Tag Archives | Netanyahu

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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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 Jerusalem Post:

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, JNET reports:

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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The Pathetic Drake Republican Debate

Horrible Dictu!   This debate has centered around:

1. Killing Obamacare

2. No amnesty for illegal immigrants

3.  Bibi Netenyahu is ‘my’ friend

4.  Character counts: you should not cheat on your wife/husband.

Pathetic doesn’t describe this.   All it has become is reality TV in which the quickest, in-your-face responses spell the winner.

They all want to kill Obamacare.  Does that mean my insurance next year does not have to cover my ‘wellness’ physical and gynecological exams?  without applying to deductible?  Does it mean my 23-year-old nephew without a job will be dropped by his parents insurance?

Who supported the individual mandate?  The insurance companies refused to offer to cover the uninsured unless and until an individual mandate was law.  Why?  It’s business, guys.  Only if all Americans paid into the insurance funds through individual mandates would the insurance giants agree to offer insurance plans to the riskier uninsured population.  Actuary tables are the sole driver of the ‘individual mandate’.

How do you deport 11 million people.  That would be like deporting the entire Jewish population of the US.  How will farmers harvest crops without itinerent farm workers?  How will the lawns on mansions in Beverly Hills be cultivated?  How will the “Grand Old Opry Hotel” stay financially solvent?

So, were PM Barak and PM Olmert, who steadfastly pursued a negotiated two-state solution not your friends, dear Mitt and Newt?  Were their efforts a betrayal of their country?

Character counts.  We all have good marriages with lots of children.  Newt ran right over them.  “It’s an important issue.  I said I’d made mistakes.”  The prodigal son was shown favor over the loyal son.







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Germany Got Israel to Release Funds

The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, is reporting that Germany Chancellor Merkel insisted that Israel release $100 Million of Palestinian funds it was holding before Germany would approve a submarine sale to Israel.

Israel’s decision to release frozen public funds to the Palestinians last week came after Germany insisted it did so as a condition for the completion of the sale of a submarine, a German newspaper reported Sunday.

The Welt am Sonntag quoted sources as saying Germany had told Israel it could not go ahead with the purchase of the submarine unless it made political concessions.

And here we have President Obama adding more funds to the Israeli ‘Iron Dome’ project and getting nothing back from Israel for all-out American support for Israel at the UN.  In contrast, the Palestinians’ money was returned the same day Merkel spoke.


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Existential Threat to Israel? Netanyahu Government

In another last-minute turn-around, Israeli PM Netanyahu failed to bring Israel’s withholding of Palestinian tax money to a vote by his cabinet.  Defense Minister Barak and officers from the military spoke for releasing the Palestinian money (collected from Palestinian economic activity) immediately and without conditions.  The Israeli military fears that if the PA collapses from a crippling financial emergency, the West Bank will become even more volatile and a real danger to Israel’s security.

PM Netanyahu had signaled he favored releasing the Palestinian money but the ministers of Finance and Foreign Affairs opposed the release.  In addition, Haaretz reports that Netanyahu was told the Palestinians had hardened their position regarding peace negotiations, and Netanyahu retaliated by shelving the Cabinet vote to release the funds.  As if the two are related! They are not.

Above the policy implications, Netanyahu’s decision underscores his own mercurial nature and why so many Palestinians and Europeans don’t trust him.

Mr. Netanyahu apparently wants to break the PA and take Israeli/Palestinian relations back to the pre-Oslo period.  He has already negated provisions that two former PMs (Barak and Olmert) negotiated as part of a  ‘final status’ treaty solution and insists that negotiations under his Administration start at zero.

While Defense Minister Barak argued that continued withholding of Palestinian revenue adds to the increasing friction between the two sides and Israel’s negative reputation in the international community, Netanyahu signaled he doesn’t really care about those consequences.

Does Netanyahu care if the PA collapses?  Apparently not.  He released hundreds of PA prisoners, including known terrorists and sent some back to the West Bank, the rest to Gaza, where some will once again be tempted towards violence.   Either West Bank violence or the PA’s collapse would draw immediate Israeli retaliation up to and including the return to full occupation of Gaza and the West Bank with full Palestinian dependency on Israel.

Netanyahu’s vision of the immediate future looks increasingly like a lurch into the pre-Oslo past.  If so, all bets are off and all restraints will be removed in the Middle East.  And this is a man in charge of over 200 nuclear missiles!  No wonder Iran wants its own bomb.





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Why is Israel Considered a Strategic Ally?

I’ve wondered why Israel was ever considered a ‘strategic ally’ of the US in the Arab world?  And I especially don’t get it now.

Some people peg it to the Cold War.  If the Soviets supported Nassar, the US needed to counter-balance with Israel.  Others say we share democratic systems with Israel, calling it an oasis of democracy in an authoritarian part of the world.  Unfortunately, the US has seldom made democracy a top priority for its allies, and after OPEC was founded America assiduously courted all the Arab authoritarian oil-producers with promises of security garauntees and arms sales.   In return, led by Saudi Arabia, OPEC kept the price of oil within a set range by manipulating supply. That’s strategic!  Even before OPEC, the US displayed a rather cynical view of democracy in the region, having supported a British-inspired 1953 coup d’etat  against the democratically elected government of newly independent Iran and replaced it with the brutal rule of Reza Shah Pahlavi.  We’ve been paying ever since.

Israel as a state grew out of the carnage of WW2.  One factor in the US and Western embrace of Israel was certainly that the Jewish people had a right to a state with defensible borders. And the European Jews who emigrated to Israel during and after Nazi rule were certainly more familiar culturally than the Islamic-Muslim states nearby.  American Jews have been going back and forth to Israel in droves since it was established. So there is a social cultural bond that spans continents.

Maybe I don’t understand the term ‘strategic ally.’  Certainly none of the above reasons explains why so many American politicians in both parties have developed a myopic ‘Israel right or wrong’ policy that directly conflicts with twenty years of official US policy concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israeli settlement expansion.

Israel is an ally but so is Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and several other smaller Persian Gulf states.  Calling Israel a ‘strategic ally’ gives it an importance that is harder and harder to justify.

George H. W. Bush was the last in a line of GOP presidents to seek a balanced policy in the Middle East,  at least to the extent of convincing the PLO to sign the Oslo Accords believing that Israel would negotiate if it had US security protocols backing it.   George Bush 41 famously held up loan guarantees to Israel until it signed the Oslo Peace Accords.  Unfortunately, the Oslo process turned into a joke over the last two decades, with no American President holding either side accountable for throwing new obstacles up to the peace process on a yearly basis.

Meanwhile,  AIPAC and other politically oriented American Jewish groups shifted into overdrive to build their numbers and influence in American politics.   And under Bush 43, they merged their interests in an informal marriage of convenience with Christian fundamentalists who support Israel based on Biblical  prophesy  in Revelations that predicts the conversion of Jews to accept Jesus Christ or their damnation in hell.

Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said that while evangelicals had a role, the changed post-Sept. 11 world should not be underestimated as a factor. Republican presidents such as Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush operated in a Cold War arena in which cultivating allies among Israel’s rivals and enemies may have made sense — but that is no longer the case, he said.

“There were elements in the realist camp who may have seen Israel not as a strategic ally,” Brooks said of the presidency of the first George Bush. “Given how things have developed — the global war on terror, the rise of militant Islam — that doesn’t make any sense anymore.”

Brooks is one who makes no sense.  9/11 changed US strategic interests, and Israel has thumbed its nose at some of those changes for twelve years.  America’s interest in 2001 was to isolate and destroy the terrorists while assuring Arab and Muslim countries that America was not at war with them.  Solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would have been the one act which, after the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, might win back some good will among Arabs towards America. By the time President Bush got serious about peace six years after 9/11, it was too late.  Although the Bush Administration, like Clinton, threw a Hail Mary pass for Middle East peace during the last months of its second term, it was too late.

In taking office, Netanyahu courted the far right in Israel and solidified the ‘refusnik’ branch of the Israeli body politic.  Although General Petraeus, six former NSC heads and most recently Defense Secretary Panetta have warned that continuation of the Israel/Palestine conflict runs counter to US interests in the area, both Presidents Bush 43 and Obama continued with uncritical support of the Netanyahu government.

Israel under Netanyahu is openly dismissive of US security interests and proves it by making no attempt to restart peace negotiations.  The US Congress, afraid of offending donors, has caved to Netanyahu’s hawkish narrative to the extent of supporting Israeli policies directly at odds with US foreign policy and undermining the President of the United States.

Israel’s increasingly hard-line refusnik policy towards peace, its unrepentant settlement expansion deep into the West Bank and Netanyahu’s desire to wipe the negotiation history of over 20 years clean and start over – all have hurt the US standing not just in the Arab world but globally.  Large parts of the Arab world think peace negotiations are a sham and ridicule the tail-wagging-dog relationship between Israel and Washington.

Over the past year, Israel’s ‘strategic alliance’ with the US has taken an even more ominous direction.  While the formerly autocratic post-independence Arab autocrats are being replaced by more open, democrat governments, Israel doubles down, saying it’s impossible to have peace with so much upheaval.  More pointedly, Israel has destroyed its own relationship with Turkey, a NATO member and real ‘strategic’ ally of the US and Egypt, with whom its co-existed peacefully for over 30 years.

A strategic ally doesn’t ignore all requests by the US to ease up on settlements.  A strategic ally doesn’t manufacture a fight with the President on US soil to court members of the opposite party.  A strategic ally tries to work with its partner in influencing the direction of diplomacy in a region.  It doesn’t kiss a NATO ally of its ‘strategic partner’  goodby and good riddance over a hubristic refusal to apologize for killing nine of its citizens.  It doesn’t keep throwing the region out of balance by its own blunders even as the region navigates upheavals of its own.

Israel is no strategic ally to the US.  Maybe President Obama should study Bush 41′s playbook and get serious.



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SecDec Panetta Slams Israel on Isolation

Leon Panetta, in a conversation with reporters on his way to visit Israel and Palestine, slammed Israel on its increasing diplomatic isolation:

“There’s not much question in my mind that they maintain that (military) edge. But the question you have to ask is it enough to maintain a military edge, if you’re isolating yourself in the diplomatic arena?” Panetta said.

Panetta went on to say: “At this dramatic time in the Middle East….it’s not a good time for Israel to become increasingly isolated.”  Panetta said Israel needed to repair its relationships with Turkey and Egypt and would urge both Israelis and Palestinians to restart peace negotiations, adding both sides ‘have nothing to lose.’  He indirectly spoke to the US fear that Palestinian expectations of statehood not met by a UN resolution could result in West Bank violence.

The good news is that finally, a high-ranking US official, is calling out the Likud government for its self-defeating policies, charging that Israel itself is responsible for most of the isolation it’s encountered.  The bad news is that he, like other Western officials, is once again hiding behind a concern that raised Palestinian hopes could collapse into a third infatada.  This is nonsense.  The PA has made it clear it will initiate and support non-violent civil disobedience to occupation based on the Arab Spring tactics of Tunisia and Egypt, but will not tolerate violence on the West Bank.

I happen to think that Abbas should accept the Quartet push for new negotiations even if Israel doesn’t issue a moratorium on settlements.   The ‘whole world is watching’ the post-UN maneuvering, and this is a perfect time for Abbas to call Netanyahu’s bluff by agreeing to restart negotiations and using that platform to expose the Likud’s double-talk and ‘refusnik’ program if Netanyahu demands that all previous Israeli PM negotiation position are null and void.  In other words, give the Likud government enough rope to escape its self-defeating myopica and if not,  to hang itself in the court of world opinion.

At this point, Israel has accepted the Quartet’s statement on restarting peace negotiation.  President Abbas and the PA have asked the Quartet to clarify what it meant in calling for both sides to avoid putting ‘obstacles’ in the way of renewed talks.  Of course, anybody following the drama knows that for Israel the allusion is settlements, and for Palestinians, it’s pushing forward with the UN vote.

So far, Israel has suffered no repercussions for setting up obstacle after obstacle for negotiations.  Whether Panetta’s trip signals a change in US policy away from unquestioned support of the Netanyahu government remains to be seen.

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