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I have suspended writing new posts for this blog.  I watch the Republican presidential debates and listen to the debate about bombing Iran and am speechless.  There is hardly anything left to say.

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Noise: Will Israel Attack Iran

Obama has no interest in bombing Iran. And although he caved into Bibi’s settlement expansion, he won’t green-light Israel to attack Iran.  2012 is not a year Americans will rally to support a president in a time of war.  Americans believe they are overstretched with a dormant economy and believe Obama overstretched the federal budget through bail-out, stimulus and health care.  An attack on Iran would make Romney a shoe-in.  Even Obama wouldn’t let Netanyahu walk over him in this.

The majority of Americans don’t care about the Israel-Iran conflict. The Republicans are going wild on Iran to show that Obama is weak on national security, but Obama’s commander-in-chief narrative gets better with every Quaeda or Taliban leader offed, every drone that hits its target, those 2500 marines to be based in northwest Australia and on-going naval exercise near the South China Sea.

The Israeli leadership has been talking out of all sides of the mouth.  Barak says Israel isn’t near a decision to bomb Iran one day.  And the very next day, Israeli intelligence states that the aftermath of such an attack wouldn’t be as bad as many experts predict.  Israeli officials have even back-tracked on whether Iran will ultimately go ahead and construct a bomb.

All of this occurs against the possibility Netanyahu will call for early elections this year and party elections that took place this week.  Prepare for another round of hairsplitting debate tomorrow: this one on what the IEAE meant by its talks with Iran Monday and Tuesday were ‘good.’

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The ‘Other 14′ on UNSC Speak Up

that the UN Security Council members sent a tough message to the US:

In a move which Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin (current Security Council president) called historic, diplomats from almost all regional blocs represented on the council stepped to the microphone Tuesday after closed council consultations on the Mideast to condemn the lack of progress toward a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The call for bilateral negotiations without preconditions would seem a normal thing to ask for,” he said.

But Churkin said the Palestinians are overwhelmed militarily and in every other way by the Israelis and without preconditions they would not get a fair shake in negotiations.

Britain’s UN Ambassador said Israeli security and Palestinian statehood are not mutually exclusive but mutually reinforcing.

The diplomats – including key U.S. allies in Europe – also criticized the council’s failure to take action against escalating violence by Israeli settlers and urged a speedy resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Britain’s UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, also speaking for EU members France, Germany and Portugal, said “Israel’s security and the realization of the Palestinians’ right to statehood are not opposing goals.”

South Africa emphasized that Israeli settlement activity is the main obstacle to peace talks.

While the United States was not mentioned by name, the diplomats anger was clearly directed at Washington which vetoed a resolution in February backed by the 14 other council members that would have demanded an immediate halt to all settlement building.

It’s about time the Security Council had this debate. The US stands isolated in its ‘Israel: right or wrong’ positions that have set peace talk back years.  Maybe the next move will be to censor one of its members.  Especially significant was Churkin’s criticism of the false equivalency on what ‘no preconditions’ means for the Palestinians and Israel.

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Is Israel Out of Control?

Despite the early wars with Arabs, it’s invasion/occupation of Lebanon in the 1980s, its continued settlement building since it signed the Oslo agreements in the early 1990s, the brutal Olympic assassinations in ’68,  first infatada, the assassination of Rabin, the provocation by Sharon in 2000, the second infatada,  genuine yet failed attempts at negotiations in 2000 and 2008, continued settlement building, its atomic bombs, the justified invasion of Gaza in 2008 followed by the unjustified over-reaction by the military, despite the flotilla deaths, despite its break with Turkey, continued settlement expansion, the Arab Spring, Egyptian soldiers killed by the IDF – despite all of this, it never occurred to me before this year that Israel could cease to be.

I am neither Israeli nor Jewish and quite frankly, believe the way Israel was created in 1948 was problematic.  I  believe that both Jews and Palestinians have national claims to the same land and that a two state solution is the only way forward to resolve the conflict.

But reports of Israeli settlers ‘not only attacking Palestinians’ (going on for years) but now turning on the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) makes clear that Israel’s genuine  ‘existential threat’ is itself.

Netanyahu’s pledge to clamp down on the violence is transparently phony. when  through the lens of his government’s regime.  Mr. Netanyahu pays lip service to resolving Israel’s war on the Palestinians.

The Likkud Party and its rightist partners have instead ,treacherously set the settlers, and with them the Palestinians, up.  By allowing continued settlement authorized by the Israeli state, yet signaling ambiguity on how ‘unauthorized settlements’ are handled, the Netanyahu government – whether intentionally or not – has manipulated the settlers into violence.  And the Palestinians will pay not only in having their mosques and homes defaced. Netanyahu will use these latest episodes to cause fear within Israel of a complete breakdown is a peace settlement is ever reached.

Netanyahu wants Israelis to believe that Israel is on the verge of chaos.  But Hamas is arresting other militant parties involved in the latest Palestinian rocket fire into Southern Israel and observing a two-year old truce.  The PLA renounced violence years ago.

Netanyahu stirs the pot continually, and now use the Israeli on Israeli violence as his newest weapon in avoiding peace.


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Israeli Settlers Attack IDF & Palestinians

Fifty Israeli settlers and right-wing activists stormed an IDF base in the West Bank on Tuesday.  According to the :

They punctured the tires of nearby military vehicles and hurled rocks at brigade commander Col. Ran Kahane as he drove nearby in his military jeep. He was not injured.

The infiltrators were pushed out of the base by IDF troops and Israel Police forces alerted to the scene.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the IDF to use all of the resources at its disposal to prevent further “price tag” attacks and to capture the perpetrators of Tuesday’s morning’s attack.

The attack was in retaliation for the IDF clearing out an illegal settlement on the West Bank/Jordanian border.  In another trouble area, :

Violent night clashes: Some 300 settlers hurled stones at Palestinian vehicles on the main road near the settlement of Ramat Gilad fearing an eviction on Monday night. They also opened the door of the Ephraim Brigade commander’s jeep and pelted the vehicle with stones causing the officer and his deputy light wounds.

The attacks are presumed to be part of the ‘price tag’ movement, a militant settlers’ posse aimed at punishing Palestinians and Israelis for any actions taken against their settlements.

Israel is in a mess.  Israelis fighting the IDF is startling.  But the settlers have been encouraged by 20 years of non-stop building on Palestinian land by successive Israeli governments and further prodded by Netanyahu’s hard-line stance against negotiations for peace.

Even if Netanyahu condemns the militants’ actions, it will mean little.  He’ll use even Israeli on Israeli violence as an excuse to maintain the status quo.  However, Netanyahu faces an increasingly violent threat of retaliation from the right and must keep in mind that PM Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli man angry at what he saw as Rabin’s appeasement of the Palestinians and international opinion.

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Andrew Sullivan on Israel/Palestine

- even socialist – society into a fundamentalist-driven, expansionist state, contemptuous of its closest ally, and aggressively hostile to all its neighbors is one of the most depressing developments in our time. It is driven by the religious parties, the settler movement and the opportunism and paranoia of Netanyahu. To give a flavor of his government, note that his neo-fascist foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, just went to Moscow to give Putin an embrace after the latest rigged elections, and denigrated the Russian opposition. The idea that a man like Lieberman is interested in democracy for the Palestinians on the West Bank is ludicrous. To him, the Palestinians are sub-human irritants, one day to be expelled or subdued.

All of this would be disastrous enough, but we now know that the two likeliest Republican nominees next year back neo-fascists like Lieberman to the hilt. Today, Gingrich has all but declared that under his presidency, the American position would be that of Netanyahu’s. This is Pamela Geller territory:

Ben Smith, the best reporter on the US-Israel struggle, :

To call the Palestinians ‘an invented people’ in an obvious effort to undermine their national identity is outrageous, especially since there was no such thing as an ‘Israeli’ before 1948,” he said. “Arab and Jewish identities are very old, but Israeli and Palestinian nationalisms are both 20th-century phenomena, and arose at the same time in competition with each other. The idea that either is more ‘invented’ and hence less ‘authentic’ than the other is ignorant, ahistorical claptrap.

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Newt’s Claims Disqualify Him

Ron Paul is right, charging Newt Gingrich as ‘trying to make trouble’ by insisting Palestinians are an invented people.  Newt (as all the GOP) is trying to appeal to Jewish voters.  First of all, research shows US Jewish voters don’t vote on the single issue of Israel.  Second, what American Jewish organization would agree with Gingrich.  None, except maybe The Emergency Committee on Israel, founded by the same neoconservatives who brought us war in Iraq.

The problem is that Gingrich’s comments were picked up by the Arab Press.  His stature as front-running Republican candidate make his remarks seem like they’re endorsed by more than a tiny sliver of Americans (if there are any besides Gingrich!), most of whom know little about the history of the Middle East.

Juan Cole sets the history straight in

Gingrich said that there had never been a Palestinian state in history. If you want to play the romantic nationalist game of finding ancient forebears for modern nations, it would be easy in the case of the Palestinians, who were mentioned by the ancient Egyptians and Assyrians. But today’s Palestinians are equally descended from the ancient Canaanites and as well as from the ancient Jews.

If Gingrich meant to argue that Palestine was never an administrative unit of Muslim states, – under the Mamluks it was one of the five districts of Syria and had its capital at Jerusalem.

Palestine was a known place in medieval Islam. People referred to it as a place. It was sometimes the name of an administrative unit. There are coins stamped Filastin. People who lived in that area were Filastinis or Palestinians. Over time, 80% of them came to be Muslims, with the rest Christians. Between 1000 AD and 1800 AD there were very few Jews in geographical Palestine (Bonaparte found 3,000 or so as I remember).

That Palestinians were part of the Ottoman Empire is irrelevant to whether they are a nation or not. You could make all the same assertions about Albanians that Gingrich made about Palestinians. There was no Albanian state in antiquity. They were ruled by the Byzantine, Bulgarian, Serbian and Ottoman Empires. There was no Albanian province under the Ottomans…

–f you want a “national” precedent for the Palestinians, in the 18th century when the Ottoman Empire had largely decentralized, Jazzar Pasha ruled Palestine from Akka and successfully fought off Napoleon Bonaparte.

As for Palestinians being “Arabs,” actually no Palestinians would have called themselves Arabs in the nineteenth century, except Bedouins. The word then for the most part meant pastoral nomad. The idea of a pan-Arab nation only arises in the 20th century, and it hasn’t been notably successful. The only thing “Arabs” have in common is that they speak Arabic. But it is arbitrary that we call all forms of Arabic “Arabic,” but we do not speak of Romance as a language. The difference between Moroccan spoken “Arabic” and the “Arabic” spoken in southern Iraq is greater than the difference between Spanish and Portuguese.




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Why Peace Negotiation Goes Nowhere

Below are a series of articles from the Jerusalem Post about the recent failure of the Quartet’s plan for Israel and Palestine to submit border maps.

Sequence of actions:

1.  Palestinians fail to get a nine vote majority for statehood through the Security Council.  Disunity between Gaza and the West Bank a major issue.

2.  Europeans go into crisis mode: get agreement from Palestine and Israel that each submit its concept of border within three months, in attempt to get sides to establish border and security arrangements before proceeding to other ‘final status’ issues.

3.  Quartet asks Israel to stop settlement building to allow talks.  Israel declines.

4.   State Department says parties have to be in direct talks before approaching borders/security.

5.    Palestinians say the Quartet envisioned dealing with the security/border issue outside direct talks.

6.    Borders/security not addressed.

What’s wrong with this picture?

It was my understanding, and I’m sure more than just mine and the Palestinians (!), that the Quartet proposal was to avoid the entire issue of ‘direct talks’ at this time.  So why did the State Department butt in and essentially derail the Quartet (of which the US is a member) goal?

Diplomacy in the Middle East is a joke.






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