Posts Tagged ‘PM Ehud Olmert’

Israeli War Criminal Olmert Welcomed in Australia

November 30, 2009
There is a danger that Australia could become a safe haven for Israeli war criminals.

By Sonja Karkar, The Palestine Chronicle, Nov 29, 2009

The news that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was in Australia and was welcomed by the honourable members of our parliament came as somewhat of a shock. It is one thing to have allowed a man on corruption charges as well as facing war crimes indictments into Australia at all; it is another thing that he was listed as a distinguished guest in Hansard – the official record of parliamentary proceedings – and received a resounding “hear, hear” from our elected representatives.

Continues >>

Palestinian FM: Israel on brink of ‘anti-peace’ government

March 16, 2009

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service (Israel), March 16, 2009
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Sunday that Israel is on the verge of forming an “anti-peace” government that will make future Middle East talks impossible.

“It is very clear from what we have heard, and from what we expect, that we are going to see a far-right Israeli government, an anti-peace government,” Malki said at the start of talks with European Union officials in Brussels.

“And if that is the case, all efforts and all expectations for the renewal of negotiations between Israel and Palestine will be totally wasted,” Malki said.


The foreign minister called on the international community to pile diplomatic pressure on the next Israeli government, saying, “We have to declare that, sadly, there is no partner on the Israeli side to negotiate with.”

His comments came a day after Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and Tzipi Livni’s centrist Kadima reopened talks on forming a coalition
government in the aftermath of the close result in the country’s
February 10 parliamentary elections.

Meanwhile, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday lambasted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over his assertion that Israel had been prepared to sign a peace agreement, but was held up the Palestinians’ “weakness and lack of courage.”

“The fact that we haven’t reached [a peace agreement] so far is due to the weakness and lack of courage on the part of the Palestinian leaders,” Olmert told ministers during his last weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “Everything else is just excuses and efforts to derail the talks.”

“We were ready to sign a peace deal but the Palestinians unfortunately did not have the courage to do so,” he said.

Abbas’ aide Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP that Olmert’s assertion was “completely false.”

“The proposals did not include conditions for the creation of an independent Palestinian state on all Palestinian territory occupied in 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he said. “Israel did not present a single map and not a single serious position that could lead to a real peace on the base of two states.”

Mere days before the end of his term, Olmert used the platform of the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday morning to present an overview of his administration’s achievements.

Addressing the peace process with the Palestinians, Olmert said that his government had “gone further in the peace negotiations than any previous government.”

He voiced hope that the decades long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians would be resolved in the near future, saying “I have no doubt that the negotiations I’ve held with the Palestinian Authority will result in a peace accord.”

“But we’ll have to make dramatic concessions in order to reach a point of signing an agreement,” he remarked.

Olmert also broke down the achievements of his administration to the cabinet ministers, mentioning “two well known military efforts” referring to the 2006 Second Lebanon War and the recent Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

“The event in the north [Lebanon border] brought about an unprecedented achievement of quiet in that region of Israel,” the prime minister declared. “In regard to Gaza, we made an important effort that hasn’t been completed yet and we have yet to achieve the full list of goals that we set out to achieve, but we have brought back to the global awareness the might of the Israel Defense Forces and its power of deterrence.”

Israel may face war crimes trials over Gaza

March 2, 2009

International pressure grows over conflict

Court looks at whether Palestinians can bring case

An injured Palestinian boy

A Palestinian man carries an injured boy into Shifa hospital in Gaza City during an Israeli attack on Gaza in January. Photograph: Khalil Hamra/AP

The international criminal court is considering whether the Palestinian Authority is “enough like a state” for it to bring a case alleging that Israeli troops committed war crimes in the recent assault on Gaza.

The deliberations would potentially open the way to putting Israeli military commanders in the dock at The Hague over the campaign, which claimed more than 1,300 lives, and set an important precedent for the court over what cases it can hear.

As part of the process the court’s head of jurisdictions, part of the office of the prosecutor, is examining every international agreement signed by the PA to decide whether it behaves – and is regarded by others – as operating like a state.

Following talks with the Arab League’s head, Amr Moussa, and senior PA officials, moves have accelerated inside the court to deliver a ruling on whether it may be able to insist on jurisdiction over alleged war crimes perpetrated in Gaza, with a decision from the prosecutor’s office expected within “months, not years”.

The issue arises because although the ICC potentially has “global jurisdiction” to investigate crimes which fall into its remit no matter where they were committed, Israel – despite having signed the Rome statute that founded the court and having expressed “deep sympathy” with the court’s goals – is not a party.

The ICC, which has 108 member states, has not so far recognised Palestine as a sovereign state or as a member.

The latest moves in The Hague come amid mounting international pressure on Israel and a growing recognition in Israeli government circles that it may eventually have to defend itself against war crimes allegations. The Guardian has also learned that a confidential inquiry by the International Committee of the Red Cross into the actions of Israel and Hamas during the recent conflict in Gaza is expected to accuse Israel of using “excessive force” – prohibited under the fourth Geneva convention.

The Red Cross has been collecting information for two parallel inquiries, one into the conduct of Israel and a second into Hamas, both of which will be presented in private to the parties involved.

In the case of Israel, the Red Cross is expected to highlight three areas of concern: the Israeli Defence Forces’ “use and choice of weapons in a complex and densely populated environment”; the issue of “proportionality”; and concerns over the IDF’s lack of distinction between combatants and non-combatants during Operation Cast Lead. Hamas is likely to be challenged over its use of civilian facilities as cover for its fighters; its summary executions and kneecappings of Palestinians during the campaign; and its indiscriminate firing of rockets into civilian areas.

Meanwhile, sources at the ICC say it is considering two potential tracks that would permit it to investigate what happened in Gaza. As well as determining whether the PA is recognised internationally as a sufficiently state-like entity, the head of jurisdictions in the office of the international criminal court’s prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, is looking at whether the court can consider war crimes allegations on the basis of the dual nationality of either victims or alleged perpetrators whose second passport is with a country party to the court.

The court’s deliberations follow more than 220 complaints about Israel’s actions in Gaza. “It does not matter necessarily whether the Palestinian National Authority is in charge of its own borders,” said a source at the court. “Right now the court is looking at everything from agreements it has signed on education to the constitution of its legal system.”

Yesterday, Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, warned Palestinian militants their continuing rocket attacks on Israel would not go unpunished. He said further strikes would “be answered with a painful, harsh, strong and uncompromising response from the security forces”. More than 100 rockets and mortars have exploded in Israel in the six weeks since it ended its air and ground assault on Gaza, to which the government has responded with airstrikes.

Olmert’s warning came as Israel’s attorney general notified the prime minister that he was considering indicting him on charges of allegedly taking cash-stuffed envelopes from a Jewish-American businessman. Five corruption cases are pending against Olmert, although he has denied all wrongdoing. His spokesman said yesterday the charges against the prime minister would “disappear in the end”.

Does Zionism legitimize every act of violence?

February 16, 2009

By Gideon Levy | Haaretz, Israel,

February 16, 2009

The Israeli left died in 2000. Since then its corpse has been lying around unburied until finally its death certificate was issued, signed, sealed and delivered on Tuesday. The hangman of 2000 was also the gravedigger of 2009: Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The man who succeeded in spreading the lie about there being no partner has reaped the fruit of his deeds in this election. The funeral was held two days ago.

The Israeli left is dead. For the past nine years it took the name of the peace camp in vain. The Labor Party, Meretz and Kadima had pretensions of speaking in its name, but that was trickery and deceit. Labor and Kadima made two wars and continued to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank; Meretz supported both wars. Peace has been left an orphan. The Israeli voters, who have been misled into thinking that there is no one to talk to and that the only answer to this is force – wars, targeted killings and settlements – have had their say clearly in the election: a closing sale for Labor and Meretz. It was only the force of inertia that gave these parties the few votes they won.

There was no reason for it to be otherwise. After many long years when hardly any protest came from the left, and the city square, the same square that raged after Sabra and Chatila, was silent, this lack of protest has been reflected at the ballot box as well. Lebanon, Gaza, the killed children, cluster bombs, white phosphorus and all the atrocities of occupation – none of this drove the indifferent, cowardly left onto the street. Though ideas of the left have found a toehold in the center and sometimes even on the right, everyone from former prime minister Ariel Sharon to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has spoken in a language that once was considered radical. But the voice was the voice of the left while the hands were the hands of the right.

On the fringes of this masked ball existed another left, the marginal left – determined and courageous, but minuscule and not legitimate. The gap between it and the left was supposedly Zionism. Hadash, Gush Shalom and others like them are outside the camp. Why? Because they are “not Zionist.”

And what is Zionism nowadays? An archaic and outdated concept born in a different reality, a vague and delusive concept marking the difference between the permitted and the proscribed. Does Zionism mean settlement in the territories? Occupation? The legitimization of every act of violence and injustice? The left stammered. Any statement critical of Zionism, even the Zionism of the occupation, was considered a taboo that the left did not dare break. The right grabbed a monopoly on Zionism, leaving the left with its self-righteousness.

A Jewish and democratic state? The Zionist left said yes automatically, fudging the difference between the two and not daring to give either priority. Legitimization for every war? The Zionist left stammered again – yes to the beginning and no to the continuation, or something like that. Solving the refugee problem and the right of return? Acknowledgment of the wrongdoing of 1948? Unmentionable. This left has now, rightly, reached the end of its road.

Anyone who wants a meaningful left must first air out Zionism in the attic. Until a movement that courageously redefines Zionism arises from the mainstream, there will be no broad left here. It is not possible to be both leftist and Zionist only in accordance with the right’s definition. Who has decided that the settlements are Zionist and legitimate, and the struggle against them is neither?

This taboo must be broken. It is permissible not to be a Zionist, as commonly defined today. It is permissible to believe in the Jews’ right to a state and yet come out against the Zionism that engages in occupation. It is permissible to believe that what happened in 1948 should be put on the agenda, to apologize for the injustice and act to rehabilitate the victims. It is permissible to oppose an unnecessary war from its very first day. It is permissible to think that the Arabs of Israel deserve the same rights – culturally, socially and nationally – as Jews. It is permissible to raise disturbing questions about the image of the Israel Defense Forces as an army of occupation, and it is even permissible to want to talk to Hamas.

If you prefer, this is Zionism, and if you prefer, this is anti-Zionism. In any case, it is legitimate and essential for those who do not want to see Israel fall victim to the insanities of the right for many more years. Anyone who wants an Israeli left must say “enough” to Zionism, the Zionism of which the right has taken complete control.

Israel Asserting Middle East Supremacy: From Gaza to Tehran

February 2, 2009

“The Israeli Defense Force is the most moral army in the World!”
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

By James Petras | Information Clearing House, February 2, 2009

Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany bombed, invaded and annexed countries and territories as a prelude to their quest for World Empire.  Israel’s drive for regional dominance has followed in their footsteps, imitating their style: Indiscriminate aerial bombings of civilian and military facilities, a savage blitzkrieg led by armored vehicles, disdain and repudiation of all criticism from international agencies was accompanied by an open, military buildup for a new and bigger war against Iran.  Like the Nazi leadership, who played on the ‘Bolshevik threat’, the Israeli high command has set in motion a vast world-wide propaganda campaign led by its world Zionist network, raising the specter of ‘Islamic terror’ to justify its preparations for a military assault on seventy-four million Iranians.  Just as Nazi Germany interpreted the passivity, sympathy and impotence of the West when confronted by ‘facts on the ground’ as license for aggression, the Israeli military machine receives a powerful impetus for new wars by the Western governments’ inaction and flaccid response to its invasion of Lebanon, the bombing of Syria and now its Nazi style blitz and conquest of Gaza.  For the Israeli high command, the impotence and complicity of the Western states, marks the way to bigger and bloodier wars to establish Israel’s supremacy and dominance of the Middle East, from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf.

Gaza Blitz:  Dress Rehearsal for an Assault on Iran

Israel’s military victory in Gaza is a dress rehearsal for a full-scale military assault on Iran.  In the course of their Gaza extermination campaign, Israeli political and military strategists gained a great deal of vital information about: (1) the levels of complicity and impotence of European, North American and Arab states;  (2) the high degree and depth of material and political support obtainable from the United States government in pulverizing adversaries; (3) the high degree of internal support among the Jewish electorate for even the most brutal killing fields; (4) the massive unquestioning backing of an offensive war from all the biggest and most politically influential and wealthiest Jewish-Zionist organizations in the US and Western Europe; (5) the weakness and ineffectiveness of the United Nations and the incapacity of the entire range of humanitarian organizations to limit Israel’s extermination campaign directed at destroying the very existence of an entire people; (6) the unconditional backing of the entire mass media and news agencies in the US and most of the mass media in Europe and the rest of the world; (7) the willingness of the liberal critics to equally blame the victims of extermination and the exterminators for the ‘violence’, thus neutralizing any effective consequential condemnation of the Israeli state; and (8) the adaptation of practically all the journalists, writers, academics and politicians to the entire euphemistic vocabulary of the Israeli propaganda office.

For example, sustained total war is called an ‘incursion’.  Ten thousand aerial assaults by hundreds of Israeli helicopters and fighter-bombers are equated with sporadic harmless homemade rocket attacks as ‘violence’.  Israeli targeting of thousands of civilian homes, hospitals and basic infrastructure are labeled ‘terrorist’ targets.  Resistance fighters are labeled ‘Hamas terrorists’.  The bombing of the Red Cross, the United Nations relief facilities, hospitals, mosques are called ‘mistakes’ or justified as ‘launching sites for Hamas terrorists.

Israeli political leaders have drawn the lesson from their dirty little ‘war’ that they can totally destroy a nation, decimate a society and murder and maim 7000 civilians with impunity.  Israeli leaders learned they can carry out an offensive genocidal war without suffering breaks in diplomatic relations (except Mauritania, Qatar, Bolivia and Venezuela).  The Israelis have successfully tested the loyalty and submissiveness of the major Arab regimes in the region and secured cooperation and acquiescence from Egypt, the ‘Palestinian Authority’, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.  Israeli civilian-military leaders calculate that with this high degree of governmental complicity, combined with support from all the major Zionist leaders and mass media moguls, they can dismiss even large-scale street protests, repeated calls for boycotts and United Nations denunciations.  Israeli leaders know that the criticism of major religious leaders and the growing number of Jewish dissidents, critical intellectuals and activists will have no consequential impact on Western governments nor lessen the fervor and loyalty of the major Jewish organizations.

Continued >>

Israel’s deadly ceasefire

January 19, 2009

Eric Ruder reports that the number of Palestinian dead in Gaza will continue to rise despite Israel’s “ceasefire.”

The aftermath of Israel's assault on Gaza (Sameh A. Habeeb)

The aftermath of Israel’s assault on Gaza (Sameh A. Habeeb)

ISRAEL DECLARED a unilateral ceasefire Sunday after a 23-day onslaught on Gaza that left more than 1,250 Palestinians dead and more than 4,000 wounded. Among the dead are at least 280 children and 95 women, according to estimates by the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and there are 860 children and 488 women among the wounded.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert claimed that the Israel Defense Force (IDF) had waged an effective and successful campaign in Gaza.

“The conditions have been brought about that enable us to say that the aims of the operations have been reached,” said Olmert. He said Israel “will consider withdrawing completely from Gaza at a date that suits us,” on the condition that rockets are no longer fired from Gaza at southern Israel.

Olmert said the Hamas, the Islamist party that controls what exists of a government in Gaza, “has been dealt a very serious blow, both in terms of its military infrastructure and the infrastructure of its government. Many of its people have been killed. Its leaders are in hiding. The tunnels that armed them have been destroyed.

Twelve hours later, Hamas leaders declared their own ceasefire, but made full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the opening of Gaza’s border crossings a condition of a full end of hostilities.

“We stress our demand that Israel withdraw its forces within a week and then open the crossings to humanitarian aid and various types of merchandise,” read the statement from Hamas. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum added, “A unilateral ceasefire does not mean ending the aggression and ending the siege…These constitute acts of war, so this won’t mean an end to resistance.”

As news of the ceasefire spread, Gazans who had fled the fighting returned to shocking scenes of destruction–overturned cars, torn-up streets, sewage running in the streets, leveled homes and still smoldering mosques and government buildings. Many bodies remain buried in homes flattened by Israeli tanks or strafed by air strikes.

In fact, the menacing sound of Israeli drones circling overhead, the churn of tank treads and the occasional crackle of gunfire were steady reminders that Israel’s “ceasefire” hadn’t ended the killing, and reports of Israeli attacks on civilians continued to pile up.

According to the BBC, “At least 1,600 people, displaced from their homes, were sheltering in a UN school in Gaza [Sunday] morning when it took a direct hit from an Israel shell. Two young brothers, aged five and seven, were killed.”

A press release issued by the Al Mezan Center confirmed similar acts of aggression throughout Gaza. “Shooting and shelling from artillery batteries, tanks and naval vessels have occurred in various areas throughout the day,” according to the release. “Israeli aircraft also launched raids on open areas. At 10:30 a.m. [Sunday], Israeli troops opened fire at civilians who were trying to reach their homes in Khuzaa village, east of Khan Younis. A man, 22-year-old Mahir Abu Irjila, was killed as a result. The victim and his family had evacuated their house and stayed in a UN shelter.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

ISRAEL ANNOUNCED that it would continue to occupy positions in Gaza until it could be certain that no more rockets would be launched at towns in southern Israel, and warned that any such fire would be met with “a massive, disproportionate assault,” according to Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper.

But the announcement of the “ceasefire” was enough to draw praise from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who was meeting with European leaders at the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh. “This should be the first step leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza,” said the secretary general.

But the terms of what was agreed to at Sharm al-Sheikh betray the complicity of the international community in the barbarism inflicted on the residents of Gaza during the last three weeks.

Six European countries–Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic–agreed to supply soldiers and technological assistance as part of efforts, in alliance with Egypt and the U.S., to stop Hamas from transporting weapons into Gaza. No officials from these countries uttered a word of criticism of Israel’s blatant disregard for civilian life and infrastructure.

Thus, there was no rebuttal to Olmert, who was also present, when he stated, “We did not want to hurt them or their children…They are the victims of Hamas.”

Olmert and other Israeli leaders have regularly returned to this justification–that Hamas had it within its power to stop Israel’s attack, but failed to do so–for unleashing the world’s fourth most powerful military against the residents of Gaza, who lack even basic necessities, such as adequate food, medical supplies and electricity.

Three years ago, Israel unilaterally withdrew its military forces and settlers from Gaza, but remained in control of all traffic into and out of Gaza via land, sea and air–which is why many observers describe Gaza as the world’s largest prison colony, with 1.5 million residents eking out an appalling existence in squalid refugee camps.

If Israeli officials really believed that the civilian casualties were “victims of Hamas,” they wouldn’t have been so concerned with barring reporters and photographers to suppress reports of the carnage in Gaza from the military’s punishing assault.

Nevertheless, enough reports did leak out to spark massive protests–across the Middle East, and throughout Europe and the U.S. These protests were not only larger than previous demonstrations in support of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, but they were also accompanied, especially in the U.S., by a significant increase in polls showing opposition to Israel’s attack.

It will be up to activists in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world to seize on the enormous outpouring of sympathy for Israel’s victims in Gaza to build a sustained movement against the apartheid conditions facing Palestinians.

In the words of Haidar Eid, a Gaza resident who helped to spearhead a call for an international movement to sanction, boycott and divest from Israel, Israel’s attack on Gaza could be “the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, when 69 Blacks were killed by the white racist regime of apartheid South Africa.” As he said in an interview with last week:

This massacre gave rise to the [divestment] campaign against apartheid South Africa, which ultimately led to the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and his election as the first Black president of multicultural, multiracial, secular, democratic South Africa as we know it now.

Gaza could be the spark that could initiate a different ‘new Middle East’ than what Condoleezza Rice talked about in 2006. She meant a ‘new Middle East’ characterized by American and Israeli hegemony. What I’m saying now is that I can see the birth pangs of a new Middle East characterized by the end of despotic, dictatorial pro-American regimes.

Israel, Hamas reject Security Council resolution

January 10, 2009

PA sees missed opportunity,

Jan 9, 2009

Bethlehem – Ma’an – Both Israel and Hamas rejected on Friday a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate halt to hostilities in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri argued that the resolution is biased toward Israel and against the Palestinians, and is intended to exact a political price from Hamas.

He said the resolution does not fulfill Hamas’ conditions, which are “to end the Israeli aggression immediately, lift the blockade and Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza.”

The Hamas-run de facto government in Gaza has no voice at the United Nations. The Palestinian Authority mission to the UN represents the rival Fatah-led government in the West Bank.

In rejecting the resolution, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, “The State of Israel has never agreed that any outside body would determine its right to defend the security of its citizens.”

He also called the document “not practical,” blaming Palestinian organizations for continuing to fire projectiles and rockets into Israel. He said the Israeli military “will continue operations.”

The resolution “stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.” It also called for an end to the smuggling routes from Egypt into Gaza, the reopening of Gaza’s borders, and “unimpeded provision” of humanitarian aid.

Fourteen of 15 member states voted for the resolution, which was submitted by the UK. The United States abstained.

PA: “Best we could get”

An aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nimir Hammad said that the PA and Arab states had made a massive effort to pass the ceasefire resolution. Abbas travelled to New York to press the Security Council for a ceasefire.

Hammad said the text of the resolution was the best the Palestinian diplomats could get. “I think that it is not the right time for any side or party to reject to the resolution if the objective is to stop the bloodshed in Gaza.”

“We want to stop the Israeli attacks. There is an Egyptian –French initiaive included in [the resolution] and a speedy mechanism to implement it,” he added.

He also accused Israeli politicians of waging war for electoral gains: “It is well known that the aim of the Israeli attacks is for election gains, they count the bodies for the number of seats in the Knesset.”

Hamad concluded by affirming that “We are ready for a Palestinian-Palestinian dialogue. We hope that after the end of the attacks on Gaza we will start the dialogue based on the Egyptian invitation and proposal.”

Israel Wraps Up Preparations for Gaza Invasion

December 26, 2008

Olmert Tells Gazans This Is Their Last Chance to Remove Hamas From Power, Posted December 25, 2008

Just one day after Israel’s cabinet approved a “substantial and painful” military operation in the Gaza Strip, the military is reporting that it has completed preparations for the invasion, and is just waiting for more pleasant weather to begin its attacks. Though Defense Minister Ehud Barak only promised to make Hamas pay “a heavy price,” anonymous Israeli officials say the operation is likely to begin with a series of air strikes, culminating in a ground invasion.

Military Chief Gen. Ashkenazi promised the Israeli forces would “act with wisdom” in the invasion, and said he would leave “a new secure situation around the Gaza Strip.”

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, meanwhile, warned Gaza’s 1.5 million civilian residents that they would be in danger if they did not stop Hamas from launching missiles. Insisting that Israel’s military operations in Gaza were all “a result of Hamas’ activities,” Olmert said tens of thousands of Gaza children will be put in danger.

He also promised not to let Gaza slip into a humanitarian crisis, vowing to prevent any shortages of food or medicine. The promise is unlikely to carry much weight in the besieged strip, as Israel has spent much of the past month doing everything they can to prevent food and medicine from reaching the strip’s residents.

Related Stories

compiled by Jason Ditz [email the author]

America Must Plumb Olmert’s “Depths of Reality”

October 11, 2008

Robert Weitzel, Oct 10, 2008

“I was the first who wanted to impose Israeli sovereignty . . . I admit it . . . I was not ready to look into all the depths of reality.”
– Incumbent Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert –

In a September 30 article in the Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronot, Israel’s incumbent Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a former member of the right-wing Likud party, said that Israel must withdraw “from almost all of the territories, if not from all the territories. We shall keep in our hands a percentage of these territories, but we shall be compelled to give the Palestinians a similar percentage, because without that there will be no peace.”

He went on to say, “We can perhaps take an historic step in our relations with the Palestinians . . . the decision we must make is the decision we have refused to face with open eyes for 40 years . . . What I am telling you was never said by any previous Israeli leader, it’s time to lay everything on the table.”

The reality that Olmert was willing to lay before the Israeli people, “which exposed him to criticism from all quarters,” according to Yedioth Ahronot interviewers Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer, is one that no Democratic or Republican politician who aspires to national office has the chutzpa to tell the American electorate.

This lack of chutzpah has been nowhere more evident than in the presidential and vice-presidential “debates.” These prime-time events, which are really nothing more than 90 minutes of vacuous one-upmanship, could serve as a reality check for the 70 million-plus viewers if the moderators were willing to challenge the candidates’ evasions, half truths, exaggerations and outright lies . . . or if Ralph Nader were allowed to participate.

During the vice-presidential debate, both Joe Biden and Sarah Palin professed their undying love and support for Israel, “our strongest and best ally in the Middle East (Palin).”

“No one in the United States Senate has been a better friend to Israel . . . (Biden).”

“I’m so encouraged to know that we both love Israel (Palin).”

One-upping Palin, Biden boldly claimed, “I would have never, ever joined this ticket were I not absolutely sure Barack Obama shared my passion [for Israel].” Obviously, Obama does.

Moderator Gwen Ifill might have taken this opportunity to inquire as to the source of Palin’s “love” and Biden’s “passion” for Israel. Ifill might have pointed out to the 70 million-plus viewers that a candidate does not make it to a national “debate” without first being pronounced kosher by Israel’s shadow government on K Street.

Both Ifill and Tom Brokaw, the moderator of the recent town hall presidential “debate,” might have challenged the candidates’ assertions that Israel is a hairs’ breath away from annihilation by its Arab neighbors.

“An armed, nuclear armed . . . Iran is so extremely dangerous to consider. They cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons period. Israel is in jeopardy . . . (Palin).”

“We cannot allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon . . . it [would] threaten Israel, our strongest ally in the region and one of our strongest allies in the world . . . (Obama).”

Keep in mind that U.S. intelligence estimates that Iran is years away from developing even one nuclear device, while Israel has over 200 nuclear warheads targeted and minutes away from any Arab or Persian country foolish enough to attack it.

Keep in mind also what Olmert told Yedioth Ahronot, “Israel is the strongest country in the Middle East, it can win any war against any regional country, it can even win a war against all of them together.”

All four candidates took the opportunity during the “debates” to once again assure Israelis in the Holy Land and Jews on K Street that their administrations would continue the annual $6 billion in direct and indirect economic and military aid . . . even as Americans are losing their homes and jobs and retirement savings.

Ifill and Brokaw might have challenged the candidates’ promise of continued economic and military aid to Israel considering:

Israel is one of the most economically and industrially advanced countries in Southwest Asia.

Israel ranks second among foreign countries in the number of companies on U.S. stock exchanges.

Israel has the second largest number of startup companies in the world and the largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies outside North America.

Israel’s GDP per capita is $31,767

Israel’s economic growth in 2006 was the fastest of any Western nation.

Israel has the best armed and trained military in the region and is the fourth largest weapons exporter in the world ($2 billion annually)

And the United States’ taxpayers are expected to finance Israel?

But the “depth of reality” check of utmost salience to the 70 million-plus “debate” viewers is why the candidates and most members of Congress consider Israel our “strongest ally in the world.”

In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon, igniting a civil war. America’s support for Israel cost the lives of 241 servicemen who were blown apart as they slept in their Beirut barracks.

Israel did not fight in the first Gulf War, neither did its soldiers die in Afghanistan or Iraq—a war its cooked intelligence helped to bring about. This year our “strongest ally” pushed the Bush administration to the brink of war with Iran—a war whose catastrophic reverberations would have been on a par with the current global economic meltdown.

Israel’s regional aggression and its repressive—often brutal— domestic policies regarding the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank inflames its Arab neighbors and cinches tight the explosive vest to the chests of Arab youths.

Predictably, the United States’ irrational and unconditional support of Israel makes it equally culpable and equally target-worthy in the eyes of Arabs and Persians in the Middle East and Muslims worldwide. An ally that causes more insecurity than succor can hardly be considered the strongest ally in the world—unless that ally is also the only way to the White House.

Gwen Ifill and Tom Brokaw might have challenged the candidates in a way that exposed him or her to criticism from the Israeli quarter. Unfortunately for the 70 million-plus viewers Israel is a “depth of reality” the American political system and mainstream media are unwilling to plumb.

But as a right-wing Israeli Prime Minister says, “it’s time to lay everything on the table.”

Robert Weitzel is a contributing editor to Media With a Conscience. His essays regularly appear in The Capital Times in Madison, WI. He can be contacted at:

Israel asked US for green light to bomb nuclear sites in Iran

September 26, 2008

US president told Israeli prime minister he would not back attack on Iran, senior European diplomatic sources tell Guardian

nuclear enrichment plant of Natanz in central Iran

A view of the nuclear enrichment plant of Natanz in central Iran. Photograph: EPA

Israel gave serious thought this spring to launching a military strike on Iran’s nuclear sites but was told by President George W Bush that he would not support it and did not expect to revise that view for the rest of his presidency, senior European diplomatic sources have told the Guardian.

The then prime minister, Ehud Olmert, used the occasion of Bush’s trip to Israel for the 60th anniversary of the state’s founding to raise the issue in a one-on-one meeting on May 14, the sources said. “He took it [the refusal of a US green light] as where they were at the moment, and that the US position was unlikely to change as long as Bush was in office”, they added.

The sources work for a European head of government who met the Israeli leader some time after the Bush visit. Their talks were so sensitive that no note-takers attended, but the European leader subsequently divulged to his officials the highly sensitive contents of what Olmert had told him of Bush’s position.

Bush’s decision to refuse to offer any support for a strike on Iran appeared to be based on two factors, the sources said. One was US concern over Iran’s likely retaliation, which would probably include a wave of attacks on US military and other personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as on shipping in the Persian Gulf.

The other was US anxiety that Israel would not succeed in disabling Iran’s nuclear facilities in a single assault even with the use of dozens of aircraft. It could not mount a series of attacks over several days without risking full-scale war. So the benefits would not outweigh the costs.

Iran has repeatedly said it would react with force to any attack. Some western government analysts believe this could include asking Lebanon’s Shia movement Hizbollah to strike at the US.

“It’s over ten years since Hizbollah’s last terror strike outside Israel, when it hit an Argentine-Israel association building in Buenos Aires [killing 85 people]”, said one official. “There is a large Lebanese diaspora in Canada which must include some Hizbollah supporters. They could slip into the United States and take action”.

Even if Israel were to launch an attack on Iran without US approval its planes could not reach their targets without the US becoming aware of their flightpath and having time to ask them to abandon their mission.

“The shortest route to Natanz lies across Iraq and the US has total control of Iraqi airspace”, the official said. Natanz, about 100 miles north of Isfahan, is the site of an uranium enrichment plant.

In this context Iran would be bound to assume Bush had approved it, even if the White House denied fore-knowledge, raising the prospect of an attack against the US.

Several high-level Israeli officials have hinted over the last two years that Israel might strike Iran’s nuclear facilities to prevent them being developed to provide sufficient weapons-grade uranium to make a nuclear bomb. Iran has always denied having such plans.

Olmert himself raised the possibility of an attack at a press conference during a visit to London last November, when he said sanctions were not enough to block Iran’s nuclear programme.

“Economic sanctions are effective. They have an important impact already, but they are not sufficient. So there should be more. Up to where? Up until Iran will stop its nuclear programme,” he said.

The revelation that Olmert was not merely sabre-rattling to try to frighten Iran but considered the option seriously enough to discuss it with Bush shows how concerned Israeli officials had become.

Bush’s refusal to support an attack, and the strong suggestion he would not change his mind, is likely to end speculation that Washington might be preparing an “October surprise” before the US presidential election. Some analysts have argued that Bush would back an Israeli attack in an effort to help John McCain’s campaign by creating an eve-of-poll security crisis.

Others have said that in the case of an Obama victory, the vice-president, Dick Cheney, the main White House hawk, would want to cripple Iran’s nuclear programme in the dying weeks of Bush’s term.

During Saddam Hussein’s rule in 1981, Israeli aircraft successfully destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak shortly before it was due to start operating.

Last September they knocked out a buildings complex in northern Syria, which US officials later said had been a partly constructed nuclear reactor based on a North Korean design. Syria said the building was a military complex but had no links to a nuclear programme.

In contrast, Iran’s nuclear facilities, which are officially described as intended only for civilian purposes, are dispersed around the country and some are in fortified bunkers underground.

In public, Bush gave no hint of his view that the military option had to be excluded. In a speech to the Knesset the following day he confined himself to telling Israel’s parliament: “America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. Permitting the world’s leading sponsor of terror to possess the world’s deadliest weapon would be an unforgivable betrayal of future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”

Mark Regev, Olmert’s spokesman, tonight reacted to the Guardian’s story saying: “The need to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is raised at every meeting between the prime minister and foreign leaders. Israel prefers a diplomatic solution to this issue but all options must remain on the table. Your unnamed European source attributed words to the prime minister that were not spoken in any working meeting with foreign guests”.

Three weeks after Bush’s red light, on June 2, Israel mounted a massive air exercise covering several hundred miles in the eastern Mediterranean. It involved dozens of warplanes, including F-15s, F-16s and aerial refueling tankers.

The size and scope of the exercise ensured that the US and other nations in the region saw it, said a US official, who estimated the distance was about the same as from Israel to Natanz.

A few days later, Israel’s deputy prime minister, Shaul Mofaz, told the paper Yediot Ahronot: “If Iran continues its programme to develop nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The window of opportunity has closed. The sanctions are not effective. There will be no alternative but to attack Iran in order to stop the Iranian nuclear programme.”

The exercise and Mofaz’s comments may have been designed to boost the Israeli government and military’s own morale as well, perhaps, to persuade Bush to reconsider his veto. Last week Mofaz narrowly lost a primary within the ruling Kadima party to become Israel’s next prime minister. Tzipi Livni, who won the contest, takes a less hawkish position.

The US announced two weeks ago that it would sell Israel 1,000 bunker-busting bombs. The move was interpreted by some analysts as a consolation prize for Israel after Bush told Olmert of his opposition to an attack on Iran. But it could also enhance Israel’s attack options in case the next US president revives the military option.

The guided bomb unit-39 (GBU-39) has a penetration capacity equivalent to a one-tonne bomb. Israel already has some bunker-busters.

Iran nuclear map Map showing nuclear activity in Iran

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