Construction of illegal Jewish settlements exploded under Netanyahu

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | JANUARY 22, 2013

Less than a week before the elections in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a clear favorite, the organization Peace Now has published a report which reports a record growth in construction of settlements in the Palestinian territories during the current term.

The publication of this information coincides with the announcement of new tenders in settlements by the Israeli Housing Ministry. Nearly 200 residential units have gone out to tender, 89 of them in Kiryat Arba, a settlement near Hebron, in the heart of the West Bank, as published by Yedioth Ahronoth.

Announcements of new colonies that the international community considers illegal occur in a context of increasing isolation in the world by the Israeli Prime Minister

A day after this information came to light, it has also been made public that U.S. President Barack Obama continues to increase his disapproval of Israel’s policies regarding the construction of the settlements and the way Netanyahu has conducted the country’s affairs.

Obama believes that such actions are leading the country to the abyss, mainly due to the continued expansion of settlements. There is, however, little chance that the new data published by Peace Now have a significant impact on the Israeli election race, since the relationship with the Palestinians is a matter of little importance in the campaign.

The Peace Now report, which follows closely the evolution of settlements indicates that Israel’s Executive approved 6676 housing units in the Palestinian territories in 2012.

In 2011, Netanyahu approved 1607 and only a few hundred in 2010, the year when Netanyahu launched a moratorium under U.S. pressure. Up to 40% of new construction that began last year occurred in isolated colonies, located east of the Israeli security wall.

“The policies and actions of Netanyahu in the West Bank and East Jerusalem reveal a clear intention to use the settlements to torpedo and render impossible the realistic option of the two States — Palestinian and Israeli –” says Peace Now in his paper.

Together with Peace Now, both Washington and the European Union consider that the settlement expansion threatens the territorial continuity and even the viability of a future Palestinian state.

More than half a million Israeli settlers live in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The calls for peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis have remained static for at least two years. The Palestinians refuse to sit at the negotiating table until Israel decides to curb the construction of  settlements.

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Israel Withholds Palestinian Money and will build more settlements in retaliation for UN vote

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | DECEMBER 3, 2012

The Israeli government wants to make clear that the overwhelming recognition of the international community to the Palestinians at the UN is not going to be free. The government led by Arab hater Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the construction of some 3,000 homes in Palestinian occupied territory immediately after the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of Palestine being an Observer member. Netanyahu said that the vote meant nothing and that the insistence by the Palestinian Authority to be recognized as a State by the U.N. would not favor a peace process. However, Israel was fast to react taking retaliation against Palestinians. In addition to the construction of the new settlements, Israel has now withheld millions in Palestinian funds which are used to run the economy in Gaza.

Israel decided to confiscate about 92 million euros, corresponding to the monthly fee transferred to the Palestinians in taxes collected and that the Ramallah government uses to pay salaries to civil servants. This amount is crucial for the functioning of the weak Palestinian economy.

The government of Benjamin Netanyahu announced that it will use the money to pay a debt that the Palestinian Authority has with an Israeli power company. The monthly transfer of taxes is part of the so-called Paris Agreements, which govern economic relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Last year, while  marking the entry of the Palestinians into UNESCO, the Organization for Education and Culture of the United Nations, Israel cut these transfers, only to resume their payments days later. Now, however, it seems the money will not make its way into Palestine, as Israel decided to keep it all.

The new punishment has not yet exalted provoked reactions from Palestinians, who said they knew there would be retaliation, mainly because they walk drunk after the latest diplomatic triumph. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrived Sunday in Ramallah, where the crowd welcomed him with honors only given to national heroes.

“Now we are a state,” Abbas told thousands of Palestinians who came to meet him at the presidential palace, as recorded by the Palestinian news agency Maan. “The world is with us and history is with us. God is with us and the future is ours, “Abbas continued.

The Palestinian president has not yet announced what the next steps will be after obtaining the implicit recognition and binding status of the Palestinian state at the UN. The leaders of the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine have explained in recent days that depending on the political climate they will decide when and which UN organizations they will seek membership. The most important step, which is the one Israel fears most, is that the Palestinians become part of the International Criminal Court, a body which they say, Palestine could denounce alleged Israeli war crimes.

Meanwhile, across the Green Line in Israel, as ministers gathered every Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed them with a defiant tone, with which he announced that Israel intends to ignore the warnings that come from outside, including from Washington. “The response to the attack on Zionism and the State of Israel must strengthen and emphasize the implementation of the settlement plan in all areas where the government decides,” he said, paraphrasing the former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

As if Netanyahu had left any doubt, he added: “Today we are building and will continue to build in Jerusalem and in all areas on the map that are strategic to the interests of the State of Israel”. On Friday, after meeting Israeli plans to accelerate the expansion of settlements, the White House issued a statement calling the  decision counterproductive. Besides increasing the number of homes by 3,000, the Israelis announced they would begin mapping E-1, an area on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where if built, new settlements would split the territorial continuity between the northern and southern of the West Bank.

That is a decision that would absolutely kill the two-state solution, which includes the creation of a Palestinian State. Washington is resolutely opposed to any Israeli urban development in this area. The challenge takes place seven weeks before the general election and in a moment of total rearrangement of the Israeli political map. The main formations have held primaries. In the Likud, Netanyahu’s party has won by a landslide.

Meanwhile, Ehud Barak, the current defense minister and close ally of Netanyahu announced that he is leaving politics. The big news however came from the hand of Tzipi Livni, former foreign minister, who has decided to form a new party, which has dragged some leaders of the centrist Kadima.

He has also convinced the charismatic Labour leader Amram Mitzna, whose political priority is to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. The hangover from the adoption of the UN resolution that elevated the status of Palestinian non-member observer state has not only demonstrated the increasing isolation of the current Israeli government, but also that Netanyahu will do whatever it takes to stay in power. That includes initiating flash wars, murdering Palestinian leaders and strangling the Arab population on the Gaza Strip in order to have his way.

Unfortunately for Netanyahu, opposition to his actions are not only coming from the US and the Arab world. The Governments of the United Kingdom, France and Sweden also showed their disappointment with the latest round of retaliation and have publicly protested the Israeli government’s decision to initiate the first steps to build the so-called E-1 area. Now even Germany has expressed its preoccupation for Netanyahu’s attempt to prolong the conflict between the governments of Israel and Palestine. Israeli ambassadors in France, Berlin and the UK have officially been called by the governments of those nations to explain what exactly is Netanyahu after with his latest actions.

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A new World: United States and Israel irrelevant at the UN

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 30, 2012

We are entering into a new world order and amazingly the US and Israel are becoming more irrelevant. The latest example is the voting that took place yesterday at the United Nations where the General Assembly approved the inclusion of Palestine as an observer member. Despite the strong opposition from the United States and Israel, a large majority of member nations supported the Palestinian Authority’s request to be accepted as an Observer State member.

The Palestinian president said at the UN that the recent vote is a “birth certificate to the reality of the state of Palestine ” Now, Palestine enjoys the same status of the Vatican.

The vote showed that the world is in favor of the recognition of Palestine as an independent state. A total of 138 countries, including Spain, voted in favor, for only 9 against, with the U.S. and Israel at the head of the opposition. Meanwhile 41 other member states abstained.

Hours earlier, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke out against the vote. He described the initiative as an error from Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority. “Nothing can replace direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine.” Obama forgot to say that direct talks were already held and Israel rejected every single option on the table that would allow the existence of two sovereign states that could live side by side in peace.

Obama and his team have worked hard diplomatically during these last days to try to convince the Palestinians to back off. Obama himself, shortly after his re-election on November 6, called on Abbas to reconsider the situation. He asked for a margin of time to promote a new round of negotiations, since the previous one has been frozen for two years.

Abbas rejected the proposal and went ahead with his project. “We are here because we believe in peace,” he said from the podium of the General Assembly. “In the last days (referring to the conflict in Gaza last week) we’ve seen the desperate need for peace. We did not come to add more complications, but we seek to bring this new life into the negotiations,” he said.

But the Israeli ambassador, Ron Prosor, said that it is the Palestinians that interfere with conversations. “They prefer to come to New York than to travel to Jerusalem,” he said. “There is no UN resolution that can break the bonds of the Israeli people to the land of Israel.”

At the conclusion of the vote, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, described the resolution as unfortunate and counterproductive, “that is why we voted against.” And she insisted on Obama’s call to direct negotiation. “Do not fall into further provocations,” she said. Despite Rice’s  descriptions, the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said that the resolution of the Assembly was very useful. “This is a call for negotiations,” he said. “I think the Palestinians have the right to live in their independent state. I think the Israelis have the right to live in peace and security with its neighbors. ”

For its part, the Spanish delegation said that “if there had been progress in the negotiations, the outcome of this vote would have been different.”

“Palestine comes today to the General Assembly because it believes in peace for its people, which as proven in recent days, it is desperately needed,” Abbas said in his speech before the voting in favor of the proposed resolution was carried out.

“Your support for our efforts today will give you a reason to hope for a nation besieged by a racist and colonialist occupation,” he added. The president said that the Palestinian people will not accept anything less than “an independent State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the territory occupied in 1967 to live in peace and security with Israel.”

In the meantime, the Israeli ambassador to the UN said that the vote “will not advance peace and will not change the situation on the ground because the Palestinian Authority does not control Gaza, 40 percent of the territory you want to control, and which is now in the hands of Hamas, a group listed in terrorist organizations,” the ambassador added. He forgot to mention, however, that it was Israel itself the one that strongly contributed to the creation of Hamas, just as the United States did with al-Qaeda in the 1970’s.

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U.N. will vote for Palestinian, Israeli States based on 1967 Borders

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 29, 2012

The resolution that, in all likelihood, will be approved Thursday by the United Nations General Assembly, includes a recognition of the right of Palestinians to a state on the 1967 borders. According to the draft that was circulated in the hours before the vote, it would be the same territory that was suggested in previous peace negotiations with Israel that found no support from the Jewish representatives. This time however, the nation led by Benjamin Netanyahu may not have many options to pick from. Despite the fact the country is in a delicate diplomatic situation while its people await the next election, its government seems less receptive than ever to talk.

The UN vote will certainly be a moral victory for the Palestinian Authority. His representative in this international organization, Riyad Mansour, has predicted that the resolution to be introduced Thursday and that is sponsored by about 60 countries, will get overwhelming support. “I think most of the nations vote with us because there is an international consensus on the two-state solution,” said.

The Palestinians believe that they have at least 150 votes of the 193 member countries of the General Assembly, which would raise immediately the level of its representation of observant entity to “non-member State observer”, the same status awarded to the Vatican. “Without prejudice”, as stated in the draft resolution, “acquired rights, privileges and role of the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine and the representative of the Palestinian people.”

Unlike the Security Council no one has the right to veto in the General Assembly, so that whatever is decided, will be adopted immediately. The resolution also “reaffirms the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and independence in their State of Palestine on the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967” and expressed “the urgent need to revive and accelerate the peace process in the Middle East” in order to “reach a lasting peace agreement, fair and balanced between Palestinians and Israelis to resolve major issues such as Palestinian refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, security and water.”

In addition, a strengthening of the Palestinian position should also serve to foster the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, weakened in recent months by the resurgence of radical competitor, Hamas. The problem is to know how far this success, with all the resonance that will have today, can make a difference starting tomorrow. The United States, the indispensable partner of any negotiation process, has shown its opposition to the recognition of Palestine as an Observer State.

Obama will certainly not remain quiet as Israeli – Palestinian relations deteriorate after the resolution is approved — if it’s approved — The same situation will take place within the U.S., where Congress seems to be ready to freeze financial aid to the Palestinians.

From the perspective of the U.S. administration, this vote is an exercise in exhibitionism where Palestinians indulge to demonstrate the wide international support available to them, whilst the Europeans are satisfied with their open support for Palestine. Last week, the European Parliament publicly expressed its support for a State of Palestine, with Spain and France being the most outspoken nations in favor of a two-state solution. Only Germany has shown its opposition to the negotiation that includes the conditions as they were in 1967.

The absolute best thing that can come out of this day is a new sense of urgency to help expedite Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the only way in which the Palestinians may have a state. Nothing indicates, for now, that such negotiation will happen, but today’s vote, if it favors the Palestinian cause, will be the starting point to draw the conditions for a territorial framework during future negotiations. In a sense, the vote will help clarify the most difficult points that previous meetings haven’t been able to clear up. For the first time since its creation, the U.N. may actually do something that favors, at least at first, the peace process in the Middle East, after pretty much originating and promoting the conflict that has existed in modern times. A good question to ask, though is, Chi Bono? Who benefits?

It is likely that Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will use the vote for a Palestinian State based on the conditions of 1967 as a tool to cheat his people. Most likely he will use it as an example of Arab radicalism and will try to turn it into a threat for the Israeli people. The fact that there is a vacuum in world leadership at this moment, could cause two different outcomes. First, the vote in the U.N. could become more relevant than expected, and for the first time a significant group of nations may exercise their will to end a conflict that is thousands of years old. The Israeli leadership may decide to isolate itself from any negotiations despite the growing support for a two-state solution. Second, there may be hope to resolve the conflict if Israel is shaken up by the upcoming elections, if the people of Israel send a clear message to Benjamin Netanyahu, if they make it clear that everyone is sick and tired of having to run underground whenever terrorist leaders on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides decide to bomb each other just to show their muscle.

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Terrorist Israeli state threatens to decapitate Palestinian government

Foreign Affairs Minister says Israel will attack Palestine if the UN accepts its request to become an observer member state.

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 14, 2012

The Israeli threats are gaining intensity as the date approaches for the UN to decide if it recognizes Palestine as a non-member observer state. The Palestinian diplomatic initiative has strong opposition from Israel and the United States, who fear that if this initiative moves towards, Palestine may soon be recognized as a  state in its own right.

If the November 29th General Assembly of the UN grant Gaza and the West Bank a status similar to the Vatican, the doors would be left open for multilateral agencies, including Justice International to open.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Wednesday that a document had been issued that instructs Israeli ambassadors to communicate their respective capitals about Israel’s intention: “if the Palestinians go ahead with their project of recognition, Israel would dismantle the Palestinian Authority and overthrow its president, Mahmoud Abbas.”

“If the Palestinian proposal is accepted by the UN General Assembly, in our view this would be breaking the rules and cause an extreme response from us,” Lieberman said Wednesday during a visit to Ariel, one of the settlements located in Palestinian territories.

Lieberman’s threats, although serious, have not been officially confirmed by Israel. The country hasn’t talked about any reprisals that it will take if the vote favors the Palestinian membership. However, some of the measures being considered are the freezing of the transfer of taxes from Israel to Palestinian coffers, the expansion of settlements and the restriction of movement for Palestinian politicians.

Washington has not specified what the next steps will be after President Barack Obama called his Palestinian counterpart last Sunday and asked him to postpone the diplomatic initiative. “This is not about someone telling us that we should not go to the UN, but what we get in exchange for not doing it,” said Palestinian leader Mohamed Stayyeh, to reporters.

The Palestinians have calculated that a large majority of at least 130 votes in the General Assembly will vote in favor of their request. Among Europeans there is not a consensus position and the total is expected to be split. More than two years of negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis are stalled. The lack of proposals on the table and the relentless expansion of settlements has encouraged Palestinians to seek new ways to progress on its way to the creation of a Palestinian state based on the format from 1967.

The idea however is that this goal is reached through direct negotiations between the parties, who must decide on the thorniest issues, including border demarcation, the future of Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem. The Palestinians accuse Israel of not wanting to sit down and negotiate. And the Palestinians have refused to sit at the negotiating table until Israel ceases constructing settlements. More than half a million Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which are part of the territory of Palestine.

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