Will new Israeli settlements be a deal breaker for a two-state solution?

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 5, 2012

Who would have thought that an abandoned territory in the outskirts of a population center could turn into an obstacle for peace. The thing is, when war is profitable — it always is — and the profiteers keep their eyes on the cash prize, anything can be a deal breaker in a peace negotiation. This is the case of the conflict between Israeli leadership and Palestine.

The terrorist government of Israel has shown it has no intention of pursuing a solution to the war it now wages against mostly unarmed Arabs on the Gaza Strip, West Bank and pretty much everywhere else in the Middle East. In retaliation for the successful acceptance of Palestine as an Observer member state of the UN Security Council, Benjamin Netanyahu not only withheld tax money from the Palestinians, but also mandated that new settlements be built on the E-1 zone.

E-1 is mostly a wasteland overlooking the Dead Sea,  but in political terms it is a treasure for Israel because by ordering the construction of settlements on E-1 the government of Israel will maintain alive the conflict with Palestine while it plays possum and acts as the victim of aggression. But Israel’s allies have had it already and even some European nations which have traditionally thrown their support behind Israel are now out of patience. The equation has changed variables as the European Parliament voted almost unanimously to support Palestine as a UN Observer member state, which raised even more tensions between Israel and European countries.

Because E-1 is a proposed colony of Israel and because Netanyahu strongly pledged to speed up the construction of new settlements on that area, some Western chancelleries declared that this action might be the final nail in the coffin of the two-state solution, which should result in the creation of a Palestinian state living next to Israel. Because of its strategic location, if Israel ends building in E-1, the West Bank would split almost in two, making it impossible to have a contiguous future Palestinian State.

Israel announced that it has begun preliminary work to build in this area now, although plans have existed for decades. The Israelis have deliberately pronounced the word taboo, “E-1”. Apart from announcing the construction of 3,000 new housing units in occupied territory, the Israeli government touched another sensitive nerve in the political arena, making it clear to the world that it does not recognize the Palestinians as an Observer state at the UN.

E-1 is reached by road from Jerusalem to Jericho. A detour leads to a long slope, ending at the top of one of the classic cobblestone West Bank hills. An Israeli police station is right at the top of the mount. It is the only building in an area that otherwise is ready for development.

The road uphill, which has up to three lanes, is riddled with roundabouts that lead nowhere, but new streets will certainly originate as soon as the official order to build is given. There are street lights, electricity and running water. Everything is in place. Next to the police station, there is a small gazebo with an explanatory panel signed by several Israeli parliament members, who visited the area three years ago. The panels cite part of a biblical text that promises to build the settlements. “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”

E-1 has an area of 12 square kilometers, most of them privately owned by Palestinians. In addition to some geostrategic issues, urbanization will force the expulsion of 11,000 Bedouin people who barely survive in the semi-desert enclave in Ir Amim. From E-1 it is possible to see East Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and up to Jordan. Opposite, it is possible to see Maale Adumim, one of the largest West Bank settlements that is home to about 40,000 Israelis and that would be the population center charge of hosting the controversial expansion of municipal limits. The development of E-1 is one of the great ambitions of the mayor of Maale Adumim, a member of the Likud government, who intends to take the settlements to the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Amir Chesin has lived in Maale Adumim for almost 30 years, but he does not agree with the Israeli plans to extend the settlements. He says that most Israeli people are excited about the expansion of the settlements and that many of them are becoming extreme right wingers. That is why he is actively looking to move elsewhere.

Israeli government sources explained that the idea to build in E-1 is nothing new. That is a project that dates back to the nineties, the time of then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and the idea is still the same as then. Since the idea was born 20 years ago, settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have continued to grow, to form a cordon around the Holy City.

The Israeli government has also decided to accelerate the plan to build 1,700 housing units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in East Jerusalem, according to the newspaper Haaretz, this move comes in response to the UN vote. The planning and building committee of the city will examine the plan in two weeks time.

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Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak Quits

Ehud Barak along with Meir Dagan were two of the most visible opponents of an Israeli attack on Iran.

By AMY TEIBEL | AP | NOVEMBER 26, 2012

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday abruptly announced he was quitting politics, injecting new turmoil into the Israeli political system weeks ahead of general elections.

Barak, Israel’s most-decorated soldier and one-time prime minister, said he would stay on in his current post until a new government is formed following the Jan. 22 balloting.

His resignation could mean the departure of the most moderating influence on hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who holds a wide lead in polls and is expected to easily win re-election. Barak, who heads a small centrist faction in parliament, often served as Netanyahu’s unofficial envoy to Washington to smooth over differences with the Obama White House.

His impending departure comes at a key time for Israel, as the nation struggles to find its way in a region where the old order of Arab autocrats has been swept aside by the Arab Spring and the rise of Islamist political parties. Israel also faces a looming decision on whether to attack Iran’s nuclear program, which the Jewish state fears is designed to develop atomic weapons — a charge Tehran denies.

Less than a week ago, Barak led an eight-day military offensive against the Hamas militant group that rules the Gaza Strip. The fighting, aimed at ending rocket fire from the Palestinian territory. ended in a fragile truce.

“I didn’t make this decision (to leave politics) without hesitating, but I made it wholeheartedly,” he told a hastily arranged news conference, saying he had been wrestling with the decision for weeks.

He evaded repeated questions about whether he might agree to serve as a Cabinet minister in an upcoming government, leaving open the possibility that he might still retain an impact on Israeli politics. While most Cabinet ministers also hold parliamentary seats, they do not have to be elected lawmakers, and such appointments have been made in the past.

Barak, 70, made the surprise announcement even after polls showed his breakaway Independence Party gaining momentum after the Gaza campaign.

Despite the bump in the polls, Barak still could have found himself fighting for his political survival once election day rolls around. Surveys before the Gaza operation were unkind to his party, at times showing it polling too weakly to even send a single representative to parliament.

“I feel I have exhausted my political activity, which had never been an object of desire for me. There are many ways for me to serve the country, not just through politics,” he said, adding that his decision was spurred in part by his desire to spend more time with his family.

Possible replacements include Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon, a former military chief, and Shaul Mofaz, a former military chief and defense minister, who now serves as chairman of the opposition Kadima Party.

Barak’s political career was as turbulent as his 36-year military career was dazzling.

The former war hero and military chief of staff blazed into politics on the coattails of his mentor, Yitzhak Rabin, and had been viewed by many as his heir apparent. With a resume that includes commanding some of Israel’s most daring hostage rescue operations and raids, Barak was elected prime minister from the centrist Labor Party in 1999 — just four years after retiring from the military. Many Israelis hoped he would parlay what was seen as his sharp strategic mind and unorthodox methods on the battlefield into long-elusive accords with the Palestinians and Syria.

But the consensus-building so important in the political arena did not mesh well with the go-it-alone style that served him in the military. Political allies and foes alike considered Barak aloof and imperious, and others questioned whether he possessed the interpersonal skills necessary to negotiate elusive accords with Israel’s enemies.

Disappointed with his performance, Israeli voters booted Barak out of the premier’s office in record time — less than two years — after his government unraveled with the outbreak of a Palestinian uprising and the collapse of U.S.-sponsored peace talks.

Hard-liner Ariel Sharon trounced him in a 2001 election. Barak left behind a legacy of failed peacemaking with the Palestinians and Syria, despite unprecedented offers of sweeping territorial concessions, and a contentious decision to end Israel’s 18-year military occupation of south Lebanon overnight, which created a vacuum quickly filled by the anti-Israel Hezbollah guerrilla group.

For six years, the onetime Labor leader kept himself busy with lucrative speaking engagements and business consulting, reportedly amassing millions and cementing his image as a politician out of touch with his constituents.

But Barak returned to politics in 2007, handily recapturing the Labor leadership and replacing civilian Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who led a much-criticized war in Lebanon the previous summer.

But while Israelis liked Barak as defense minister, they didn’t want him as their prime minister, and his party, which had led Israel to independence and governed the nation for its first three decades, lost its public appeal. In the 2009 election that brought Netanyahu to power, Labor won an all-time low of 13 of parliament’s 120 seats.

Barak’s dovish base turned on him after he led Labor into Netanyahu’s conservative government, accusing Barak of betraying the party’s ideals by joining forces with a man who at the time did not even recognize the principle of a Palestinian state.

In January 2011, he bolted Labor to form a new party, Independence, which has largely failed to resonate with the public.

Israeli hard-liners disliked him, too, accusing him of undermining the West Bank settlement movement by holding up building approvals, clearing squatters from West Bank homes and encouraging Netanyahu to support a temporary settlement construction slowdown.

But if Barak was unpopular with the public, he retained his clout with Netanyahu, whom he commanded in an elite special operations unit. As the prime minister’s point man with the United States, Barak was welcomed in Washington as a moderating influence on Netanyahu’s hard line policies toward the Arab world and Iran’s nuclear program.

That alliance saw some rocky times recently with reports the prime minister objected to Barak’s newly moderate tone that Israel should defer to the U.S. in deciding whether to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.

But the two seemed to have patched up things, appearing to work harmoniously on the recent Gaza campaign.

In a statement Monday, Netanyahu said he “respected” Barak’s decision.

Mossad and Israeli Army refused to prepare plan of attack against Iran

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 6, 2012

Everyone knows Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and his defense minister, Ehud Barak, can’t wait to bomb Iran. Everyone is also aware of their failure to convince their military and intelligence regarding the inevitability of an Iranian led attack on Israel.

It is also clear that the government headed by Barack Obama is not fond of carrying out an attack on Iran — at least not right now — despite the warrior spirit shown by Netanyahu, which has become clearer during the past two or three months. Had George Bush or Mitt Romney been presidents for the last four years, the attack on Iran would have had a better chance of happening than it did during Obama’s time in office.

What we did not know and is that both Mossad and the Israeli army clearly refused to prepare a plan to attack Iran. The plan was supposedly requested by Netanyahu, according to channel 2 from Israeli television.  The current prime minister asked for the crafting of concrete plans and even ordered the country to prepare for an imminent attack in 2010. The Army and Mossad, contrary to what Netanyahu had in mind, refused to create or run such plans.

Gabi Ashkenazi, chief of staff then, and Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad at the time, stood up to the political leaders and made it clear that an attack on Iran would be tantamount to a declaration of war, which they considered a strategic error of first order.

Uvda (Done) was the program from channel 2 that made the revelations aired Monday night in Israel, as advertised by the local press. The report talks about a meeting that took place in 2010 and that was attended by the seven chief ministers of the executive.

Right after the meeting and just as Ashkenazi and Dagan were about to walk out the door, Netanyahu ordered them to raise the level of alert called “P Plus”, the code used for the preparations for an imminent military strike.

Given the uncertainty of the Prime Minister, Ashkenazi and Dagan refused, reported the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. “You may be taking an illegal decision to go to war,” said Dagan to Netanyahu.

The Mossad chief was referring to the political implications of that alleged declaration of war. The fact that Netanyahu ordered the Army and the Mossad to prepare the country for an attack means that the prime minister tried to force his cabinet ministers to approve such decision, and gave himself the power to decide to go to war without consulting anyone.

Uvda confirmed this version of events with minister Ehud Barak himself. Defense Minister Barak apparently distanced himself from Netanyahu weeks after the meeting due to his intention to attack Iran, which Netanyahu said was necessary to stop the country from producing a nuclear weapon.

While Tehran maintains that its nuclear facilities are solely used to produce energy, the West distrusts Iranian plans and the Israeli Prime Minister considers it even an existential threat to his country.

In his recent speech to the UN General Assembly on late September, Netanyahu hinted that an attack on Iran could wait until spring or even next summer.

From that moment, as calculated by the Prime Minister, Iran’s nuclear program would reach a point of no return in which the regime in Tehran could produce an atomic bomb within weeks. Washington has been reluctant so far to participate in military adventures such as the alleged plans requested by Netanyahu.

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Switching Focus from Iraq to Iran

Ray McGovern
Consortium News
Tuesday, October 25, 2011

President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is a blow to the neocons who had long dreamt of permanent military bases. But the neocons are now trying to spin the Iraq disaster into another excuse to confront Iran.

You might think that by now I would be so used to infuriating neocon drivel that, to preserve my own sanity, I would avoid looking at the Washington Post or at least its editorial pages.

I have tried. But it seems that after almost a half century in Washington, and particularly after the recent rash of “wars of choice,” it is simply not possible. One has to keep an eye on what bloody mischief the neocons are devising.

The Post’s lead editorial on Sunday is ostensibly about Iraq and blaming President Barack Obama if things get worse after U.S. troops leave in December. But these days Iran is the main concern of the neocons who infect that editorial page.

In the wake of Obama’s withdrawal announcement on Friday, the Post’s neocon editors are worried that:

“Mr. Obama’s decision to carry out a complete withdrawal [of troops from Iraq] sharply increases the risk that … Iran will be handed a crucial strategic advantage in its regional cold war with the United States; and that a potentially invaluable U.S. alliance with an emerging Iraqi democracy will wither.”

The bugaboo of Iran is raised no less than six times in the five-paragraph editorial. One is prompted to ask an innocent question: Which country did the neocons think would profit if Saddam Hussein, Iran’s archrival, were removed and his army destroyed?

America’s neocons apparently hoped that Israel would be the beneficiary, with a U.S.-occupied Iraq serving as a land-based aircraft carrier for applying military pressure on neighboring Iran and Syria. But you don’t start a war on hope.

That Iran would almost surely benefit the most from the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a no-brainer. And that is precisely why, before the attack on Iraq, Israeli leaders were insisting “we do Iran first.”

But the U.S. neocons thought they knew better and that sequencing Iraq before Iran would be an easier sell with the American people. After all, they had already been trained to hate Iraq’s Saddam Hussein because of the first Persian Gulf War in 1990-91. In the early part of the last decade, Iran’s leaders were a much more amorphous target.

The neocons also thought the conquest of Iraq would be easy with American military might crushing not only the Iraqi military but the country’s will to fight. “Shock and awe” would pave the way to a “cakewalk.”

In 2003, the joke circulating in neocon-dominated Washington was whether the next U.S. target should be Iran or Syria with the punch-line: “Real men go to Tehran.”

Also, the neocons’ top allies in the Bush administration – Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld – understood Bush’s personal animus toward Hussein. Bush once called Hussein “the guy that tried to kill my dad.” Cheney and Rumsfeld knew an open door when they saw one. Bush, an impressionable fundamentalist Christian-Zionist, was bereft of strategic understanding.

However, eight-plus years later – with nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers dead and about $1 trillion spent, with Iraq torn by sectarian and political violence and with the Iraqi government essentially ushering the U.S. forces out by refusing to extend immunity from Iraqi laws for any U.S. troops who would remain – the neocons must finally face the hard truth: their grandiose scheme was a flop.

Chicken Hawks

It is not only American soldiers who will be coming home from an immoral, illegal and ill-thought-out war. The chickens, too, are coming home to roost. And, without admitting they were really dumb, the neocon chicken hawks are inadvertently admitting soto voce, that they didn’t have a strategic clue.

And they still don’t. It is a safe bet that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud associates are admonishing the neocons who still hold great sway in Official Washington: “See? We told you we should have done Iran first. But it’s not too late.

“Now we have another compelling reason to put the ‘military option’ on Iran right in the middle of the table — and, finally, exercise that option. Or you can go down in history as a bunch of wimps.”

The new compelling reason for war is that Iran’s influence in the region has zoomed in this zero-sum game between “evil” Tehran and the Tel Aviv-Washington “axis of good.” In the words of this Sunday’s Post, “Iran will be handed a crucial strategic advantage,” ironically, because of the disaster in Iraq.

So, there’s no time to waste. To warn still-gullible Americans about the dangers of Iran’s new strategic advantage, it’s imperative to enlist the neocons in the U.S. news media, those running the foreign policy shops for the leading Republican candidates, and the neocon holdovers inside the Obama administration.

Time, also, to revive the specter of Iran getting a nuclear weapon. Let’s see if neocon favorite CIA Director David Petraeus can twist enough arms of his subordinates to reverse the unanimous judgment of the U.S. intelligence community that Iran stopped work on a nuclear weapon in 2003.

Petraeus has always risen to the occasion when the neocons have wanted to accuse Iran of meddling in Iraq — evidence or no evidence. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Petraeus’s CIA Steers Obama on Policy.”]

Let’s have him issue warnings about the possibility that Iran will take potshots at U.S. troops as they leave.

And, oh yeah, let’s get him to provide the kind of “intelligence” that will turn a cockamamie plot about Iran supporting an assassination attempt on the Saudi ambassador from admittedly “implausible” status to that of plausible — well, plausible enough for the neocons who dominate the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM). [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Petraeus’s CIA Fuels Iran Murder Plot.”]

Chalabi Made Us Do It

Speaking of which: One of the Post’smost prominent neocon columnists, David Ignatius, sought out the neocons’ beloved charlatan Iraq War propagandist Ahmed Chalabi, whom Ignatius describes as “the most effective lobbyist in favor of the 2003 U.S. invasion.”

“You will not be surprised,” wrote Ignatius, “that Chalabi offered no apologies for a war that cost many thousands of American and Iraqi lives and more than a trillion dollars.  Quite the contrary, he lauded the United States for its role in overthrowing Saddam Hussein,” though he criticized the follow-through of the occupation.

Ignatius, too, raised the obligatory specter of Iran, asking Chalabi about reports that he has become “an overly enthusiastic supporter of Iran.” The slippery Chalabi replied that he favored good relations with Iran and “wanted Iraq and Iran to be ‘a meeting ground rather than a battle ground.’”

Is Ignatius, at this late stage in the U.S. history with Chalabi, not yet aware that he tends to play both ends … and then goes with the side that appears to be winning?

Ignatius wants us to believe that the mess in Iraq was pretty much all Chalabi’s fault, ignoring the painful reality that Chalabi could have accomplished zilch if not for the neocon-dominated FCM that eagerly promoted his self-serving lies.

Many of the Iraqi “walk-ins” who lied to U.S. intelligence and the FCM about Saddam Hussein’s supposed WMD and alleged ties to al-Qaeda had been scripted beforehand by Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress.

Knowing Chalabi (all too well), Ignatius says it should come as no surprise that Chalabi remains adamantly unapologetic for the war on Iraq. But why should Chalabi be subjected to any accountability when almost none of his willing collaborators in the press have been?

Chalabi may have been, as Ignatius claims, “the secret instigator of the Iraq war.” Even so, he would have accomplished little without a mountain of intentional gullibility at the Washington Post and other top U.S. news outlets, a pattern that continues to this day.

Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Arab League to Ask UN for a no-fly zone over Gaza

AFP
April 11, 2011

Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa announced Sunday his intention to appeal to the UN Security Council for a no-fly zone over Gaza, where repeated Israeli air strikes have left at least 18 people dead since Thursday.

Arab League chief Amr Mussa said on Sunday the organisation will ask the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Gaza, which Israel has pounded with air strikes in response to rocket fire.

Mussa told an emergency meeting of Arab League ambassadors that “the Arab bloc in the United Nations has been directed to ask for the convention of the Security Council to stop the Israeli aggression on Gaza and impose a no-fly zone.”

Israeli and Palestinian officials were on Sunday floating a ceasefire to end fighting in the coastal strip where Israeli air strikes have killed at least 18 people since Thursday.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned of an even stronger response if more rockets are fired from the Palestinian territory controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas.

The flare-up came after an anti-tank missile fired from Gaza hit an Israeli school bus on Thursday, wounding two people, one of them critically.

Even if Arab representatives at the United Nations succeed in convening a Security Council meeting, the United States, a close ally of Israel, is likely to veto it.

The Arab League request for a no-fly zone over Gaza may have been inspired by a UN-sanctioned aerial blockade for Libya to halt forces loyal to Moamer Kadhafi harming civilians.

Arab League backing for that no-fly zone was seen as crucially important by the United States when it pressed for a UN resolution that authorised it and other countries to keep Libyan planes grounded.