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A US veto against Palestine, will be the 43rd in support of Israel

If the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas proposal to the UN this week, to accept Palestine as a sovreign state, is stopped by a veto from the USA in the UN Security Council, it will be the 43rd time USA is the only nation to support Israel, since the creation of the UN in 1945, according to Al Jazeera

Israeli army will equip Jewish settlers with gas and stun grenades to use against Palestinians

The Israeli army IDF will supply Israeli settlers on the occupied territory the West Bank, gas and stun grenades to be used agains Palestinians, according to this story in the British newspaper The Independent.

The Quartet is alarmed by Israeli building projects on the West Bank

The Quartet of EU, USA, Russia and UN, is alarmed by the desicion of the Israeli authorities of Monday this week, to build 227 new Israeli homes on the occupied territory of the Palestinian West Bank. See the story here.

The Israeli initiative follows a well known pattern: Every time Israel is running the risk of having peace imposed upon her, the government comes up with provocations to run the peace process into a dead end.

Haaretz: Israel cancelled residency status of 140,000 Palestinians

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat of Fatah said today that Israel’s cancelling of the residency status of 140,000 West Bank Palestinians, reported by Haaretz, constitutes a war crime and represents an Israeli attempt to affect the demographic composition of the West Bank.

Ereka based his comments on a Haaretz report earlier today that quoted an official Israeli document according to which Israel has used a covert procedure to cancel the residency status of 140,000 West Bank Palestinians between 1967 and 1994.

Uri Avnery: Bravo for the Palestinian reconciliation!

IN ONE word: Bravo!

The news about the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas is good for peace. If the final difficulties are ironed out and a full agreement is signed by the two leaders, it will be a huge step forward for the Palestinians – and for us.

There is no sense in making peace with half a people. Making peace with the entire Palestinian people may be more difficult, but will be infinitely more fruitful.

Therefore: Bravo!

Binyamin Netanyahu also says Bravo. Since the government of Israel has declared Hamas a terrorist organization with whom there will be no dealings whatsoever, Netanyahu can now put an end to any talk about peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. What, peace with a Palestinian government that includes terrorists? Never! End of discussion.

Two bravos, but such a difference.

THE ISRAELI debate about Arab unity goes back a long way. It already started in the early fifties, when the idea of pan-Arab unity raised its head. Gamal Abd-al-Nasser hoisted this banner in Egypt, and the pan-Arab Baath movement became a force in several countries (long before it degenerated into local Mafias in Iraq and Syria).

Nahum Goldman, President of the World Zionist Organization, argued that pan-Arab unity was good for Israel. He believed that peace was necessary for the existence of Israel, and that it would take all the Arab countries together to have the courage to make it.

David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s Prime Minister, thought that peace was bad for Israel, at least until Zionism had achieved all its (publicly undefined) goals. In a state of war, unity among Arabs was a danger that had to be prevented at all costs.

Goldman, the most brilliant coward I ever knew, did not have the courage of his convictions. Ben-Gurion was far less brilliant, but much more determined.

He won.

NOW WE have the same problem all over again.

Netanyahu and his band of peace saboteurs want to prevent Palestinian unity at all costs. They do not want peace, because peace would prevent Israel from achieving the Zionist goals, as they conceive them: a Jewish state in all of historical Palestine, from the sea to the Jordan River (at least). The conflict is going to last for a long, long time to come, and the more divided the enemy, the better.

As a matter of fact, the very emergence of Hamas was influenced by this calculation. The Israeli occupation authorities deliberately encouraged the Islamic movement, which later became Hamas, as a counterweight to the secular nationalist Fatah, which was then conceived as the main enemy.

Later, the Israeli government deliberately fostered the division between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by violating the Oslo agreement and refusing to open the four “safe passages” between the two territories provided for in the agreement. Not one was open for a single day. The geographical separation brought about the political one.

When Hamas won the January 2006 Palestinian elections, surprising everybody including itself, the Israeli government declared that it would have no dealings with any Palestinian government in which Hamas was represented. It ordered – there is no other word – the US and EU governments to follow suit. Thus the Palestinian Unity Government was brought down.

The next step was an Israeli-American effort to install a strongman of their choosing as dictator of the Gaza Strip, the bulwark of Hamas. The chosen hero was Muhammad Dahlan, a local chieftain. It was not a very good choice – the Israeli security chief recently disclosed that Dahlan had collapsed sobbing into his arms. After a short battle, Hamas took direct control of the Gaza Strip.

A FRATRICIDAL split in a liberation movement is not an exception. It is almost the rule.

The Irish revolutionary movement was an outstanding example. In this country we had the fight between the Hagana and the Irgun, which at times became violent and very ugly. It was Menachem Begin, then the Irgun commander, who prevented a full-fledged civil war.

The Palestinian people, with all the odds against them, can hardly afford such a disaster. The split has generated intense mutual hatred between comrades who spent time in Israeli prison together. Hamas accused the Palestinian Authority – with some justification – of cooperating with the Israeli government against them, urging the Israelis and the Egyptians to tighten the brutal blockade against the Gaza Strip, even preventing a deal for the release of the Israeli prisoner-of-war, Gilad Shalit, in order to block the release of Hamas activists and their return to the West Bank. Many Hamas activists suffer in Palestinian prisons, and the lot of Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip is no more joyous.

Yet both Fatah and Hamas are minorities in Palestine. The great mass of the Palestinian people desperately want unity and a joint struggle to end the occupation. If the final reconciliation agreement is signed by Mahmoud Abbas and Khalid Meshaal, Palestinians everywhere will be jubilant.

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU is jubilant already. The ink was not yet dry on the preliminary agreement initialed in Cairo, when Netanyahu made a solemn speech on TV, something like an address to the nation after an historic event.

“You have to choose between us and Hamas,” he told the Palestinian Authority. That would not be too difficult – one the one side a brutal occupation regime, on the other Palestinian brothers with a different ideology.

But this stupid threat was not the main point of the statement. What Netanyahu told us was that there would be no dealings with a Palestinian Authority connected in any way with the “terrorist Hamas”.

The whole thing is a huge relief for Netanyahu. He has been invited by the new Republican masters to address the US Congress next month and had nothing to say. Nor had he anything to offer the UN, which is about to recognize the State of Palestine this coming September. Now he has: peace is impossible, all Palestinians are terrorists who want to throw us into the sea. Ergo: no peace, no negotiations, no nothing.

IF ONE really wants peace, the message should of course be quite different.

Hamas is a part of Palestinian reality. Sure, it is extremist, but as the British have taught us many times, it is better to make peace with extremists than with moderates. Make peace with the moderates, and you must still deal with the extremists. Make peace with the extremists, and the business is finished.

Actually, Hamas is not quite as extreme as it likes to present itself. It has declared many times that it will accept a peace agreement based on the 1967 lines and signed by Mahmoud Abbas if it is ratified by the people in a referendum or a vote in parliament. Accepting the Palestinian Authority means accepting the Oslo agreement, on which the PA is based – including the mutual recognition of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. In Islam, as in all other religions, God’s word is definitely final, but it can be “interpreted” any way needed. Don’t we Jews know.

What made both sides more flexible? Both have lost their patrons – Fatah its Egyptian protector, Hosny Mubarak, and Hamas its Syrian protector, Bashar al-Assad, who cannot be relied upon anymore. That has brought both sides to face reality: Palestinians stand alone, so they had better unite.

For peace-oriented Israelis, it will be a great relief to deal with a united Palestinian people and with a united Palestinian territory. Israel can do a lot to help this along: open at long last an exterritorial free passage between the West Bank and Gaza, put an end to the stupid and cruel blockade of the Gaza Strip (which has become even more idiotic with the elimination of the Egyptian collaborator), let the Gazans open their port, airport and borders. Israel must accept the fact that religious elements are now a part of the political scene all over the Arab world. They will become institutionalized and, probably, far more “moderate”. That is part of the new reality in the Arab world.

The emergence of Palestinian unity should be welcomed by Israel, as well as by the European nations and the United States. They should get ready to recognize the State of Palestine within the 1967 borders. They should encourage the holding of free and democratic Palestinian elections and accept their results, whatever they may be.

The wind of the Arab Spring is blowing in Palestine too. Bravo!

Uri Avnery
April 30, 2011

Labour party secretary Raymond Johansen: "Does Israel Feel The Need To Contribute?"

In the article, the Labour party secretary Raymond Johansen asks if the present Israeli government really want to achieve peace and a two state solution, supporting the question raised by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:

Palestinian President Abbas rightly asks whether Netanyahu is capable of contributing to, or even if he is seeking progress in the peace process. With the announcement that the US has given up the demand to stop further building of settlements, his queries must be even stronger.

If the government of Israel is unwilling or unable to give a credible answer to the challenge from Abbas, Johansen sees international support for the Palestinians dwindle. The consequence would have to be that Israel must bear a greater responsibility for upholding security and public services in the Palestinian territories. This would be a great burden for Israel to shoulder, according to Johansen:

Since the Oslo Accords in 1994, Norway has contributed USD 3 billion to the peace process. The total sum of contributions from US, European and Arab partners have been enormous. Norwegian and other contributions are often presented as support to Palestinian state building efforts. This is not the complete picture. Our contributions are equally important for Israel, because by supporting the peace process and Palestinian state building efforts, we help build Israel’s security.

You’ll find the full text of Johansen’s article in Huffington Post and an invitation to comment, here.

You may also comment on the article in this blog.

Uri Avnery on the fictious "Eastern front" of Israel

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

PEOPLE ENDOWED with sensitive political ears were startled this week by two words, which, so it seemed, escaped from the mouth of Binyamin Netanyahu by accident: “Eastern front”.

Once upon a time these words were part of the everyday vocabulary of the occupation. In recent years they have been gathering dust in the political junkyard.

THE VERBAL couple “Eastern front” was born after the Six-day War. It served to buttress the strategic doctrine that the Jordan River is Israel’s “security border”.

The theory: there is a possibility for three Arab armies – those of Iraq, Syria and Jordan – to gather east of the Jordan, cross the river and endanger the existence of Israel. We must stop them before they enter the country. Therefore, the Jordan Valley must serve as a permanent base for the Israeli army, our troops must stay there.

This was a doubtful theory to start with. In order to take part in such an offensive, the Iraqi army would have to assemble, cross the desert and deploy in Jordan, a lengthy and complex logistical operation that would give the Israeli army ample time to hit the Iraqis long before they reached the bank of the Jordan. As for the Syrians, it would be much easier for them to attack Israel on the Golan Heights than to move their army south and attack from the east. And Jordan has always been a secret – but loyal – partner of Israel (except for the short episode of the Six-day War.)

In recent years, the theory has become manifestly ridiculous. The Americans have invaded Iraq and defeated and disbanded Saddam Hussein’s glorious army, which turned out to be a paper tiger. The Kingdom of Jordan has signed an official peace treaty with Israel. Syria is using every opportunity to demonstrate its longing for peace, if Israel would only return the Golan Heights. In short, Israel has nothing to fear from its Eastern neighbors.

True, situations can change. Regimes change, alliances change. But it is impossible to imagine a situation in which three terrifying armies cross the Jordan into Canaan, like the children of Israel in the Biblical story.

Moreover, the idea of a ground attack, like the Nazi blitzkrieg in World War II, belongs to history. In any future war, long-range missiles will play a dominant role. One could imagine the Israeli soldiers in the Jordan valley reclining on deckchairs and observing the missiles flying over their heads in both directions.

So how did this silly idea gain new life?

IT MAY be useful to go 43 years back in time, in order to understand how this bogeyman was born.

Only six weeks after the Six-day War, the “Allon plan” was launched. Yigal Allon, then Minister of Labor, submitted it to the government. It was not adopted officially, but it did exercise a major influence on the Israeli leadership.

No authorized map of the plan was ever published, but the main points became known. Allon proposed to annex to Israel the Jordan Valley and the western shore of the Dead Sea. What was left of the West Bank would become enclaves surrounded by Israeli territory, except for a narrow corridor near Jericho which would connect the West Bank with the Jordanian kingdom. Allon also proposed annexing to Israel certain areas in the West Bank, the North of Sinai (“the Rafah Opening”) and the South of the Gaza Strip (“the Katif Bloc’).

He did not care whether the West Bank would be returned to Jordan or became a separate Palestinian entity. Once I attacked him from the Knesset rostrum and accused him of obstructing the establishment of the Palestinian state, which I advocated, and when I returned to my seat, he sent me a note: “I am for a Palestinian state in the West Bank. So how am I less of a dove than you?”

The plan was put forward as a military imperative, but its motives were quite different.

In those days I met with Allon fairly regularly, so I had the opportunity to follow his line of thought. He had been one of the outstanding commanders of the 1948 war and was considered a military expert, but above all he was a leading member of the Kibbutz movement, which at the time exercised a lot of influence in the country.

Immediately after the seizure of the West Bank, the people of the Kibbutz movement spread out across the ground, looking for areas that would be suitable for intensive modern agriculture. Naturally, they were attracted to the Jordan Valley. From their point of view, this was an ideal place for new kibbutzim. It has plenty of water, the terrain is flat and eminently suited to modern agricultural machinery. And, most important, it was sparsely populated. All these advantages were lacking in other West Bank regions: their population was dense, the topography mountainous and the water scarce.

In my opinion, the entire Allon plan was a fruit of agricultural greed, and the military theory was nothing but an expedient security pretext. And, indeed, the immediate result was the setting up of a great number of kibbutzim and moshavim (cooperative villages) in the valley.

Years passed before the limits of the Allon Plan were burst open and settlements were established all over the West Bank.

THE ALLON PLAN gave birth to the bogeyman of the “Eastern Front”’ and since then it has terrorized those who seek peace. Like a ghost, it comes and goes, materializes and vanishes, once in one form, once in another.

Ariel Sharon demanded the annexation of the “widened valley”. The valley itself, a part of the Great Syrian-African Rift Valley, is 120 km long (from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea) but only about 15 km wide. Sharon demanded almost obsessively the addition to it of the “back of the mountain”, meaning the eastern slope of the central West Bank mountain range, which would have widened it substantially.

When Sharon adopted the Separation Wall project, it was supposed to separate the West Bank not only from Israel proper, but also from the Jordan Valley. This would have enabled what was called the “Allon Plan plus”. The wall would have encircled the entire West Bank, without the Jericho corridor. This plan has not been implemented to date, both because of international opposition and because of lack of funds.

Since the Oslo agreement, almost all successive Israeli governments have insisted that the Jordan Valley must remain in Israeli hands in any future peace agreement. This demand appeared in many guises: sometimes the words were “security border”, sometimes “warning stations”, sometimes “military installations”, sometimes “long-term lease”, depending on the creative talents of successive Prime Ministers. The common denominator: the valley should remain under Israeli control.

NOW COMES Netanyahu and resurrects the verbal duo “Eastern Front”.

What Eastern Front? What threats are there from our eastern neighbors? Where is Saddam Hussein? Where is Hafez al-Assad? Is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad going to send the armored columns of the Revolutionary Guards rolling towards the Jordan crossings?

Well, it goes like this: the Americans are going to leave Iraq some day. Then a new Saddam Hussein will arise, this time a Shiite, and ally himself with Shiite Iran and the treacherous Turks, and how can you rely on the Jordanian king who abhors Netanyahu? Terrible stuff may happen if we don’t keep watch on the bank of the Jordan!

This is manifestly ludicrous. So what is the real aim?

The entire world is now busy with the American demand for starting “direct talks” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. One might be tempted to think that world peace depends on turning the “proximity talks” into “direct talks”. Never have so many words of sanctimonious hypocrisy been poured out on such a trivial subject.

The “proximity talks” have been going on for several months now. It would be wrong to say that their results have been close to zero. They were zero. Absolute zero. So what will happen if the two parties sit together in one room? One can predict with absolute certainty: Another zero. In the absence of an American determination to impose a solution, there will be no solution.

So why does Barack Obama insist? There is one explanation: throughout the Middle East, his policies have failed. He is in urgent need of an impressive achievement. He promised to leave Iraq, and the situation there makes it impossible. The war in Afghanistan is going from bad to worse, a general leaves and a general arrives, and victory is further away than ever. One can already imagine the last American climbing into the last helicopter on the roof of the American embassy in Kabul.

Remains the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here, too, Obama is facing failure. He hoped to achieve much without investing anything at all, and was easily defeated by the Israel lobby. To hide the shame, he needs something that can be presented to the ignorant public as a great American victory. The renewal of “direct talks” is meant to be such a victory.

Netanyahu, on his part, is quite satisfied with the situation as it is. Israel is calling for direct talks, the Palestinians refuse. Israel is extending its hand for peace, the Palestinians turn away. Mahmoud Abbas demands that Israel extend the freeze on the settlements and declares in advance that the negotiations will be based on the 1967 borders.

But the Americans are exerting tremendous pressure on Abbas, and Netanyahu fears that Abbas will give in. Therefore he declares that he cannot freeze the settlements, because in that case – God forbid! – his coalition would disintegrate. And if that does not suffice, here comes the Eastern Front. The Israeli government is giving notice to the Palestinians that it will not give up the Jordan Valley.

In order to emphasize the point, Netanyahu has started to remove the remaining Palestinian population in the valley, a few thousand. Villages are being eradicated, starting this week with Farasiya, where all the dwellings and the water installations were destroyed. This is ethnic cleansing pure and simple, much like the similar operation now going on against the Bedouins in the Negev.

What Netanyahu is saying, in so many words, is: Abbas should think twice before he enters “direct talks”.

THE JORDAN Valley descends to the lowest point on the surface of the earth, the Dead Sea, 400 meters below mean sea level.

The revival of the Eastern Front may indicate the lowest point of Netanyahu’s policy, with the intent of putting to death once and for all any remaining chance for peace.

Uri Avnery
July 31, 2010

Amnesty on the water situation in the occupied West Bank

27 October 2009
Amnesty International has accused Israel of denying Palestinians the right to access adequate water by maintaining total control over the shared water resources and pursuing discriminatory policies.

These unreasonably restrict the availability of water in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and prevent the Palestinians developing an effective water infrastructure there.

“Israel allows the Palestinians access to only a fraction of the shared water resources, which lie mostly in the occupied West Bank, while the unlawful Israeli settlements there receive virtually unlimited supplies. In Gaza the Israeli blockade has made an already dire situation worse,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s researcher on Israel and the OPT.

In a new extensive report, Amnesty International revealed the extent to which Israel’s discriminatory water policies and practices are denying Palestinians their right to access to water.

Israel uses more than 80 per cent of the water from the Mountain Aquifer, the main source of underground water in Israel and the OPT, while restricting Palestinian access to a mere 20 per cent.

The Mountain Aquifer is the only source for water for Palestinians in the West Bank, but only one of several for Israel, which also takes for itself all the water available from the Jordan River.

While Palestinian daily water consumption barely reaches 70 litres a day per person, Israeli daily consumption is more than 300 litres per day, four times as much.

In some rural communities Palestinians survive on barely 20 litres per day, the minimum amount recommended for domestic use in emergency situations.

Some 180,000-200,000 Palestinians living in rural communities have no access to running water and the Israeli army often prevents them from even collecting rainwater.

In contrast, Israeli settlers, who live in the West Bank in violation of international law, have intensive-irrigation farms, lush gardens and swimming pools.

Numbering about 450,000, the settlers use as much or more water than the Palestinian population of some 2.3 million.

In the Gaza Strip, 90 to 95 per cent of the water from its only water resource, the Coastal Aquifer, is contaminated and unfit for human consumption. Yet, Israel does not allow the transfer of water from the Mountain Aquifer in the West Bank to Gaza.

Stringent restrictions imposed in recent years by Israel on the entry into Gaza of material and equipment necessary for the development and repair of infrastructure have caused further deterioration of the water and sanitation situation in Gaza, which has reached crisis point.

To cope with water shortages and lack of network supplies many Palestinians have to purchase water, of often dubious quality, from mobile water tankers at a much higher price.

Others resort to water-saving measures which are detrimental to their and their families’ health and which hinder socio-economic development.

“Over more than 40 years of occupation, restrictions imposed by Israel on the Palestinians’ access to water have prevented the development of water infrastructure and facilities in the OPT, consequently denying hundreds of thousand of Palestinians the right to live a normal life, to have adequate food, housing, or health, and to economic development,” said Donatella Rovera.

Israel has appropriated large areas of the water-rich Palestinian land it occupies and barred Palestinians from accessing them.

It has also imposed a complex system of permits which the Palestinians must obtain from the Israeli army and other authorities in order to carry out water-related projects in the OPT. Applications for such permits are often rejected or subject to long delays.

Restrictions imposed by Israel on the movement of people and goods in the OPT further compound the difficulties Palestinians face when trying to carry out water and sanitation projects, or even just to distribute small quantities of water.

Water tankers are forced to take long detours to avoid Israeli military checkpoints and roads which are out of bounds to Palestinians, resulting in steep increases in the price of water.

In rural areas, Palestinian villagers are continuously struggling to find enough water for their basic needs, as the Israeli army often destroys their rainwater harvesting cisterns and confiscates their water tankers.

In comparison, irrigation sprinklers water the fields in the midday sun in nearby Israeli settlements, where much water is wasted as it evaporates before even reaching the ground.

In some Palestinian villages, because their access to water has been so severely restricted, farmers are unable to cultivate the land, or even to grow small amounts of food for their personal consumption or for animal fodder, and have thus been forced to reduce the size of their herds.

“Water is a basic need and a right, but for many Palestinians obtaining even poor-quality subsistence-level quantities of water has become a luxury that they can barely afford,” said Donatella Rovera.

“Israel must end its discriminatory policies, immediately lift all the restrictions it imposes on Palestinians’ access to water, and take responsibility for addressing the problems it created by allowing Palestinians a fair share of the shared water resources.”