Posts Tagged ‘PM Olmert’

What Israeli Peace Process?

March 12, 2009

By Franklin Spinney | Counterpunch, March 12, 2009

On March 2, 2009, the Israeli advocacy group Peace Now issued a report saying that the Israeli housing ministry plans to build 73,ooo housing units in the West Bank. Peace Now said 15,ooo of these units had already been approved, with another 58,000 awaiting approval. On March 7, 2009, the Guardian reported that a confidential report issued by the EU said Israel continues to annex property in East Jerusalem. It said Israeli housing authorities had submitted plans for 5,500 new housing units (3,000 of which have already been approved) since the Annapolis “peace” conference in November 2007. Readers may recall that the Annapolis conference was supposed to resuscitate George W. Bush’s moribund so-called Road Map to Peace. Assuming these housing plans are implemented, and only 2.5 Israelis on average inhabit each new unit, the entire program could add as many as 196,ooo Israelis to the 490,000 Israelis already living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Yet as recently as September 30, 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert said Israel should withdraw from almost all of the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem in order to achieve peace. Of course, Olmert’s profession of normative behaviour would be deemed gratuitous nonsense in an international court of law, because all these settlements are clearly illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention. So what gives?

Nothing. What you see is what you get — simply business as usual. There is no real peace process, only an illusion of one, but an illusion that has been and continues to be used cynically by the Israelis to ethnically cleanse the best land for Eretz Israel (“best” by definition includes access to the water in the West Bank aquifers — more on that later) by relentlessly creating irreversible “facts on the ground.”

All one has to do is look at the historical record. For the last 20 years, the U.S government and its wholly owned subsidiaries in the thinktanks, academia, and the media have promoted the soothing vision of an ongoing Arab-Israeli peace process. This process has been centered on the ideal of attaining a two-state solution — namely, establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Dutifully, the mainstream media in the United States (MSM) has inundated the American people with stories describing how the ongoing peace process is a road leading to a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. But to date, that road has led into the nightmare of the West Bank’s roadblocked cantons and the hellish Gaza Ghetto, and the preponderance of MSM reporting, at least in the United States, leans toward blaming the Palestinians for their fate.

To be sure, the MSM also reported about bumps in the road that can be attributed to Israel, especially question of settlements in the Occupied Territories. But such reporting has been usually in the context of the settlements being temporary impediments to a solution, often couched, for example, in vague visions of Israel eventually abandoning most of its settlements, and doing land swaps for others, once the Palestinians renounced terrorism and recognized Israel’s right to exist. In this context, there have been very few reports that put the question of settlements into an easily understood long term perspective, even though the information is widely available on the internet.

To be sure, the Israelis did evacuate 6000+ settlers from Gaza in 2003, and occasionally, the Israeli government evacuates a trivial number of settlers from the so-called “outposts” on the West Bank. But these Israeli moves have been anomalies to their long term pattern of settlement, which has been amazingly consistent since the rate of settlement began to accelerate in the mid 1970s. In fact, as demonstrated in the chart below, the pattern of settlement has been remarkably untouched by the deliberations of the so-called peace processes. It is based on official data produced by the Israeli government and made available to the public by the courageous Israeli human rights organization B’TSelem.

The so-called peace process, which at first was ad hoc, became institutionalized with great optimism in 1993, when the signing of the Oslo Accords ended the First Intifada. But over the next seven years, the Oslo deliberations did not alleviate the economic hardships afflicting the Palestinians, nor did it even slow down the pace of Israeli settlement, as is shown clearly by the pink shaded area of the figure. Oslo effectively ended in in Sept 2000, when Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem (Islam’s third holiest site) incited the Palestinian uprising that became known as the Second Intifada and helped to catapult Sharon into the office of Prime Minister.

A re-institutionalization of the formal peace process rose tepidly from the ashes of Oslo in June 2002, with the so-called Road Map to Peace initiated by President George W. Bush. The aim of Bush’s Roadmap was to establish an independent Palestinian state as early as 2005, and central to achieving that aim was a freeze on settlement expansion by May 2003 (called for in Phase I of the roadmap), as well as a reduction in violence and political reform by the Palestinians. The gray area in the figure spans the time of Bush’s so-called road map, and it is clear that his Roadmap, like Oslo, had absolutely no effect on Israel’s pace of settlement. Israel’s murderous assault on the Gaza Ghetto effectively dumped the detritus of Mr. Bush’s illuson into the lap of incoming President Obama in January 2009.

The assault on the Gaza Ghetto, together with a sense of frustration from not being able to weaken Hamas’s grip on Gaza, also helped to accelerate an ongoing political shift toward the radical right among the Israeli people, as became evident in the stunning results of the recent Parliamentary election. It now seems likely that Binyamin Netanyahu — the former prime minister between 1996 and 1999, who worked so assiduously to trash Oslo and increase settlements — will return to power as prime minister, this time with the neo-fascist Avigdor Lieberman as his foreign minister.

So, based on the history depicted in the chart and Netanyahu’s track record, we can expect the rate of settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to continue and probably increase. True to form, in one of his campaign speeches, Netanyahu promised he would not be not bound by Olmert’s empty promise to evacuate the settlements, and any future peace talks would not be about giving up territory, but about achieving an “economic peace” through economic development — whatever that means.

And how has Mr. Obama’s government reacted to date? The most critical comment I have been able to find is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remark in Jerusalem that the planned expansion of the settlements cited in the first paragraph would be “unhelpful.”

One thing is certain, we can depend on being put to sleep with more somnolent visions of peace in our time while the Israelis create more facts on the ground.

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon. He currently lives on a sailboat in the Mediterranean and can be reached at chuck_spinney@mac.com

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Pat Buchanan: Is Ehud Olmert’s Poodle Acting Up?

January 18, 2009

by Patrick J. Buchanan | Antiwar.com, January 17, 2009

As Israel entered the third week of its Gaza blitz, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert regaled a crowd in Ashkelon with an astonishing tale.

He had, said Olmert, whistled up George Bush, interrupted him in the middle of a speech and told him to instruct Condi Rice not to vote for a U.N. resolution Condi herself had written. Bush did as told, said Olmert.

The crowd loved it. Here is the background.

After intense negotiations with Britain and France, Secretary of State Rice had persuaded the Security Council to agree on a resolution calling for a cease-fire. But Olmert wanted more time to kill Hamas.

So, here, in Olmert’s words, is what happened next.

“In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the secretary of state wanted to lead the vote on a cease-fire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favor.

“I said, ‘Get me President Bush on the phone.’ They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn’t care. ‘I need to talk to him now.’ He got off the podium and spoke to me.”

According to Olmert, Bush was clueless.

“He said: ‘Listen. I don’t know about it. I didn’t see it. I’m not familiar with the phrasing.’

“I told him the United States could not vote in favor. It cannot vote in favor of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favor.”

The UN diplomatic corps was astonished when the United States abstained on the 14-0 resolution Rice had crafted and claimed her country supported. Arab diplomats say Rice promised them she would vote for it.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, with Rice at the United Nations during the debate on the resolution, said Olmert’s remarks were “just 100 percent, totally, completely untrue.”

But the White House cut Rice off at the knees, saying only that there were “inaccuracies” in the Olmert story. The video does not show Bush interrupting his speech to take any call.

Yet, the substance rings true and is widely believed, and Olmert is happily describing the egg on Rice’s face:

“He [Bush] gave an order to the secretary of state, and she did not vote in favor of it – a resolution she cooked up, phrased, organized and maneuvered for. She was left pretty shamed. …”

With Bush and Rice leaving office in hours, and Olmert in weeks, the story may seem to lack significance.

Yet, public gloating by an Israeli prime minister that he can order a U.S. president off a podium and instruct him to reverse and humiliate his secretary of state may cause even Ehud’s poodle to rise up on its hind legs one day and bite its master.

Taking such liberties with a superpower that, for Israel’s benefit, has shoveled out $150 billion and subordinated its own interests in the Arab and Islamic world would seem a hubristic and stupid thing to do.

And there are straws in the wind that, despite congressional resolutions giving full-throated approval to all that Israel is doing in Gaza, this is becoming a troubled relationship.

Two weeks ago, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, in opposing any truce, assured the world there “is no humanitarian crisis in the (Gaza) Strip,” and the humanitarian situation there “is completely as it should be.”

Not so to Hillary Clinton. In her confirmation hearings, the secretary of state-designate, reports the New York Times, “struck a sharper tone toward Israel on violence in the Middle East.”

Clinton “seemed to part from the tone set by the Bush administration in calling attention to what she described as the ‘tragic humanitarian costs’ borne by Palestinians, as well as Israelis.”

More dramatic was a weekend report by the Times‘ David Sanger that the White House had rebuffed Olmert’s request for new U.S. bunker-buster bombs and denied Israel permission to overfly Iraq in any strike on Iran’s nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz.

Sanger described these U.S.-Israeli talks as “tense.”

Repeatedly, Israel has warned that Iran is close to a bomb and threatened to attack unilaterally. Indeed, Israel simulated such an attack in an air exercise of 100 planes that went as far as Greece.

Bush both blocked and vetoed that attack, says Sanger. But he did assure Olmert that America is engaged in the sabotage of Iran’s nuclear program by helping provide Tehran with defective parts.

This would seem a stunning breach of security secrets, but no outrage has been heard from the White House, nor has any charge come that the Times compromised national security.

With Olmert, Rice and Bush departing, and Obama and Hillary taking charge committed to talking to Iran, can the old intimacy survive the new friction and colliding agendas?

COPYRIGHT CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

Israel ‘breaking law’ with Gaza war

January 16, 2009

Al Jazeera, January 16, 2009

Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann has been a vocal
critic of the Israeli offensive [Al Jazeera]

The president of the United Nations General Assembly has accused Israel of violating international law with its war on Gaza in which almost 1,100 Palestinians have been killed, nearly half of them civilians.

“Gaza is ablaze. It has been turned into a burning hell,” Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann told an emergency session of the UN General Assembly in New York on Thursday.

He said Israel’s offensive was “a war against a helpless, defenceless and imprisoned people” and accused Israel of carrying out attacks on civilian targets.

“The violations of international law inherent in the Gaza assault have been well documented: collective punishment, disproportionate military force [and] attacks on civilian targets, including homes, mosques, universities, schools,” he said.

He also rebuked UN member-states for their lack of action over the crisis, saying: “The [UN Security Council] may have found itself unable or unwilling to take the necessary steps to impose an immediate ceasefire, but outsourcing that effort to one or two governments, or through the quartet, does not relieve the council of its own responsibilities under the UN charter.

“The council cannot disavow its collective responsibility. It cannot continue to fiddle while Gaza burns.”

Ryad Mansour, the Palestinian observer at the UN, called for an independent investigation of Israel’s “grave breaches and systematic violations of international law”.

“Since this crisis began, it is without a doubt that a multitude of war crimes have been perpetrated by the occupying power [Israel],” he said while also calling for “measures for the protection of the defenceless Palestinian civilian population.”

Gabriela Shalev, the Israeli ambassador to the UN, dismissed the session as a “cynical, hateful and politicised [attempt] to de-legitimize Israel’s fundamental right to defend its citizens”.

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The emergency meeting had been requested by the 118-member UN member states making up the non-aligned movement.An Israeli delegate had sought to block the session on procedural grounds by arguing that under the UN charter the 192-member assembly could not rule on a matter already being tackled by the Security Council, but the move was dismissed.

D’Escoto noted that the Security Council last week had called for a Gaza ceasefire leading to the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

“Prime Minister Olmert’s recent statement disavowing the authority of Resolution 1860 [the Security Council resolution] clearly places Israel as a state in contempt of international law and the United Nations,” d’Escoto added.

He urged the assembly to agree its own non-binding assembly resolution reflecting “the urgency of our commitment to end this slaughter” in Gaza.

Israel has continued its offensive regardless of the resolution which was also rejected by Hamas.

D’Escoto, a former Nicaraguan foreign minister, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that Israel’s killings of Palestinians in Gaza amounted to “genocide”.

Almost 1,100 Palestinians have been killed during Israel’s Gaza offensive, which Israel says is to stop Palestinian rocketfire coming from Gaza.

The Humiliation of America

January 14, 2009


Paul Craig Roberts | Information Clearing House, January  14, 2009


“Early Friday morning the secretary of state was considering bringing the cease-fire resolution to a UNSC vote and we didn’t want her to vote for it.” Olmert said. “I said ‘get President Bush on the phone.’ They tried and told me he was in the middle of a lecture in Philadelphia. I said ‘I’m not interested, I need to speak to him now.’ He got down from the podium, went out and took the phone call.”

“Let me see if I understand this,” wrote a friend in response to news reports that Israeli Prime Minister Olmert ordered President Bush from the podium where he was giving a speech to receive Israel’s instructions about how the United States had to vote on the UN resolution. “On September 11th, President Bush is interrupted while reading a story to school children and told the World Trade Center had been hit–and he went on reading. Now, Olmert calls about a UN resolution when Bush is giving a speech and Bush leaves the stage to take the call. There exists no greater example of a master-servant relationship.”

Olmert gloated as he told Israelis how he had shamed US Secretary of State Condi Rice by preventing the American Secretary of State from supporting a resolution that she had helped to craft. Olmert proudly related how he had interrupted President Bush’s speech in order to give Bush his marching orders on the UN vote.

Israeli politicians have been bragging for decades about the control they exercise over the US government. In his final press conference, President Bush, deluded to the very end, said that the whole world respects America. In fact, when the world looks at America, what it sees is an Israeli colony.

Responding to mounting reports from the Red Cross and human rights organizations of Israel’s massive war crimes in Gaza, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted 33-1 on January 12 to condemn Israel for grave offenses against human rights.

On January 13, the London Times reported that Israelis have gathered on a hillside overlooking Gaza to enjoy the slaughter of Palestinians in what the Times calls “the ultimate spectator sport.”

It is American supplied F-16 fighter jets, helicopter gunships, missiles, and bombs that are destroying the civilian infrastructure of Gaza and murdering the Palestinians who have been packed into the tiny strip of land. What is happening to the Palestinians herded into the Gaza Ghetto is happening because of American money and weapons. It is just as much an attack by the United States as an attack by Israel. The US government is complicit in the war crimes.

Yet in his farewell press conference on January 12, Bush said that the world respects America for its compassion.

The compassion of bombing a UN school for girls?

The compassion of herding 100 Palestinians into one house and then shelling it?

The compassion of bombing hospitals and mosques?

The compassion of depriving 1.5 million Palestinians of food, medicine, and energy?

The compassion of violently overthrowing the democratically elected Hamas government?

The compassion of blowing up the infrastructure of one of the poorest and most deprived people on earth?

The compassion of abstaining from a Security Council vote condemning these actions?

And this is a repeat of what the Israelis and Americans did to Lebanon in 2006, what the Americans did to Iraqis for six years and are continuing to do to Afghans after seven years. And still hope to do to the Iranians and Syrians.

In 2002 I designated George W. Bush “the White House Moron.” If there ever was any doubt about this designation, Bush’s final press conference dispelled it.

Bush talked about connecting the dots, but Bush has failed to connect any dots for eight solid years. “Our” president was a puppet for a cabal led by Dick Cheney and a handful of Jewish neoconservatives, who took control of the Pentagon, the State Department, the National Security Council, the CIA, and “Homeland Security.” From these power positions, the neocon cabal used lies and deception to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, pointless wars that have cost Americans $3 trillion, while millions of Americans lose their jobs, their pensions, and their access to health care.

“These obviously very difficult economic times,” Bush said in his press conference, “started before my presidency.”

Bush has plenty of liberal company in failing to connect a $3 trillion dollar war with hard times. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities blames Bush’s tax cut, not the wars, for “the fiscal deterioration.”

Bush told the White House Press Corps, a useless collection of non-journalists, that the two mistakes of his invasion of Iraq were: (1) Putting up the “mission accomplished” banner on the aircraft carrier, which, he said, “sent the wrong message,” and (2) the absence of the alleged weapons of mass destruction that he used to justify the invasion.

Although Bush now admits that there were not any such weapons in Iraq, Bush said that the invasion was still the right thing to do.

The deaths of 1.25 million Iraqis, the displacement of 4 million Iraqis, and the destruction of a country’s infrastructure and economy are merely the collateral damage associated with “bringing freedom and democracy” to the Middle East.

Unless George W. Bush is the best actor in human history, he truly believes what he told the White House Press Corps.

What Bush did not explain is how America is respected when its people put a moron in charge for eight years.

The Gaza War is Completely Stoppable

January 2, 2009

by Robert Naiman

We have seen this movie before. In the summer of 2006, Israel invaded Lebanon. Replace “Hizbullah” with “Hamas” and “Lebanon” with “Gaza,” and much we have seen in the last few days is depressingly familiar. Once again, the Israeli military assault is justified on the basis of the need to stop rocket attacks on Israel, even though it is widely conceded that this will not be the result. Once again, establishment voices in Washington give carte blanche to the military action, even though few believe it will accomplish its stated objectives, and everyone understands that it will impose a huge political cost for the United States around the world, especially in the Arab and Muslim world.

But, although one can only be sick at the repeated, completely unnecessary loss of life, there is a silver lining to the Lebanon precedent: international outrage in 2006 effectively forced the United States government into a corner, in which it finally could no longer resist a ceasefire. And there is no reason to believe that what happened in 2006 can not and will not happen again now.

The question is then how long it will take international outrage to build to the level necessary to force the US government to stop backing the Israeli military action, and therefore how many Palestinians and Israelis will needlessly die in the meantime.

In some ways we have a head start over 2006. No-one can now plausibly claim that there is something intrinsically wrong with a ceasefire, or that there is something intrinsically wrong with negotiating with Hamas to achieve a new ceasefire. After all, just over six months ago, Israel and Hamas negotiated a ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, with the active encouragement of the United States. There was never any daylight between Israel and Hamas on whether a ceasefire was desirable; what was in dispute, and remained in dispute, was what the parameters of the ceasefire would be. Israel wanted the ceasefire limited to military calm-for-calm across the Israel-Gaza border. Hamas wanted the ceasefire to include significant easing of the economic blockade on Gaza and also to extend to the West Bank. These differences were finessed in the ceasefire agreement at the time, leading many to conclude that the disagreements would eventually explode the ceasefire agreement, as they now have.

But if you know this history, then you know that the statement “Israel had to act to protect its citizens from rocket attacks” is sorely lacking. Of course Hamas rocket attacks generated political pressure in Israel for a response. But was this the only possible response? If it was not the only possible response, was it the most effective response towards the stated goal? Among possible responses, was it moral and just?

After all, there is every reason to believe that the ceasefire could have continued and even been strengthened if Israel – and the United States – had been willing to ease the economic blockade of Gaza and extend the ceasefire to the West Bank. Since it was at least as likely – probably much more likely – that this would have done more to reduce and perhaps eliminate rocket attacks, it is reasonable to suggest that a key goal of the military assault is to maintain the economic blockade and maintain the status quo in the West Bank.

And, when you consider that former President Carter and other luminaries have denounced the economic blockade as an “abomination,” and that even Israeli Prime Minister Olmert has conceded that Israel must give up almost all of the West Bank in any political settlement, then it is extremely hard to justify the military campaign on the basis that it is necessary to defend the economic blockade, or the status quo in the West Bank.

And therefore it is likely that pressure can build more quickly now than it did in 2006, and fewer people will have to die. Already, “mainstream pro-Israel peace groups” in the US have spoken out in favor of an immediate ceasefire. Notably, J Street called not only for a ceasefire, but for lifting the blockade.

There are many ways to take action; you can write to President-elect Obama here and to President Bush and Congress here.

Robert Naiman is Senior Policy Analyst at Just Foreign Policy.

West Bank settler violence challenges Israel

October 1, 2008

Mohammed Assadi

Reuters North American News Service | Wiredispatch.com

Sep 30, 2008 04:15 EST

ASIRA AL-KIBLIYA, West Bank, Sept 30 (Reuters) – Armed with guns, slingshots, knives and stun grenades, Jewish settlers pelted the house of Palestinian Nahla Makhlouf with stones, uprooted young trees and painted the Star of David on her walls.

In Makhlouf’s West Bank village of Asira al-Kibilya, Palestinians brace for possible attack by their Jewish settler neighbours from nearby Titzhar almost every weekend. But the latest attack exceeded their expectations.

“They sprayed some sort of tear gas through the window. It smelled strong and made our eyes run and made it hard to breath, especially for my baby,” said the 33-year-old mother of four.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reacted strongly to the Sept. 13 attack, saying he would not tolerate “pogroms” by Jewish extremists who are determined on religious grounds to stop Israel swapping occupied land for peace.

Last week, an outspoken Israeli critic of the settlements was wounded by a pipe bomb outside his Jerusalem home, in what Olmert said was evidence of “an evil wind of extremism, of hatred, of violence” threatening Israeli democracy.

Settlers and the Israeli army said the Asira assault was triggered by the wounding of a nine-year-old settler boy by a Palestinian whom he had disturbed in the act of setting fire to a house in the Yitzhar settlement while the family was away.

But settler vigilante violence is growing, according to a recent U.N. report, which recorded 222 incidents in the first half of 2008, versus 291 in all of 2007.

HARDLINE

Some half a million Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, including Arab East Jerusalem. Their presence, viewed by major powers as illegal under international law, is partly shielded by a 790 km (490 mile) barrier Israel has been building since 2002.

In a newspaper interview on Monday, Olmert broke new ground by urging Israel’s withdrawal “from almost all the territories” captured in the 1967 Middle East war in return for peace.

But Olmert says Israel plans to keep major settlements in the West Bank in any peace deal, and would have to compensate the Palestinians for land lost.

The Palestinians say they cannot have a viable country of their own if it is chopped into pieces by Israeli settlement islands and the snaking walls and fences of the new barrier.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called the settlements “an obstacle to peace” which must go.

Some settlers justified the attack on Asira, saying the army failed to protect them against a violent infiltration.

“If the Israeli army had done what it should, maybe this wouldn’t have happened. They should either have prevented that infiltration or carried out a raid after,” Renana Cohen said.

Dani Dayan of Israel’s mainstream settlers’ organisation says the Arabs do not want peace. A Palestinian state would be a “launching pad” from which they would conduct “ethnic cleansing” against the Israelis, he argues. Many Israelis feel the same.

Most settlers oppose vigilante violence. But most agree that withdrawal would be “a sure recipe for war”, as Dayan puts is, because there will no “peace-loving Palestinians taking over”.

A younger, more aggressive breed of religious ideologues vows a violent response to any eviction threat, warning a heavy price would be exacted for any bid to close settlements down.

NO PROTECTION

Residents of Asira say the settlers need no provocation or pretext. Attacks on Asira date back three years, Makhlouf said.

Palestinians complain of unremitting harassment, such as the burning of their olive trees and stoning attacks on farmers in the fields, as a prelude to land-creep and confiscation.

The garden and rooftop of Makhlouf’s neighbour, Ahmed Dawood, were littered by stones rained onto his house in the settler rampage. The water tank was holed by four bullet.

Dawood’s son and a labourer in his field were shot and wounded. The army, he said, made no effort to stop the attack.

“I complained to the soldiers and they shouted back ‘Get inside’ and started shooting,” he said.

“We have nothing to protect ourselves with. We just take precautions such as putting metal grids on the windows. But the solution is to have them uprooted from here.”

Asira’s predicament is well known to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, who gave Makhlouf a small video camera in 2007 to document violence. The lens was knocked off focus by a rock in the latest attack but still provided an audio record.

Yoav Gross of B’Tselem said the settlers can be heard giving the army a one-minute ultimatum to act against the Palestinians or they would do the job themselves.

“They started counting one, two, three…,” he said. “They were giving orders to the soldiers, not the other way around.”

One Israeli human rights lawyer, Michael Sfard, says most soldiers do not realise they have not only the right but also the duty, as the occupying power, to defend Palestinians.

Settler attacks may rise in the upcoming olive harvest, when Arab farmers work the groves close to settlement perimeters.

One Palestinian woman in Asira was stocking up on corrosive cleaning fluids to throw at the attackers next time they visit.

“They have the army to protect them even while they are attacking us,” said the woman, who was afraid to give her name.

“But we have no one to defend us.”

(Editing by Douglas Hamilton and Samia Nakhoul)

Source: Reuters North American News Service

Ehud Olmert warns of ‘evil wind’ of extremism in Israel

September 29, 2008

  • The Guardian, Monday September 29 2008

A resurgent ultranationalist religious underground movement is threatening Israel’s democracy, the nation’s outgoing prime minister, Ehud Olmert, warned yesterday.

Olmert lashed out at the extreme right for the first time in his two-and-a-half-year premiership after a prominent Israeli critic of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian West Bank was violently attacked last week.

“A bad wind of extremism, hate, evil, violence and contempt for state authorities is blowing through certain sectors of the Israeli public and threatening Israeli democracy,” said Olmert in his opening remarks to the weekly cabinet meeting.

Olmert said the police and the Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, were searching for members of the movement.

Olmert compared the attack on Prof Zeev Sternhell, a political scientist at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, to the 1995 assassination of the then prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, by a Jewish ultranationalist, and to a hand grenade attack that killed a Peace Now activist in 1983.

Sternhell, a vocal opponent of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and a Holocaust survivor, was wounded when assailants planted a small pipe bomb outside his Jerusalem home.

Police also found posters in Sternhell’s neighbourhood offering one million shekels (£159,000) to anyone who killed a member of Israel’s Peace Now movement, which also opposes Jewish settlements.

The attack on Sternhell follows numerous reports from Israeli human rights groups that the settlers’ use of violence against Palestinians and Israeli police and soldiers, who are charged with protecting the illegal colonists, is growing.

Yesterday police were investigating the latest alleged attack by settlers against a Palestinian.

The body of a 19-year-old Palestinian shepherd was found in a ravine, with 20 gunshots to his neck, in a remote area of the West Bank on the weekend.


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