Archive for The Guardian

US and Israel seek settlements plan

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, History, International community, Israel, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 27/08/2009 by 3071km

Date Published: 27 August 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English
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Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has said progress is being made towards restarting peace talks with the Palestinians.

His comments came after talks in London with George Mitchell, the Obama administration’s Middle East envoy, which both described as “very productive”.

During four hours of talks the two discussed the issue of Israeli settlements as a major hurdle to the peace process.

A joint statement released after the meeting said an Israeli delegation would visit the US next week to follow up on the talks, although it did not elaborate on any measures Mitchell and Netanyahu may have agreed to.

According to the statement the two parties “agreed on the importance of restarting meaningful negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and working toward a comprehensive peace, and that all sides need to take concrete steps toward peace.”

However, Israel has resisted calls from Barack Obama, the US president, to freeze settlement building on occupied Palestinian land.

A freeze is key to the resumption of peace talks, and Israel’s reluctance to budge on the issue has led to a rare rift in US-Israeli relations.

Iran ‘deal’

Mitchell has been pressing Israel to halt construction as a confidence-building gesture to the Palestinians.

According to some media reports he was expected to offer Netanyahu a tougher US line on Iran’s nuclear programme in return for Israel partially freezing settlement building.

Britain’s The Guardian newspaper reported that the US, along with Britain and France, is planning to push the UN to include Iran’s oil and gas industry in sanctions against the country, a move that could cripple its economy.

An Israeli delegation is due to meet Mitchell next week in the US to continue the talks.

Alastair Crooke, a Middle East analyst who has worked with Mitchell, told Al Jazeera: “I’m sure that Mitchell doesn’t want to get stuck in this single issue for the next month, because the Americans have a deadline.

“They are really keen to get progress on the Palestinian issue before they leave Iraq in the interests of Israeli security.”

After meeting Mitchell in London, Netanyahu, who is on a four-day European tour, flew to Berlin where he met Horst Koehler, the German president, ahead of talks with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor.

Abbas ‘meeting’

Following the talks in London, Mark Regev, an Israeli spokesman, said an agreement with Washington which would allow peace talks to resume could come within weeks.

“The goal is to find common ground with the American administration … on a framework that will allow the restarting of an energised peace process,” he said.

“For that process to be meaningful, the Arab world has to be part of it.”

Israeli media reports have suggested that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, will meet Netanyahu on the sidelines of next month’s meeting of the United Nations in New York.

In Jerusalem, a senior Palestinian official, said: “No one, neither from the Israelis nor from the United States contacted us for such a meeting but it could happen as a meeting but not as holding negotiations.

“What counts is to hold negotiations.”

Peace talks

Settlements in the West Bank, which Palestinians want for a future state, are home to 300,000 Israelis, and around 2.5million Palestinians.

Obama has said he opposes all settlement construction, while Abbas has staunchly refused to reopen peace talks until Netanyahu halts all settlement activity.

A survey released on Wednesday showed freezing settlements would be an unpopular move among Jewish Israelis, with almost two-thirds of those questioned by the Maagar Mohot polling company saying they opposed the move.

Netanyahu has said he sees the emphasis on settlements as unfair, and insisted conflict in the Middle East is rooted in Arab enmity towards Israel.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said that a settlement agreement is indispensible to a peace deal because it prevents a “Palestinian independent contiguous state from emerging”.

However, he said that there had been little progress in Wednesday’s meeting.

“After nine months of telling Israel that they must stop the settlements, an entire government telling the American envoy in London today that they won’t stop the settlement building within the settlements. That is a failure of a meeting.”

On Tuesday, Netanyahu said that his government was unwilling to negotiate on the status of Jerusalem as a joint Israel-Palestinian capital.

Speaking in London at his meeting with Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, he had also said that any peace talks with the Palestinians would have to cover the issue of a “demilitarised Palestine”, as well as illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

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Israeli military says no war crimes committed in the Gaza offensive

Posted in Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, IDF, Israel, Operation Cast Lead, War crimes with tags , , , on 01/04/2009 by 3071km

Written by Helen Pidd

Published 31st March 2009

Source: The Guardian

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Israeli soldiers cross back into Israel in the early morning after an offensive in the Gaza Strip in January. Photograph: Jerry Lampen/Reuters (Source: The Guardian)

Israeli soldiers cross back into Israel in the early morning after an offensive in the Gaza Strip in January. Photograph: Jerry Lampen/Reuters (Source: The Guardian)

The Israeli military has concluded that no war crimes were committed during its recent offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Investigation declares Israeli soldiers’ confessions exaggerated stories of civilian casualties in Gaza.

More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including more than 900 civilians, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which published a list of names of the dead. Israel has said the toll was lower, and the “vast majority” of the dead were militants. But it did not publish a list to support the assertion.

In a joint statement, nine Israeli rights groups said the decision to close the investigation without bringing charges “only strengthens the need for the attorney general to allow for an independent nonpartisan investigative body to be established in order to look into all Israeli army activity” in Gaza.

The Knesset: many parties, one mind

Posted in Gaza, Israeli politics with tags , , , , , on 30/03/2009 by 3071km

This is an interesting article written by Daphna Baram and posted last week in The Guardian (Thursday 26th March 2009). We hope you find it interesting!

Intransigence, expansionism, racism and warmongering now seem to be the consensus across Israeli politics

Ehud Barak’s move to join Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition and rub shoulders around the cabinet table with arch racist Avigdor Lieberman should not have surprised anybody, but was still met with shocked lamentations from the ranks of the decomposing remnants of the Zionist left. The fact that Tzipi Livni, leader of the opportunistic “central” Kadima party, demonstrated more courage and integrity (for which the long knives in her party have already been drawn against her), is hardly a breathtaking bombshell either for anybody who has been following the careers of the power-obsessed general and the goody-two-shoes girl scout. Many ask themselves what’s left of the Israeli left.

The answer to that, as it always has been, is simple. The Israeli left is combined of the following: the diminishing Meretz, a group of liberal Zionists who are torn by the realisation that they will soon have to decide whether they want a Jewish state or a democratic one – if they opt for the former they’ll have to waive the liberal tag, while if they choose the latter they’ll have to part with the Zionist one; Arab and Jewish Hadash voters who are struggling to hold on to their two-state solution while beginning to realise that it may well be too late for that; and the mainly Arab voters of Balad, whose plain call for a state for all its citizens is heard by most Jewish Israelis as a subversive “antisemitic” plan. Traditionally, the other Arab party, The United Arab List, is also counted with the left, though there’s nothing particularly lefty about it. However, since it represents a part of the constituency of the Palestinian-Arab deprived minority, it naturally aligns itself with the cause of Palestinians’ rights, both inside Israel proper, and in the context of the West Bank and Gaza.

This whole block, which has just been defined as “the left”, is represented now by 14 parliamentary seats out of the 120 seats in the Israeli Knesset. To them one may hesitantly add four out of the 13 representatives of the Labour party in the newly elected Knesset, who are close in their political stance to Meretz. Hence 18 out of 120 is what’s left of the Israeli left, and even that only if one is willing to engage in some intellectual gymnastics and expand the notion of “left” way beyond its traditional boundaries.

As for the Labour party, labelling it a traitor for joining a rightwing government involves a certain amount of wishful thinking regarding its true nature to start with. The answer to the question “when has the Labour party transformed?” is “never”, when it comes to its patterns of dealing with Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and “in the mid 1980s, just like most Labour parties in the west” when addressing its stance on social and economic issues. On society and economy, it might suffice to say that it was none other than Ofer Eini, the leader of Israel’s huge workers union, the Histadrut, who instigated Barak’s move to join what will be, in all likelihood, Israel’s most radical neoconservative government ever. The Israeli Labour party has long ago abandoned any commitment to social issues; it has joined up with the ruthless new economy and the big money behind it. The few Labour MKs who still bother paying lip service to social equality are all among the four “rebels” mentioned previously. The rest do not even flinch at the idea of hooking up with Netanyahu, who branded himself as the enemy of the workers and the poor in his last tenure as finance minister.

The case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more complicated. Internationally, the Labour party is viewed as a kosher stamp for any Israeli government, promising a less belligerent stance and a bigger willingness to reach a peaceful solution. This rather hollow belief is exactly what makes Barak such a desirable partner for Netanyahu, despite the pathetic size to which his party has just sunk in parliament (13 out of 120 MKs). Netanyahu is well aware that any type of intransigence and pig-headedness, not to mention actual acts of war, would be more digestible for the Obama administration when coming from a government that includes the Labour party.

The fact of the matter is that the Israeli Labour party has supported all the wars Israel has waged, and actually ran and instigated most of them. The two latest gory interventions, in Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza this year, were both orchestrated by Labour ministers of defence, Amir Peretz and Barak. Paying lip service to the division of Palestine while planning and propagating territorial expansionism and land-grabbing has been the policy of the Labour party ever since the early days of the Zionist movement, sprinkled by sporadic attempts at giving up some of the territory in return for getting rid of as many Palestinian inhabitants as possible from under Israel’s control in the process. Labour might have invented this double-tongues policy, but it has now been adopted by all the main powers in Israeli politics, from Kadima to Likud and even the radical mark on the right – Lieberman’s Israel Beytenu.

Everybody is chanting the now popular two-state solution slogan, while in effect expanding the settlements, waging war on the Palestinians in Gaza and devising discriminatory policies aimed against the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Considering the fact that the largest party in the emerging default opposition, Kadima, is holding to identical values and political programme to that of the parties in the government, there’s no choice but to recognise the painful truth. The intransigence, the expansionism, the racism and the warmongering are not the problem with only one of the big parties in the Israel’s politics; at the moment they seem to be the national consensus. The extent to which Barack Obama’s new administration will try to bend this consensus remains to be seen. The precedents, however, do not leave much space for hope.

Proved crimes against all of us

Posted in Gaza, Gaza war crimes investigation, Hamas, IDF, Israel, Operation Cast Lead, War crimes with tags , , , , , , on 24/03/2009 by 3071km

The Guardian publishes today the result of its own investigation uncovering evidence of alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza during the so-called Operation Cast Lead, which was presented to the public opinion as being aimed to Hamas but left over 1,400 Palestinians dead including more than 300 children.

Through its month-long investigation The Guardian can finally prove Israel used Palestinian children as human shields and targeted medics and hospitals – in other words: it committed war crimes. This is no news for all those who were in the Gaza strip during the massacre, not even for those who attempted to follow the news from all around the globe – especially for those who could watch Al Jazeera and get both sides of the picture.

If you want to read more about it, you can check the article written by Clancy Chassay and Julian Borger and watch the three documentaries with some of the most dramatic testimony gathered by the British newspaper.