Gaza’s Hamas government of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Mr Goldstone strongly criticised the Israeli military for launching indiscriminate missile attacks on civilians.

But Mr Netanyahu responded furiously, denouncing the report as “distorted” and claimed that the UN was “encouraging terrorism” by daring to criticise Israel.

Mr Goldstone, who is a Jewish South African, accused the state, which continues to occupy Palestine in defiance of UN resolutions, of using disproportionate force, deliberately targeting civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure as well as having used people as human shields.

His report also accused Hamas of deliberately targeting civilians and trying to “spread terror” through its rocket attacks.

But Mr Netanyahu angrily criticised the report’s portrayal of Israeli leaders as war criminals, claiming that “the truth is exactly the opposite.”

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Nuclear-armed Israel slams non-nuclear Iran

September 25, 2009

Middle East Online, Sep 25, 2009


Hypocrisy personified

UN-defying Israeli hardliner slams nations that did not walk out on Ahmadinejad’s speech.

UNITED NATIONS – Hardline Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly Thursday that Iran’s alleged quest for nuclear weapons was the greatest danger the world faces, in what observers say is an untrue hypocritical remark.

Nuclear-armed Israel is the only country in the Middle East that actually has nuclear weapons.

Although Israel was created by a UN resolution over 60 years ago, it is known for its defiance of the international community, especially when concerning UN resolutions on it’s illegal occupation of Arab land.

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Gideon Levy: Obama, you won’t make peace without talking to Hamas

September 24, 2009

By Gideon Levy, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz/Israel, Sep 24, 2009

It’s as if U.S. President Barack Obama did the least he had to. He “rebuked” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. That’s not how a president with star power acts. That is not how a superpower does things. America is again falling down on the job, and Obama is betraying his mission and the promise of his presidency.

True, it’s an anomaly that the United States wants a peace settlement more than the hawkish parties to the conflict, but the leader of the free world has a crucial role, and he is not fulfilling it. Nine months after Obama assumed the presidency, precious time has been totally wasted, in the Middle East at least, and suspicions are growing that the promise of his presidency is on the wane, even if the man is attractive and uproariously funny on David Letterman. Laugh, laugh, but ultimately, where are the results?

Beautiful speeches like the one last night at the UN General Assembly are no longer enough. Being America means enjoying numerous international privileges, but also involves a few obligations. One of them is to look after world peace. Just as it set off for war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of global goals, however dubious, and just as it is working to prevent a nuclear Iran, America is also obligated to act to settle the Middle East conflict. That is not its right but its obligation. Locals don’t want its services in either Iraq or Afghanistan, but America is shedding its own blood there nonetheless. Why? Because it believes this is essential to world security.

When he was elected, President Obama declared that the Middle East conflict was endangering world peace. Nothing is more true. The potential danger between Jenin, Gaza and Jerusalem is no less serious than that in the killing fields of Kandahar and Mosul. But what is the president doing to eliminate the fuel that feeds international terrorism? Or at least to show that he is doing something? He ruins nine whole months over the issue of a construction freeze in the settlements, and even that pathetic goal was not achieved.

It has to be one way or the other: Either Obama thinks a solution to the conflict isn’t a worthy goal and so should get out of the picture and devote his energies elsewhere or he means what he said and must use all his power and act. Meanwhile, instead of change, we have gotten distressing continuity. Instead of “yes we can,” we have gotten “no we can’t.”

Obama needs to turn things upside-down and break with convention. That’s why he was elected. Two decisive steps would change things completely: an American effort to introduce Hamas into the negotiations and pressure on Israel to end the matter of the occupation. Simplistic? Perhaps, but the complex and gradual solutions haven’t gotten us anywhere up to now. Like it or not, without Hamas peace is not possible. The fact that Obama has put his trust only in Abbas’ Fatah has guaranteed failure, which was foreseeable. History has taught us that you make peace with your worst enemy, not with those who are seen as collaborators by their own people.

You also don’t make peace with half a people, in half of the territory. Obama didn’t even try to break this unnecessary spell and automatically went, unbelievably, down the path of his predecessor, George W. Bush. The president who was willing to engage North Korea and Iran and dares Venezuela and Cuba didn’t even think about entering negotiations with Hamas. Why is it okay to talk to Iran but not to Hamas? Obama, too, thinks Hamas is fit for negotiations only over the fate of a single soldier, Gilad Shalit, but not over the fate of two peoples.

The second step, which is no less essential, is applying pressure on Israel. Given Israel’s total dependence and in the face of its blindness to the price of the occupation, Obama’s friendship with Israel is actually to be judged by the steps he would seemingly take against Israel. As Israel’s isolation in the world only grows, and the danger of Iran threatens the country, Israel’s best friend must pressure its ally and save it from itself. Instead, we got another condemnation of the Goldstone Commission report, this time from the new American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, who had held the promise of major change.

It’s not too late. True, the initial momentum has been lost, but now, following this week’s “summit of rebukes,” America must hurry up and rebuke itself and mainly ponder how to get out of the booby trap to which it has succumbed. Now, too, only America can (and must) do it.

Netanyahu Warns World to Reject Gaza War Crimes Report

September 18, 2009

Cautions World Leaders Could Face Similar Charges for their Wars

by Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com,  September 17, 2009

While other top Israeli officials dismissed the UN’s Gaza War Crimes report with a combination of the usual accusations of personal bias by South African Judge Richard Goldstone and claims of outright anti-semitism behind the assessment of Israel’s January invasion of the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a surprisingly frank response.

The hawkish Israeli Prime Minister cautioned that world leaders had better publicly reject the report, because they might face similar accusations of war crimes for their behavior in their assorted wars as well.

The UN report cited evidence that both the Israeli military and the Gaza militant groups involved in the conflict committed serious war crimes which might amount to crimes against humanity. Human rights groups say that the vast majority of the roughly 1,400 Gazans killed by the Israeli attack were civilians.

And while the UN report went out of its way to accuse both sides of war crimes, the United States was among the first to heed Netanyahu’s calls, condemning the report as “clearly one-sided.” The US was among the most outspoken defenders of the Israeli invasion.

‘Netanyahu to okay new West Bank homes before declaring freeze’

September 4, 2009

Haaretz/Israel, Sep 4, 2009

By Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will soon approve the construction of hundreds of new housing units in West Bank settlements before he declares a moratorium on building in those locales, according to a senior government source.

The source from the prime minister’s bureau said last night that Netanyahu informed U.S. officials of his decision to authorize the construction a few weeks ago.

Continues >>

Netanyahu’s peace is a cynical evasion

August 28, 2009

Editorial

Financial Times/UK, August 25, 2009

When Barack Obama told Israel that “part of being a good friend is being honest”, the country’s political elites got an inkling that decades of double-talk on the conflict with the Palestinians were over. In his June 4 speech at Cairo University he spelled it out: “Just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s.”

The US president could have been addressing Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, who refuses to rein in colonisation of Palestinian land or push a two-state solution to the conflict. Yet, however much Mr Obama tries to change the conversation, in and on the Middle East, Mr Netanyahu keeps trying to change the subject.

Mr Obama has chosen as his battleground the Jewish settlements on occupied Arab land, all of them illegal under international law. “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” the president said. Washington has called for a total freeze, including on the so-called “natural growth” that has enabled the settlements to expand exponentially. Mr Netanyahu, in London and due to see George Mitchell, the president’s special representative, wants to talk economics. This is a cynical evasion.

It is important to remember that Mr Netanyahu has always argued that the Palestinians cannot expect a nation, only some sort of supra-municipal government. His utterance of the word “state” in the June 14 policy speech he made in reply to Mr Obama does not change this in any substantive way. Beyond the Jewish religious claim to the Israel of the Bible, Eretz Israel, Netanyahu believes Israeli security requires a buffer of occupied land – including most of the West Bank – to insulate it from its Arab neighbours. The whole Arab-Israeli equation is, for him, a zero sum game. That rules out land-for-peace: the United Nations Security Council-mandated approach ever since the 1967 Six Day War.

During his 1996-99 premiership, instead of land-for-peace he offered peace-for-peace; now he obfuscates about an “economic peace”.

Economics, and the prospect of a job, are of course, powerful agents of change. The remarkable success of Israel in nation-building and economic development rightly stands as a daily accusation against its Arab neighbours, weakened and stunted by introspective autocracies. Yet Mr Netanyahu’s pitch, that Israel can help the Arabs embrace globalisation and turn the region into one happy family, has a bit of recent history to explain.

While it is true that Arab leaders use the stalemate of “no war, no peace” to justify their monopolies on power and resources, it is also true they (and their citizens) feel swindled by the experience of Oslo.

In 1992-96, at the height of the peace process, Israel alone reaped a peace dividend, without having to conclude a peace. Diplomatic recognition of Israel doubled, from 85 to 161 countries, leading to doubled exports and a sixfold increase in foreign investment. During the same period, per capita income in the occupied territories fell by 37 per cent while the number of settlers increased by 50 per cent. Economic development deals in facts; Mr Netanyahu deals in cosmetics.

With an economic peace, he argues, barriers to growth would be removed and the Palestinian economy would be refloated. But Israel can and should remove most of those barriers anyway. According to the UN, last month there were 614 checkpoints inside the West Bank – an area the size of Lincolnshire or Delaware – compared with 613 in June. The recent removal of, say, the choke-points into Nablus, has led to a pick-up in business. But what this shows is how Israel’s carve-up of the West Bank is stifling all activity.

Mr Netanyahu’s emotive insistence on “natural” settlement growth is equally bogus. With vast subsidies, these colonies are growing at more than three times the rate of population in Israel proper. The municipal boundaries of the settlements extend far beyond the built-up areas. Combined with the security wall built on West Bank land, the settler-only roads and the military zones, the Palestinians are penned into shrinking and discontiguous Bantustans.

Any economy needs, among other things, territory and freedom of movement. The prostrate Palestinian economy is no different. Mr Netanyahu knows it, and the Obama administration has made clear to him it knows he knows it.

In his last administration, Mr Netanyahu turned the drive for peace into pure process: piling up unresolved disputes to be parked in “final status” negotiations he never intended to begin. Under US pressure he has changed tactics – but the aim is exactly the same.


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