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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Obama Renews Pledge to get rid of Second Amendment

It did not even take 24 hours after his reelection for the U.S. president to throw his support behind a proposed U.N. Arms Treaty.

By LOUIS CHARBONNEAU | REUTERS | NOVEMBER 8, 2012

Hours after U.S. President Barack Obama was re-elected, the United States backed a U.N. committee’s call on Wednesday to renew debate over a draft international treaty to regulate the $70 billion global conventional arms trade.

U.N. delegates and gun control activists have complained that talks collapsed in July largely because Obama feared attacks from Republican rival Mitt Romney if his administration was seen as supporting the pact, a charge Washington denies.

The month-long talks at U.N. headquarters broke off after the United States – along with Russia and other major arms producers – said it had problems with the draft treaty and asked for more time.

But the U.N. General Assembly’s disarmament committee moved quickly after Obama’s win to approve a resolution calling for a new round of talks March 18-28. It passed with 157 votes in favor, none against and 18 abstentions.

U.N. diplomats said the vote had been expected before Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election but was delayed due to Superstorm Sandy, which caused a three-day closure of the United Nations last week.

An official at the U.S. mission said Washington’s objectives have not changed.

“We seek a treaty that contributes to international security by fighting illicit arms trafficking and proliferation, protects the sovereign right of states to conduct legitimate arms trade, and meets the concerns that we have been articulating throughout,” the official said.

“We will not accept any treaty that infringes on the constitutional rights of our citizens to bear arms,” he said.

U.S. officials have acknowledged privately that the treaty under discussion would have no effect on domestic gun sales and ownership because it would apply only to exports.

The main reason the arms trade talks are taking place at all is that the United States – the world’s biggest arms trader accounting for more than 40 percent of global conventional arms transfers – reversed U.S. policy on the issue after Obama was first elected and decided in 2009 to support a treaty.

‘MONTHS AWAY’ FROM DEAL?

Countries that abstained included Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Belarus, Cuba and Iran. China, a major arms producer that has traditionally abstained, voted in favor.

Among the top six arms-exporting nations, Russia cast the only abstention. Britain, France and Germany joined China and the United States in support of the resolution.

The measure now goes to the 193-nation General Assembly for a formal vote. It is expected to pass.

The resolution said countries are “determined to build on the progress made to date towards the adoption of a strong, balanced and effective Arms Trade Treaty.”

Jeff Abramson, director of Control Arms, a coalition of advocacy groups, urged states to agree on stringent provisions.

“In Syria, we have seen the death toll rise well over 30,000, with weapons and ammunition pouring in the country for months now,” he said. “We need a treaty that will set tough rules to control the arms trade, that will save lives and truly make the world a better place.”

Brian Wood of Amnesty International said: “After today’s resounding vote, if the larger arms trading countries show real political will in the negotiations, we’re only months away from securing a new global deal that has the potential to stop weapons reaching those who seriously abuse human rights.”

The treaty would require states to make respecting human rights a criterion for allowing arms exports.

Britain’s U.N. mission said on its Twitter feed it hoped that the March negotiations would yield the final text of a treaty. Such a pact would then need to be ratified by the individual signatories before it could enter into force.

The National Rifle Association, the powerful U.S. interest group, strongly opposes the arms treaty and had endorsed Romney.

The United States has denied it sought to delay negotiations for political reasons, saying it had genuine problems with the draft as written.

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