Posts Tagged ‘Tzipi Livni’

Gaza, War Crimes, and the Path to Accountability

January 8, 2010

by Sunera Thobani, Electronic Intifada, Jan 8, 2010

By protecting Israel from accountability for its war crimes in Gaza, the US, UK and Canadian governments are also ensuring their own impunity. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs David Milliband acted swiftly to withdraw the warrant for the arrest of former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, one of the architects of last winter’s Israeli attack on Gaza. A British magistrate issued the warrant under universal jurisdiction laws in response to allegations of war crimes committed by Israel in Gaza. This prompted Brown to phone Livni and assure her she was “welcome” in Britain, and Milliband stated his government’s intention to remove the power of UK magistrates to issue any such future warrants against Israeli politicians.

As foreign minister, Livni used the Israeli-dubbed “Operation Cast Lead” to brand herself as an astute politician who would ride to power on the bodies of dead Palestinians. She became a media darling in the West, and the Gaza attack was to be the ticket to her rise to prime minister. However, although the attack killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and wounded thousands more, Livni’s political ambitions did not materialize quite as planned. Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman out-hawked her, and the Palestinians are still paying the price for the invasion. Gaza remains under a murderous siege, enforced by the Israelis and backed by its Western allies and Egypt.

A number of reasons have been put forward for the British government’s eagerness to protect Israeli politicians from the threat of arrest. These include Britain’s staunch support for the State of Israel since its inception; the organizational strength of Zionist lobbies, and in particular, their ability to impact the outcome of electoral politics; and lastly, the desire to avoid being branded anti-Semitic. While these are certainly important considerations, there is yet another pressing concern that has received little attention. This is a concern shared by the Americans and Canadians, and it speaks directly to the specificity of this particular moment in the so-called War on Terror. Indeed, this concern may well eclipse all other considerations for the moment.

The US, UK and Canadian governments are all embroiled in attempts to immunize themselves from accountability under international law for their own actions in the War on Terror. Protecting Israel from international law has therefore acquired an added urgency, not only in the interests of the Zionist regime, but also in the interests of the US and its two staunchest allies in the War on Terror, Britain and Canada, to remain beyond the reach of international law. In other words, if Israeli politicians can successfully be taken to court under international law for committing war crimes, the precedent would greatly embolden attempts to do likewise with American, British and Canadian politicians in relation to their actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In September 2009, the UN-mandated Goldstone report on Israel’s invasion was released. Placing the treatment of civilian populations at the heart of the investigation, Judge Richard Goldstone, who was the Prosecutor for the International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, found Israel’s attack on Gaza (as well as specific actions by Palestinian groups, including Hamas) to amount to war crimes. The Israelis refused to cooperate with the Goldstone mission, unlike the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas. Public hearings were held in Gaza. The Goldstone report called for credible independent internal investigations of Israel’s actions in Gaza which included: the deliberate bombing of civilian sites (including the Palestinian Legislative Council building, a Gaza prison, two hospitals, shelters and houses); the killing of civilian police forces; the use of mortars to hit “armed” Palestinian groups in the vicinity of large numbers of civilians; the destruction of food production factories, of water and sewage treatment facilities; and the direct killing of civilians. All were deemed violations of international law. In the absence of such independent investigations, the report called for the matter to proceed to the International Criminal Court.

In light of Israel’s refusal to cooperate with its mission, the Goldstone report unequivocally stated its “support for reliance on universal jurisdiction” as an avenue for further investigation and action on “grave breaches” of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and to “prevent immunity and promote international accountability.” Israel rejected the report’s findings, accusing Judge Goldstone — a Zionist and strong supporter of Israel — of anti-Israel bias. Other supporters of the report were likewise attacked as being anti-Semitic. The US ambassador to the UN, Dr. Susan Rice, admonished the report’s authors, and the US House of Representatives voted 344 to 36 to call on the Obama Administration to reject it. The Obama Administration has maintained this position and also exerted immense pressure on the Palestinian Authority to withdraw the report from consideration at the General Assembly of the UN. Neither the UK nor Canada supported the Goldstone report.

Many of the acts identified in the Goldstone report as constituting violations of international law are reported to have taken place in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The disproportionate killing of civilians in both countries is being tracked by human rights organizations; civilian sites are regularly reported to have been bombed, and targeted assassinations of “terrorists” are also reported to routinely kill family members of these alleged “terrorists,” as well as other bystanders. Collective punishment also seems to be meted out regularly, and the civilian infrastructure has been demolished in many places. There is also the question of the torture of detainees captured, held or transferred by US, British and Canadian forces. Indeed, some legal scholars have questioned the very legality of both the Afghan and Iraq “wars” and occupations.

As the Guardian reported on 26 November 2009, the UK’s Chilcot Inquiry recently heard that the government of former Prime Minister Tony Blair decided to participate in the American invasion of Iraq a year before it actually took place. Any concern about Saddam Hussein’s alleged amassing of weapons of mass destruction and his ties to al-Qaeda were nothing more than a red herring, and in any event, proved to be the result of falsified intelligence reports. Moreover, on 14 November, the Telegraph reported that British soldiers — men and women — have been dogged since 2003 with allegations of torture and sexual abuse of Iraqi prisoners in their custody. Noting that 33 allegations of torture, rape and sexual abuse have surfaced about particular incidents, the Telegraph stated that “a pre-action protocol letter has been served on the [Ministry of Defense]” by a lawyer representing Iraqis subjected to this abuse. It also cited British Armed Forces Minister Bill Rammell calling for “formal investigations” into the matter.

Meanwhile, Canadians are mired in their own allegations of complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees. Senior diplomat Richard Colvin testified to a parliamentary committee that many of the Afghan detainees captured by Canadian soldiers were innocent civilians who were most likely abused or tortured by the Afghan authorities to whose custody they were delivered. He has further testified that despite his warnings to the Canadian government about this likelihood, no action was taken by the government to avert this possibility. Malalai Joya, the Afghan Member of Parliament who fled the country after being suspended from that body, has substantiated Colvin’s claims. She has also added that many of those tortured and raped were women and children. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported on 26 November that Defense Minister Peter McKay and former Chief of Defense Staff General Rick Hillier both denied Colvin’s allegations. However, if Colvin’s claims are vindicated, it could well be the case that the Canadian government was complicit in the torture and abuse of these detainees under the rules of international law.

If Israel can now be hauled before the International Criminal Court, who might it be next? If Israeli politicians can be arrested by warrants issued under universal jurisdiction, why not officials from the US, Britain and Canada as well? Who knows how quickly and how far things could unravel? If one occupying power could be held liable for war crimes, why not the other occupying powers who may have also engaged in collective punishment, in the destruction of civilian infrastructure, in the torture and killing of civilians? Where might it all end?

In seeking to protect Israel from the Goldstone report and Israeli politicians from the threat of arrest in the UK, the British, American and Canadian governments might well be engaged in a battle to save their own skins in the face of an emboldened legal activism. Gaza may well be the gateway to anti-imperialist accountability in the 21st century.

Sunera Thobani teaches Women’s Studies at the University of British Columbia. She is the author of Exalted Subjects: Studies in the Making of Race and Nation in Canada (University of Toronto Press: 2007). She traveled to Gaza in September 2009 with the Rachel Corrie Foundation Delegation

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The international league of war criminals

December 17, 2009

Chris Marsden, wsws.org, Dec 17, 2009

The issuing of a British arrest warrant for former Israeli Foreign Minister and current leader of the opposition Tzipi Livni is only the latest event confirming an international body of legal opinion that Israel should be tried for war crimes over its treatment of the Palestinians.

Livni was a member of the war cabinet during Operation Cast Lead, the offensive against Gaza between December 27, 2008 and January 18 this year. Some 1,400 Palestinians—the majority of them civilians, including 400 women and children—were killed, at least 5,000 people were injured, and 21,000 homes and other vital infrastructure were destroyed.

Continued >>

As Dangerous as Netanyahu

March 4, 2009

barak_livni_olmert_reuters.jpg

By Hassan Afif El-Hasan | The Palestine Chronicle, Mach 3, 2009

The Palestinians in the occupied lands and the refugee camps must have been puzzled by those Palestinian leaders’ declarations and commentators’ peppy articles lamenting the loss of the butchers of Gaza, Kadima-Labor coalition, to the Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu coalition. Have the Palestinian leaders in the West Bank established mystical bonds with the butchers of Gaza who became their only accepted partners for peace? I can’t see the teeniest difference between the policies of the two camps. If there is any difference, it is that unlike Kadima and Labour leaders, Netanyahu practices what he preaches. Netanyahu is a dangerous leader but Olmert, Livni, Peres and Barak are no less dangerous. The only competition among these leaders is the level of the horrors inflicted on the Palestinians and the blood wantonly spilled under their leaderships.

When Peres was the minister of defense under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin he helped Gush Emunim movement followers launch several settlements next to the Arab population centers in the West Bank. For the Gush Emunim members, the right of the Jewish people to Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) is non-negotiable. At Peres order, the Israeli army provided water and electricity for Elon Moreh settlers and the military invited the settlers to establish a settlement at the military camp inside the Arab village of Kufur Qadum. The Israeli military declared the main road to the village as Jews-only-road and its Arab residents had to build new road leading to their homes and schools.

Peres personally helped establish Ofra settlement in the West Bank. In 1996 Peres approved and defended the shelling that killed and injured hundreds of Lebanese civilians who had taken refuge at a Fijian UNIFIL compound in Qana village. According to the Human Rights Watch, the death toll was 116 and the injured exceeded 120. And at the recent World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Peres defended Israel’s 22-day offensive against the Palestinian people in Gaza that killed hundreds of children and women and destroyed the civilian infrastructures of the ghettos where 1.5 million live under complete siege imposed by Israel. While Gaza had been under siege and its population was starved the unrepentant Peres said in the Forum “There is no siege against Gaza…..Why do they fight us? There was never a day of starvation in Gaza”. Peres is a sociopath liar and a war criminal, and that does not make him and his cohorts moderates.

How can the Palestinian leaders refer to Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak and Olmert as moderates? The trio followed a policy of terrorizing the Palestinians who have been under occupation for forty years, building and expanding settlements, Judaisation of Jerusalem, confiscating Arab lands and building the apartheid wall. They carried out the barbarous massacres of the starved and besieged survivors of the 1948 Nakba in Gaza. And they deny the right of return for the refugees living in camps since 1948.

Under Olmert municipal administration in Jerusalem, Arab land was confiscated; public land was sequestrated; Olmert fostered Jews only settlements; and he cordoned off the city Arab inhabitants from their West Bank hinterland. Mayor Olmert and Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the excavation of the so called “Hasmonean Tunnel” under the Muslim Haram Asharif shrine to facilitate movement of Israelis directly from the Western Wall area to Haram Asharif. The act is part of the plans to Judaize the character of the whole area. And on September 28, 2000, Olmert accompanied Sharon, a man anathematized by the Palestinians as “the butcher of Sabra and Shatila”, in the provocative walking visit to Haram Asharif that triggered the second intifada.

Netanyahu is not the first to ally himself with Avigdor Lieberman the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu Party. Ehud Olmert struck an alliance on October 23, 2006 with Lieberman who became a minister of strategic affairs and a deputy prime minister in Olmert cabinet. Lieberman called for stripping Arab Israelis of their citizenship to make Israel more Jewish, executing lawmakers for talking to Hamas and blanket-bombing of Palestinian population centers, gas stations and banks.

Even before Gaza massacres, Ehud Barak has lots of Palestinian blood on his hands. As a commando, Barak is widely presumed that he personally assassinated many Palestinians including the poet intellectual Kamal Nasir in 1972 and the Palestinian political nationalist Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad) outside Tunis in 1991. Like Netanyahu, each of Peres, Olmert and Barak declared himself uncompromising on the issue of Jerusalem and the control of Israel’s security borders defined as the borders of historical Palestine.

Much has been written and aired by the US news media and the Israeli propaganda machine about a generous offer to Yassir Arafat by then Israeli Prime Minister Barak and US President Clinton in 2000 Camp David II negotiations. Here are some facts. The Palestinian state offered by Barak would be divided into small lots without territorial continuity or sovereignty. Barak stood firm on maintaining Israel’s sovereignty over the large Jewish settlement blocs that is home to more than 80 percent of the Jewish settlers in the West Bank. The thousands of the settlers who would be evacuated would have to remain under Israeli protection until arrangements could be made to relocate them. Barak map annexed the central Givat Ze’ev/Pisgat Ze’ev/Ma’aleh Adomin bloc dividing the West Bank in two; and Efrat/Etzion/Betar Ilit bloc in the southwest of Jerusalem severed any coherent connection between Bethlehem and Hebron. The annexed areas also included the large settlement of Ariel and some small satellite settlements next to the Palestinian City of Nablus. And the offer keeps under Israel’s control the Jordan River valley and the West Bank underground aquifer.

Yitzchak Shamir appointed Netanyahu as deputy foreign minister in his 1988 government and following Shamir’s defeat in 1992, Netanyahu was selected chairman of the Likud party. Like Olmert, Livni, Peres and Barak, Netanyahu is a strong believer in the Zionist ideology. The central theme of his book, “A Place among the Nations: Israel and the World”, is the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel (Palestine) in its entirety. He argues that it was the Arabs who had usurped land from the Jews in Palestine, not the other way around; and Israel for its own self-protection must retain security control over all the territory of Palestine.

Benjamin Netanyahu has clinched the nomination to head a coalition that has been described by Arab commentators as a far-right coalition as compared to that of Tzipi Livni-Ehud Barak. Netanyahu has a peculiar plan for peace with the Palestinians. He calls it the “economic peace” plan which does not end the Israeli occupation. It offers the Palestinians a limited autonomy that allows them to police their own population centers while Israel controls borders, air space and its military continues to control overall security. In return, Netanyahu promises improvement of the Palestinians economic conditions by building industrial zones in the occupied lands that would employ Palestinians. He never specified who would finance the industrial projects and who would own them. But since Israel never assumed economic responsibility for the Palestinians under occupation, we can be certain that his proposed industrial projects requires the international community to foot its bill as it has been financing the occupation without holding Israel any responsibility for it.

In Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan, Israel would keep and expand the settlements; East Jerusalem would remain part of Israel; and no refugees would be given the right of return to their homes in Israel proper. He effectively is offering the status quo plus employment for the Palestinian labor as the solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Netanyahu has been firm and consistent in his opposition to ending the Israeli occupation. He is a racist by ideology and actions, so as Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak. All Israeli governments, the so called moderates and the right-wing share the same policy toward the Palestinians. Netanyahu’s vision of the Palestinian self-rule of disconnected non-sovereign enclaves in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is not different from the two-state solution offer made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Foreign Minister Livni after 12 months of continuous negotiations and fifteen years after Oslo. Shaul Mofaz, Kadima’s number two leader wants his party to join the Likud government under Netanyahu because there is little disagreement between the two parties.

These realities suggest none of the major parties in Israel is for just peace; and the current situation in the occupied land is the natural outcome of a conflict between a weak oppressed occupied people struggling for survival against a strong militant occupier with one of the most powerful armies in the world, a nuclear arsenal, unconditional backing of the world only super-power and ideology of conquest.

-Born in Nablus, Palestine, Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D. is a political analyst. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

Bush, Obama, and the Gaza Blitz

December 30, 2008

by Patrick J. Buchanan | Antiwar.com, Dec 30, 2008


Unwilling to control its fighters, who fired scores of missiles into Israel at the end of their six-month cease-fire, Hamas gave Israel the provocation it needed to deliver a savage blow to the Palestinian enclave in Gaza.

Saturday was the bloodiest day in the history of the Palestinian people since being driven from their homes in the war of 1948. One thousand were killed or wounded, as the Israeli air force conducted over a hundred strikes – on graduation ceremonies for Hamas fighters, police stations, and storage sites for rockets.

About Israel’s right and duty to defend its border towns, there is no dispute. When Hamas permits Gaza to be used as a launch pad for rockets, it must expect retaliation. Nor can Hamas claim some right to dictate the limits of that retaliation.

Yet the wisdom of so savage a retribution for rockets that killed not one Israeli is open to question. And crass Israeli politics seems to be behind this premeditated and planned blitz.

With Likud’s hawkish “Bibi” Netanyahu ahead in the polls for the Feb. 10 election, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Labor’s candidate, had to show that he, too, could be ruthless with Hamas.

Kadima Party candidate and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has an even greater need than the highly decorated Barak to show toughness. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, departing in scandal, wants to exit in a blaze of glory, to blot out the memory of a botched war against Hezbollah that he launched in the summer of 2006.

However, while Israel’s politicians all seem to have a stake in these devastating strikes, Israel herself will pay the price.

Given the casualty toll, over 300 dead and 1,300 wounded as of this writing, Hamas will have to exact its pound of flesh. The Hamas wing that seeks renewed war with Israel will now shout into silence the wing working with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak on a new cease-fire.

The moderate Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas, who has been talking to Israel, testifying to her good faith, has been made to appear the puppet and fool. A new Intifada spreading to the West Bank, with suicide attacks inside Israel, is now possible.

Moderate Arabs, who have recognized Israel or backed peace, will now be seen by the Arab street as appeasers impotent to stop the public suffering of the Palestinian people.

As for President Bush’s hopes of midwifing a peace that would create a Palestinian state, they are as dead as the Annapolis process he set in train. In advancing peace in the Middle East, Bush’s eight-year record is now a near-absolute failure.

For four years, Bush refused to talk to Yasser Arafat, though Bill Clinton had negotiated with him, as had four Israeli prime ministers, two of whom shared a Nobel Prize with Arafat. In his second term, Bush, after insisting Hamas be included in free elections in Palestine, refused to recognize Hamas when it won those elections.

Arafat was a terrorist and Hamas is a terrorist organization, declared Bush, and we don’t negotiate with terrorists. Yet Bush de-listed Libya as a state sponsor of terror and sent Condi Rice to chat up Col. Gadhafi, though Gadhafi still has on his hands the blood of scores of American school kids from the Lockerbie massacre of 1989 that Libya and Gadhafi engineered

For eight years, like the “dummy” in a hand of bridge, Bush has sat mute as his Israeli partner, Sharon or Olmert, played America’s cards as well as their own. The Bush response to Saturday’s carnage, as anticipated, was to blame Hamas for causing it and urge Israelis to be careful about civilian casualties as they go about their reprisals.

Whatever Israel decides, we support. For eight years that has been the most reliable guide to U.S. Middle East policy.

And Barack Obama? Forty-eight hours after the Israeli blitz began, he and his national security team remain silent.

Hopefully, Obama will bring with him a new Mideast policy, one made in the USA, for the USA. Hopefully, just as Israel has its private links to Syria through Turkey, to Hamas through Egypt, and to Hezbollah, Obama will establish independent U.S. channels to all three, and adopt a separate U.S. policy toward all three, as Israel does.

While the United States must support Israel’s right to defend her towns and to strike bases from which Israelis are being attacked, Obama should denounce the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, by Israel’s cutting off their electricity in the dead of winter and denying them the food and medicine many need to survive.

For us to remain silent in the face of this comports neither with our interests or our values. Israel’s policy of withholding from the weak and innocent of Gaza, women and children, the necessities of life, to punish the guilty who rule at the point of a gun, is a policy that Obama should declare the United States will no longer support with tax dollars.

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Israel vows to continue war on Gaza

December 30, 2008
Al Jazeera, Dec 30, 2008

Hundreds of people have been killed and many wounded in four days of air raids [AFP]

Israel has warned that the onslaught in the Gaza Strip could last for “weeks” as the fourth consecutive day of aerial attacks targeted several Hamas government buildings.

Around 350 people have been killed, many of them civilians, and local hospitals have warned they are unable to cope with any more casualties.

Palestinian medical workers said at least 10 people had died in the latest raids on Tuesday, with security guards and civilians among those killed.

But Israel said there would be no let up until the threat of Palestinian rockets attacks from the Gaza Strip had been removed.

“There is no room for a ceasefire,” Meir Sheetrit, Israel’s interior minister, said.

“The government is determined to remove the threat of [rocket] fire on the south.

“Therefore the Israeli army must not stop the operation before breaking the will of Palestinians, of Hamas, to continue to fire at Israel.”

Four Israeli citizens have been killed by missiles fired from Palestinian positions since the offensive began on Saturday.

Military preparations

The Israeli army has been massing infantry and armoured forces along the border amid increasing fears that a ground invasion is planned.

In depth

Focus

Arab street angry over Gaza attacks

Reaction: Raids take toll on Gaza

Gaza strikes a challenge for Obama

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Gaza pounded for third straight day

US backs Israeli air raids

Hospitals in Gaza struggle to cope

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Matan Vilnai, Israel’s deputy defence minister, said the military “has made preparations for some long weeks of action”.

On Monday, areas of the border were declared “closed military zones” and thousands of reservists have been called up by the Israeli military.

Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Gaza City, said that there was little the residents of the strip could do to prepare for any possible ground assault.”In a city that is so densely-populated, a ground offensive would mean urban warfare, street-to-street fighting … leaving many Palestinians in the crossfire,” he said.

“Unlike other conflict zones where there is the possibility to flee the war zone, Gaza itself has become the war zone. There is nowhere for the population to go, they are in the middle of all these attacks.”

Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general, has added his voice to calls for an end to the violence.

Speaking at UN headquarters in New York on Monday, he said both sides should end the fighting and said regional powers should do more to help resolve the crisis.

“All this must stop,” Ban told a press conference.

“Both Israel and Hamas must halt their acts of violence and take all necessary measures to avoid civilian casualties. A ceasefire must be declared immediately. They must also curb their inflammatory rhetoric.”

Hamas blamed

Speaking to Al Jazeera, the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, said the Israeli offensive was aimed at Hamas and not the Palestinian people, urging civilians to leave for safer places away from places close to Hamas infrastructure.

“We tried to avoid this. You know that Israel accepted the truce that was initiated by the Egyptians in order to create peace and quiet. We adopted the truce. What we got in return? We got in return daily attacks, we got in return smuggling of weapons to Gaza Strip with long-range [capabilities],” she said.

Support for Israel came from the US, with the White House saying Hamas must halt cross-border rocket fire.

“In order for the violence to stop, Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to respect a sustainable and durable ceasefire,” Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman said.

Israel ‘weighing Saudi peace deal’

October 20, 2008
Al Jazeera, Oct 20, 2008

Livni is scrambling to get the necessary numbers to form a coalition government [AFP]

Israel’s defence minister has said the country’s leaders are considering a dormant Saudi plan offering comprehensive peace with the Arab world.

Ehud Barak said it was time to pursue an overall peace deal because there was very little progress in individual negotiations with Syria and the Palestinians.

The peace plan – first mooted by Saudi Arabia in 2002 – offers Israel recognition by its Arab neighbours in return for its withdrawal from lands in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights captured during the 1967 Middle East war.

Barak said he had discussed the plan with Tzipi Livni, the leader of Israel’s Kadima party trying to form a coalition government, and that they were considering a response.

“There is definitely room to introduce a comprehensive Israeli plan to counter the Saudi plan that would be the basis for a discussion on overall regional peace,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.

Barak’s announcement came as Livni sought a two-week extension to form political alliances in a new government, having failed to attract the ultra-orthodox Shas party to join Kadima and Barak’s Labour party in the administration.

Coalition deadline

Livni was elected leader of Kadima last month, taking over from Ehud Olmert who resigned as prime minister in the wake of a corruption scandal but remains in office in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.

Livni has already won an initial agreement from Barak, the leader of the Labour party, to join a coalition under her leadership.

But her efforts to attract Shas, which is making a number of demands, have so far proved fruitless.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, reporting from Jerusalem, said the Shas party had a strong bargaining position.

The Shas party knows that Livni really needs it in order to become prime minister and form a strong government acceptable to the Israeli public, our correspondent said.

The religious Shas party, which has long billed itself as a party that represents Israel’s poor, has been demanding increased government spending of about $270m on social welfare as a price for joining a Livni-led coalition.

Scramble for numbers

With Labour in her corner, Livni would control 48 of the 120 seats in parliament.

“She could go to the Knesset [to ratify a government] with the seats she already has, but she believes she can do it in the end,” Gil Messing, a Livni spokesman, said.

Without Shas, she could form a minority government relying on precarious support from outside the coalition of left-wing and Arab parties wary of a national election that opinion polls show Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud would win.

Shas’s membership would boost that number to 60, a wafer-thin coalition but enough to stop the opposition from toppling her government in no-confidence votes.

Winning the support of smaller factions, such as the Pensioners party, with seven Knesset members, and the left-wing Meretz, with five, would give Livni a stronger mandate to pursue policies that include peacemaking with the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, some 80 truckloads of food and medical supplies were delayed from reaching the Gaza Strip after dozens of Israelis blocked a crossing on Sunday, demanding their government seal an agreement with Hamas to release Gilad Shalit.

Hamas is demanding the release of 1,400 prisoners in exchange for Shalit, the Israeli soldier captured by Palestinian fighters more than two years ago.

Palestine Today 091808

September 19, 2008
Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Center http://www.imemc.org for Thursday September 18, 2008.



Seven Palestinian residents from the West Bank were reportedly kidnapped on Thursday by Israeli soldiers, after as at least two Palestinians were reportedly killed in an underground tunnel collapse in the southern Gaza Strip. These stories and more are coming up, stay tuned.

The News Cast

Israeli soldiers detained at least seven Palestinians from the West Bank cities of Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus, Palestinian sources and witnesses reported today.

The detentions took place in the form of military invasions into a number of villages. The soldiers also reportedly ransacked houses and forced out those inside, then kidnapped the claimed wanted residents.

In the Gaza Strip, at least two people were killed and several others wounded during a collapse of an underground tunnel in the southern part of the coastal region. On the Gaza-Egypt border, estimates suggest that there are hundreds of such tunnels which the besieged population of Gaza use to bring in essential supplies and commodities, made scarce due to the 15-month-old Israeli blockade.

Commenting on the victory of Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, during the ruling Kadima party elections, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, believed that the Palestinians will face increased Israeli aggression with Livni in charge.

At the internal level, the armed wing of the Islamist Hamas party in Gaza, known as Ezzildin Elqassam brigade, called on its West Bank-based members to defy arrest attempts, which the Fatah-allied Palestinian Authority’s security services carry out against Hamas supporters in the area.

Staying in Gaza, Raed Al Harazeen, 31, died of his wounds on Wednesday two hours after being abducted by unknown gunmen who broke into his home and took him to an unknown destination.

Apparently Al Harazeen was tortured before he was dropped at an intersection in Gaza city. Bruises and cuts were obvious on several parts of his body. His family found him alive, but in a serious condition, two hours after he was abducted. Israeli authorities, however, denied him entry to Israel for treatment after also being turned away from the Gaza hospital due to the lack basic medical equipment because of the siege. Al-Harazeen died of his wounds at Erez military crossing to Israel.

Conclusion:
Thank you for joining us from occupied Bethlehem. You have been listening to Palestine Today from the International Middle East Media Center, http://www.imemc.org. This report has been brought to you by Rami Al-Meghari and Gorge Rishmawi.

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Middle East: Israel’s chief negotiator rules out peace with Palestinians in 2008

August 22, 2008

The Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, said yesterday it was unlikely a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would be reached this year and warned that pressure to hurry negotiations could lead to violence.

Livni, 50, the chief Israeli negotiator for the current talks with the Palestinians, is the favourite to replace Ehud Olmert as prime minister when the ruling Kadima party holds leadership elections next month.

The latest peace process, launched in Annapolis in the US in November, was originally intended to produce an agreement by the end of this year.

“I think that any attempt to bridge gaps that maybe it’s premature to bridge, or to reach something that is not the comprehensive agreement that we want to reach, can lead to doing it wrong just because of the pressure,” she told a news conference in Jerusalem. “This can lead to clashes, this can lead to misunderstandings, this can lead to violence as we faced after Camp David 2000 and the circumstances in a way are similar.”

In the months after the failure of the Camp David talks in 2000, the second Palestinian uprising, or intifada, broke out. Since then more than 4,800 Palestinians and more than 1,000 Israelis have been killed in the conflict.

Livni said all the issues of dispute between Israel and the Palestinians were up for discussion, but she gave no indication of what, if anything, had so far been agreed in months of discussions between the two sides. However, she ruled out any prospect of a right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel and said refugees would return to live in the future Palestinian state.

Talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders have been under way for several months, but there has been no sign that any concrete agreements have been reached, even in private.

Although Livni is expected to win the Kadima leadership next month, it is not yet clear if she will be able to form a coalition government.

She said she would like to try to lead a coalition, or to form a unity government. She said that would be decided by other coalition parties.

If she fails to form a coalition there would be early general elections. Recent polls have suggested the rightwing opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, of the Likud party, would win. However, a poll in yesterday’s Ha’aretz newspaper put Livni and Netanyahu as equal frontrunners.

Olmert, the current prime minister and Kadima leader, has promised to step down after the primary election next month. He is still being questioned in a series of corruption investigations.


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