Some $900 million pledged by the United States to the Palestinians will be withdrawn if the expected Palestinian Authority coalition government between Fatah and Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, Western and Israeli diplomats said Wednesday.
During her visit to the region last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas against forming a coalition with Hamas that will not meet the expectations of the Quartet.
Clinton told Abbas that Congress will not approve funding of a Palestinian government that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and renounce violence. [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — According to the official narrative presented by the American and Israeli governments, a crucial sticking point in the stalled peace process is the intransigence of Hamas. Specifically, Hamas’ unwillingness to agree to three eminently reasonable conditions: that they recognize Israel’s right to exist; that they renounce the use of violence; and that they agree to abide by existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
This formula has been repeated ad nauseum and presented as the test and absent any such agreement the proof that Hamas is not interested in peace. At the same time, when Israel resorts to violence we are reminded that Israel has the right to defend itself.
The one principle that no one other than a Palestinian dare utter — at least no one will voice openly in government circles — is that Palestinians too have the right to defend themselves.
But imagine: put this at the center of the peace process — a mutual recognition that each side has the right to defend itself — and the whole equation radically changes. If Hamas was to acknowledge that Israel has the right to defend itself, then the issue of recognizing Israel becomes irrelevant.
Yet the right of self-defense has to be reciprocal. “I can hit you but you can’t hit me” is a game that wouldn’t fly in a kindergarden — why should it work in international relations?
Hamas Islamists in control of the Gaza Strip issued a rare condemnation on Thursday of recent rocket fire at Israel, saying their armed wing was not responsible for the action.
Rockets shot recently “are not being fired by the resistance faction”, said a statement from the Interior Ministry of the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave, referring to Hamas’s armed wing. [continued…]
In the mechanistic template imposed by western leaders on the Middle East, of ‘moderates’ who must be supported versus ‘extremists’ who must be isolated and undermined, Hamas has to be painted, by mechanical necessity alone, as ‘extremists’. Hamas has become the ‘extremists’ to answer in neat symmetry to the ‘moderates’ of Ramallah, who for other reasons American and European leaders wish in any event to support.
But such models, once generally accepted, force a deterministic interpretation that can blind its advocates to the perverse results of such narrow and rigid conceptualising: a defeated and humbled Hamas, western leaders suggested, was to be ‘welcomed’ as a blow to Hesballah, which in turn represented a strike at Syria, which weakened Iran – all of which strengthened the ‘moderates’; and, the model implies, serves to make Israel safer. It is a narrative that has reduced the Palestinian crisis to no more than a pawn in the new ‘Great Game’ of an existential global struggle waged against ‘extremism’.
The appealing clarity of such a simple, and simplistic, model-making has however obscured its overriding flaw. The pursuit of this narrow formulation of moderates versus extremists has yielded the perverse result – not of bringing nearer a Palestinian state – but of pushing it beyond reach, possibly for good. [continued…]
A right-wing Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu is widely seen as spelling the end of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Given the ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Netanyahu has promised to accelerate, no other outcome seems conceivable.
While this view is undoubtedly correct, the belief that a center or center-left government would conclude a two-state agreement is a delusion Western leaders seem unable to discard, no matter how egregiously the current Kadima/Labor government continues to undermine a two-state solution – with continued seizures of Palestinian territory, expansion of existing settlements, and closing off Jerusalem to West Bank Palestinians.
And yet, a good case can be made for the counter-intuitive notion that only a right-wing government of the kind now being formed by Netanyahu holds the remaining hope for viable Palestinian statehood. Such an argument has nothing to do with the popular Israeli belief that, like Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, “only Likud can make peace, and only Labor [or Kadima] can make war,” for it ignores the fact that Nixon wanted to go to China, whereas no member of a right-wing Israeli government wants a Palestinian state. What Netanyahu and his prospective radical-right coalition parties want is more Palestinian territory and a Palestinian entity emptied of every vestige of sovereignty. [continued…]
Was it a coincidence? The day after Israel’s Davis Cup tennis match in Sweden, played in a practically empty arena this week, a brief item appeared on the Haaretz Web site: Historians have discovered that Sweden, former tennis superpower, aided the Nazi war machine by extending credit to German industrial plants.
Coincidence or not, neutral in 1941 or not, 68 years later, public opinion in Sweden is definitely not neutral: Thousands demonstrated there against Israel, which was forced to wield its racket like a leper, with no audience in attendance. Did anyone in Israel even ask why it was considered a pariah in Sweden? No one dared question whether the war in the Gaza Strip was worth the price we’re paying now, from Ankara to Malmo. It’s enough to recall that the Swedes were always against us. The fact that there were times when they were awash in love for Israel was erased from our consciousness. [continued…]
Matches always draw spectators, often generate controversies and sometimes provoke protests. The Davis Cup match Sweden played against Israel last weekend in Malmö, a port town south of Sweden, was a match with a difference. It generated lot of controversy, provoked a 10,000-strong demonstration but had no spectators at all. Baltiska Hallen, the 4000-seat arena was utterly empty during the weekend-long show. The spectators were banned weeks ahead of the match by the local authorities. The official pretext was: ” We have made a judgement that this is a high-risk match for our staff, for players and for officials”.
But it was the mass mobilisation , wide-spread popularity and successful campaigning by a grass-root “Stop the Match” campaign, launched last December, that forced the local authorities to exclude the public frrom the arena. [continued…]
Signaling displeasure with a staunch ally, a senior Obama administration official said Thursday that the United States was puzzled by Britain’s announcement last week that it was re-establishing contact with the political wing of the militant group Hezbollah.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter, said the British government had informed the “previous administration” of its diplomatic overture, suggesting that the Obama administration felt somewhat blindsided by the initiative. [continued…]
As you might expect, I have a few thoughts on Charles Freeman’s decision to withdraw from consideration as chair of the National Intelligence Committee…
First, for all of you out there who may have questioned whether there was a powerful “Israel lobby,” or who admitted that it existed but didn’t think it had much influence, or who thought that the real problem was some supposedly all-powerful “Saudi lobby,” think again.
Second, this incident does not speak well for Barack Obama’s principles, or even his political instincts. It is one thing to pander to various special interest groups while you’re running for office — everyone expects that sort of thing — but it’s another thing to let a group of bullies push you around in the first fifty days of your administration. But as Ben Smith noted in Politico, it’s entirely consistent with most of Obama’s behavior on this issue. [continued…]
Even as President Obama floated the idea of negotiating with moderate elements of the Taliban, Afghan and foreign officials here said that preliminary discussions with the Taliban leadership were already under way and could be developed into more formal talks with the support of the United States.
The Afghan government has been exploring the potential for negotiations with the Taliban leadership council of Mullah Muhammad Omar and with a renegade mujahedeen leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, after receiving overtures from them last year, the officials said. The proposal for talks gained additional momentum from an endorsement by Saudi Arabia and the change to a civilian government in Pakistan, both of which increased political pressure on the Taliban to compromise. [continued…]
Sayed Pervez Kambaksh, the student journalist sentenced to death for blasphemy in Afghanistan, has been told he will spend the next 20 years in jail after the country’s highest court ruled against him – without even hearing his defence.
The 23-year-old, brought to worldwide attention after an Independent campaign, was praying that Afghanistan’s top judges would quash his conviction for lack of evidence, or because he was tried in secret and convicted without a defence lawyer. Instead, almost 18 months after he was arrested for allegedly circulating an article about women’s rights, any hope of justice and due process evaporated amid gross irregularities, allegations of corruption and coercion at the Supreme Court. Justices issued their decision in secret, without letting Mr Kambaksh’s lawyer submit so much as a word in his defence.
Afzal Nooristani, the legal campaigner representing Mr Kambaksh, accused the judges of behaving “no better than the Taliban”. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into Afghanistan’s legal system and 149 British soldiers have died there since 2001, but experts admit that state justice is still beyond the reach of most ordinary Afghans. [continued…]
The emerging outlines of President Obama’s plan for Afghanistan include proposals to shift more American efforts toward problems in neighboring Pakistan and to seek some kind of political reconciliation with the vast majority of insurgents in the region, according to administration officials.
The plan reflects in part a conclusion within the administration that most of the insurgent foot soldiers in Afghanistan and Pakistan are “reconcilable” and can be pried away from the hard-core organizations of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. At least 70 percent of the insurgents, and possibly more, can be encouraged to lay down their arms with the proper incentives, administration officials have said. [continued…]
Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner yesterday unveiled a sweeping plan that calls on the United States and other nations to offer billions more to bail out economies in crisis and prods a reluctant Europe to prop up the reeling world economy with more aggressive government spending.
But the campaign is triggering controversy on both sides of the Atlantic. In Europe, some officials doubt the wisdom of falling deeply into debt to create jobs and halt the plunge in consumer demand, as the United States is doing. On Capitol Hill, members of Congress have grown wary of approving still more money.
Geithner said the administration will ask Congress to make $100 billion more available — nearly doubling the current U.S. commitment — to the International Monetary Fund to aid struggling nations. U.S. lawmakers said yesterday that they are already bracing for the administration to request hundreds of billions of dollars in more rescue funds for U.S. financial firms, and possibly a second massive economic stimulus package as well. [continued…]
This week on Charlie Rose, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner said explicitly what has been implicitly all along in President Obama’s approach to ailing banks and financial institutions. Responding to Rose’s unusually tough questioning about why government has asked so little of the banks getting billions in bailouts, Geithner said the market is the solution to the market’s meltdown, and that any attempt by government to interfere via nationalization or overly intrusive mandatory instructions would get in the way of the free market as it dealt with the crisis.
Now real market fundamentalists have made clear that this would mean keeping government out of the crisis altogether and letting Citibank and other wounded companies follow Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns down the drain.
But Geithner doesn’t love the market that much: he wants it both ways – big taxpayer bucks into bank coffers, but let the banks decide what to do with them (OK, maybe lay off those publication relations disaster bonuses and corporate jets). All risk to those civic shareholders known as taxpayers, all profits to the bankers and their private shareholders known as investors. [continued…]