Israel Govt. Reshuffle Done – Lieberman Instead Herzog

June 1, 2016

imagesHYX6NWROAfter nearly two weeks of political turmoil, Yisrael Beytenu (the Israel Our Home party) leader Avigdor Lieberman sworn in as Israel’s Defence minister on Monday 30th May 2016 – after cabinet and Knesset approval. The main outcome of political drama might be — an expanded right-wing government that can bolster the Likud’s hold on power for a long time. The turmoil is now heading Labor’s way as opposition leader Yitzhak  [Isaac] Herzog’s rivals are putting his ouster in motion, and Herzog will have hard battle to retain his position as Labor leader. In addition Lieberman’s appointment raises questions about direction of Israeli government related to peace process.

New political development started as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Opposition head MK Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Union) started their talks to bring Herzog’s leftist party into the coalition. The core sticking point between the sides seems to be the diplomatic policies that a joint government would pursue.

According Arutz Sheva Netanyahu refused to allow Herzog to advance his “separation plan” from the Palestinians, which among other things involves cutting off Arab neighborhoods such as Isawiya from the Jerusalem municipality and transferring them to Palestinian Authority (PA) control in a unilateral division of the capital. Herzog has long touted his idea of dividing the capital and making massive concessions, but ironically Netanyahu and his governments have also been accused of enforcing a quiet de facto division of the 3,000-year-old capital of the Jewish people. Aside from the “separation plan,” it appears that Netanyahu was reluctant to give Herzog a free hand in holding peace talks by himself or making announcements about a reduction of construction in Judea and Samaria. According Arutz Sheva Netanyahu’s past two governments have been imposing a covert and informal construction freeze on the region ever since the last failed round of peace talks in 2013.

The reshuffle was triggered last Wednesday [25th May 2016], as instead of announcing a deal with Herzog as many had expected, Netanyahu invited Avigdor Lieberman, head of the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party, to separate talks aimed at bringing his six Knesset seats into the coalition, which resulted in the appointment of Lieberman as Defence Minister. He replaces Moshe Ya’alon, who has resigned from his post and from Likud.

After Netanyahu/Lieberman agreement last week came new crisis in government as Education Minister and Jewish Home chief Naftali Bennett called for an army official to be assigned to the security cabinet to keep members abreast of important military developments. Jewish Home was prepared to vote against the inclusion of Lieberman into the government if that issue weren’t solved. Indeed the Jewish Home was prepared to split from the government if the reforms were not adopted. After some talks the full cabinet met on Monday 30th and unanimously approved the appointment of Yisrael Beytenu leader and MK Avigdor Lieberman as defense minister and Yisrael Beytenu MK Sofa Landver as immigrant absorption minister and in addition the government members, including party Bennet, receive frequent personal reports of the national security adviser.

knesset-info-3

Peace process?

There was a new, although brief, sense of optimism in European capitals that Netanyahu would engage in the beginning of a two-state solution process and restrain settlement expansion. However the horizon darkened again when instead of Herzog’s appointment as foreign minister, Lieberman was appointed defence minister. There is also wider international concerns that the new government would put another nail in the coffin of peace efforts. However Netanyahu has made repeated statements inviting Abbas to meet, saying he is willing to talk with the Palestinian leader “whenever, wherever.” On Wednesday, 25 May 2015, at the signing of the coalition agreements, PM Netanyahu also made the following remarks [according Government Press Office]:

“My government remains committed to pursuing peace with the Palestinians, pursuing peace with all our neighbors. My policy has not changed. We’ll continue to pursue every avenue for peace while ensuring the safety and security of our citizens. I believe the developments in the region have created new challenges for us all. But I also believe that they’ve created new opportunities for peace, and I intend to seize those opportunities. A broader government, a more stable government, will make it easier to do so.”

Immediately following the ceremony, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and PM Netanyahu reaffirmed their commitment towards a two-state solution and endorsed the possibility of a wider regional peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative. The Arab peace initiative refers to a Saudi-spearheaded plan, which would see a pan-Arab rapprochement with Israel, in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Minutes after being sworn in, Lieberman appeared at a joint press conference with Netanyahu, who said: “I remain committed to making peace with the Palestinians and with all our neighbours. The Arab Peace Initiative includes positive elements that can help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians. We are willing to negotiate with the Arab states revisions to that initiative.” Meanwhile, senior Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi has been appointed Minister without Portfolio, but will apparently deal with foreign affairs, including any diplomatic initiatives. [Source: BICOM ]

Israeli Foreign Ministry officials travelled on 25th May 2016 to Egypt’s capital Cairo on a two-day visit to lay the ground work for a trilateral peace summit between Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. It has been widely reported that former Prime Minister Tony Blair played a crucial role behind the scenes encouraging al-Sisi to deliver such as speech, and coordinated this effort with Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who were locked in ultimately failed talks to form a unity government. [Source: BICOM ]

The Egyptians committed themselves, together with other Sunni states, to convene an international conference in Cairo that would jump-start the process — mainly renewal of the bilateral negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians and turning the Arab Peace Initiative into a working plan.

Related to another international move, the French initiative [France should hold direct Israeli-Palestinian talks at its June 3rd 2016 in Paris on the frozen peace process], PM Netanyahu told his French counterpart that “If you really want to help launch peace, then help us launch direct negotiations with [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas”… “Israelis and Palestinians have suffered too much. It’s time to sit down together and work out our differences so that peace may reign at long last,” Netanyahu told French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. [Source: Jerusalem Post]

Israeli-Palestinian conflict roadmaps to peace

Reactions

Opposition head MK Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Union) held a Labor faction meeting on Monday 30th , in which he spoke about Avigdor Lieberman’s appointment as Defense Minister as part of his Yisrael Beytenu party joining the coalition government. According Arutz Sheva  Herzog in his speech also addressed Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu), calling for the former Likud minister to take his party out of the coalition government and bring it down. Herzog’s unity talks with Netanyahu fizzled out amid the Labor party head’s demand for a unilateral division of Jerusalem, among other things. [ More about Herzog’s peace plan in Herzog’s Plan: Security Barrier Around the Major Settlement Blocs of West Bank ]

After the resignation of Kulanu Environment Minister Avi Gabbay on Friday 27th, because he objected to the prime minister’s replacing Ya’alon with Lieberman; and after Kulanu chairman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s tweet that he would veto any attempt to curb the legislative ambitions of the Israeli Supreme Court; Kulanu’s Housing Minister Yoav Galant, has also moved to pull his fledgling party to the left. According to a Jewish Insider report, Gallant spoke to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York last week and told them his government’s policy was to freeze construction in the Judea and Samaria Jewish settlements. Galant also warned against the emergence of a two-nation state if the 2-state solution is not implemented, and advocated moving in that direction even without cooperation from the PA Arabs. [Source: JewishPress ]

Israel Hayom reported than even before the ink on the Yisrael Beytenu-Likud coalition agreement could dry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Labor leader Isaac Herzog to join. Netanyahu did it again on Monday, despite (or because of) Herzog’s call for Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon to take his party out of the coalition. Kahlon has also been actively trying to bring Herzog into the fold. The Kulanu leader is becoming increasingly isolated since Moshe Ya’alon was kicked out of the Defense Ministry and Avi Gabai left the Environmental Protection Ministry. Herzog’s dilemma is also Labor’s and Zionist Union’s dilemma: one part of opposition want to join the coalition, others insist to stay in the opposition.

YB_Logo_English_400x400


Appendix:  

Avigdor Lieberman

Avigdor Lieberman [Эве́т Льво́вич Ли́берман] is a Soviet-born [Kishinev, Moldova] Israeli politician who serves now as the Defense Minister of Israel. He has served as Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2009 to 2012, and again from 2013 to 2015. He is the founder and leader of the secular-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, whose electoral base are overwelmingly Russian-speaking immigrants from the former Soviet Union. As a result of the arrival in Israel during the 1990s of more than one million Russian-speaking immigrants, Yisrael Beiteinu has regularly played the ‘king-maker’ role in Israel’s coalition governments. Lieberman’s very pro-Russian stance and perceived friendly relations with Putin have also drawn criticism from fellow Israelis.

yisrael-beiteinu_14702

 

16 most outrageous statements of Avigdor Lieberman over his provocative past by MEE :

  1. If you thought beheadings were only an IS specialty then think again, Lieberman is also a fan – for disloyal Palestinians anyway: “Those who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an axe.”
  2. Democracy is good, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of “Zionist values”: “The vision I would like to see here is the entrenching of the Jewish and the Zionist state…. I very much favour democracy, but when there is a contradiction between democratic and Jewish values, the Jewish and Zionist values are more important.”
  3. I suppose we could always pay Palestinian Israelis to leave though: “Israel should even encourage them with economic incentives.”
  4. Talking of democracy, even members of the Knesset are not safe: “World War II ended with the Nuremberg trials. The heads of the Nazi regime, along with their collaborators, were executed. I hope this will be the fate of the collaborators in [the Knesset].”
  5. “I think the biggest problem of the 21st century is how to deal with minorities.” 
  6. It’s pretty safe to assume he doesn’t watch Al Jazeera: “Qatar has turned into a global problem. Al Jazeera is a central pillar of the propaganda apparatus of Hamas.”
  7. He’s not big on LGBT rights either: “Civil marriage is a very serious problem. I think that even the religious understands that we must look for some kind of a solution because we have some contradictions. I’m sure there are many solutions.”
  8. But what he lacks in love for same-sex marriage, he makes up for with a fondness for brutal rhetoric: “You have to be generous to your friends and cruel to your enemies. We are simply a society of wimps.”
  9. Taking inspiration from the atomic bombs dropped on Japan to make occupation “unnecessary”: “We must continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the Japanese in World War II. Then, too, the occupation of the country was unnecessary.”
  10. But he’ll make sure to safeguard innocent civilians, right? “If it were up to me, I would notify the Palestinian Authority tomorrow at 10 in the morning we would bomb all their places of business in Ramallah, for exampleI would not hesitate to send the Israeli army into all of Area A for 48 hours. Destroy the foundation of all the authority’s military infrastructure, all of the police buildings, the arsenals, all the posts of the security forces… not leave one stone on another. Destroy everything.”
  11. And you wouldn’t want to be a Palestinian prisoner in Avigdor’s world: “It would be better to drown these prisoners in the Dead Sea if possible, since that’s the lowest point in the world.”
  12. What about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, surely he must be okay? “He is preoccupied with diplomatic terrorism.”
  13. Former Egyptian Prime Minister Hosni Mubarak“can go to hell.”
  14. But what does he think of his new boss, Benjamin Netanyahu? “He is a liar, a fraud and a crook. Those are the words I can say about our prime minister. He brazenly defrauds the people of Israel.”
  15. No really, what’s he like? Netanyahu isn’t left or right. He has no ideology. He is the ultimate Mr Zigzag. He may be the world champion of zigzaggers.”
  16. “I’ve always been controversial because I offer new ideas.”

Nimetön (95)


Article first appeared in Conflicts By Ari Rusila


Underground Iron Dome i.a. Against Hamas’ Terror Tunnels

March 21, 2016

IDF-SymbolIsrael  has started testing a secret new weapon for defeating the tunnel systems which the Palestinian Hamas and Hizballah are busy digging for surprise attacks  against Israel. Following Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, a  great deal of attention shifted to Israel’s need to develop a technological  solution to the underground tunnel problem.

Now, according to Foreign Policy magazine, it  appears Israel has found that solution. Western sources reported on 11th  March 2016, that the new weapon, dubbed the  “Underground Iron Dome,” can detect a tunnel, then send in a moving missile ton blow it up. The new weapon is not counter measure only against threat from Gaza  and Lebanon but against Iran nukes too.

US intelligence sources disclosed only  that new weapon is equipped with seismic sensors to detect underground  vibrations and map their location before destroying them. Western experts haven been talking for years about a secret Israeli weapon capable of destroyingn Iran’s Fordo nuclear facility, which is buried deep inside a mountain not farn from the Shiite shrine city of Qom. They suggested that this hypotheticaln weapon could be slipped through the Fordo facility’s vents, thread its way  through the underground chambers and take down the illicit enrichment facility.  It was discussed again three years ago, when the Israeli Air Force on 23rd  Aug. 2013 blew up the Popular Palestinian Front-General Command underground  facility at Al-Naama on the South Lebanese coast, 15 km south of Beirut. (Source:  DEBKAfile )

Iran keeps its ballistic missiles in underground bunkers

Iran keeps its ballistic missiles in underground bunkers

The new threat to Israel that appeared in the summer of 2014,n Operation Protective Edge was a network of terror tunnels. Now, Israel Hayom reports, Israel has built its own network of defense tunnels along the Gaza border, with the cooperation of the United  States. The US government is set to invest $120 million in developing and manufacturing the “Israeli invention” for detecting and identifying  tunnels, in collaboration with the Ministry of Defense, following Congress’  approval of the budget transfer. Israel is set to invest a similar amount.  For its investment U.S. will receive  prototypes, access to test sites, and rights to any intellectual property.  Military officials estimated the costs of  setting up an advanced tunnel barrier at about 2.8 billion shekels ($710  million).

The goal, U.S. Defense Department spokesman Christopher Sherwood told Foreign Policy, “is to establish  anti-tunnel capabilities to detect, map, and neutralize underground tunnels that threaten the U.S. or Israel…”The US is in need of such a system on its
Mexico border and with the Americans in the picture, there is a chance that the  project here will start to make progress. The injection of American money and  technology will shorten the process and the system will be upgraded, meaning  that it will be deployed more quickly. (Source:
Israel Hayom  )

Among the Israeli companies working on the  tunnel-detection project are Elbit Systems and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems,
both of which developed the Iron Dome.

Collapsing  tunnels

According Arutz Sheva  a Hamas “field commander” [Abd al-Salah al-Butnaji  from The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades,  Hamas’ armed wing]  died 14th  March 2016 in a “tunnel accident” in Gaza.

A gas pipe running through a tunnel under the Gazan town of Rafah exploded, wounding some 60-70 people, and  killing 2, according to The Jewish Press  based on Egyptian sources.  According to Al Bawab News, some 50 smuggling  tunnels were uncovered due to the explosion. 60 homes in Rafah have been  evacuated due to the explosion.  There’s  no indication at this point as to what caused the gas pipe to leak and explode.
A terror tunnel under the Gazan town of Khan Younis collapsed on 19th March 2016; three Hamas terrorists  have been wounded and five others are still missing underground.  This is the 10th or 11th terror tunnel to  collapse since December 2015.  (Source: The Jewish Press )

On Egypt-Gaza border the Egyptian military vehicles are transferring Mediterranean Sea water to the Rafah border, to fill a
newly-built crude canal, flooding and destroying the tunnels connecting Egypt and Gaza. While it is generally believed that this year’s unusually heavy rainfall  and flooding by Egyptian army are the main reason for the collapses on  Gaza-Israel border, there is growing speculation that an Israeli secret  anti-tunnel weapon is at work underground.  

Egypt, historically the Palestinians’  major backer, has brokered several truces between Israel and Gaza factions and tried to heal past rifts between rival Palestinian factions.  But Egypt has intensified a blockade of Gaza  by largely sealing the border since 2013, citing precarious security conditions  in the neighboring Sinai Peninsula where Islamist militants have launched many
deadly strikes on Egyptian soldiers. Recently Egypt accused Hamas of  involvement in last year’s assassination of Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat.  (More in
Hamas’ Relations With Egypt Worsened )

 

Robots in anti-tunnel campaign

talon_fm_f_oqweri
As part of Israel’s anti-tunnel  campaign the IDF‘s earlier recruit was a versatile little Foster-Miller military robot Talon 4 which proved he can handle himself  on the battlefields of Iraq and was drafted for use in the dangerous tunnels on  the Gaza Strip border instead of soldiers to reduce risks to troops.
In addition Israel debuted the Micro Tactical Ground Robot (MTGR) built by Roboteam, a locally developed micro robot, to explore the labyrinth of tunnels and concealed shafts  supporting subterranean arms depots, command posts and cross-border attacksn from Gaza. After competing for more than two years with America’s leading robot providers, an Israeli newcomer to the industry through its US subsidiary has  snagged a $25 million US Air Force contract to provide its man-portable, stair-climbing, battle-tested system in support of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) missions. MTGR weighs less than 20 pounds and is built to clear  obstacles, climb 8-inch stairs and maneuver in tight, dangerous terrain. Its five onboard cameras, internal microphone and infrared laser points generate  intelligence and targeting data 360 degrees around the vehicle. (Defense News)

 

The  bottom line
One reason which angers Palestinians is a sc. siege on Gaza, which prevents the building process of the new homes since last
Gaza conflict in 2014.  As a matter of fact Palestinians should be angry with Hamas for rebuilding the tunnels instead of homes.   In fact, since the cease-fire  between Israel and the militant Islamist group Hamas, more than 3 million tons of construction material have entered Gaza through Israel’s Kerem Shalom border crossing,
according to Israeli figures. Big part of construction materials as well of other donations is used for building terror and smuggling tunnels< (More in Instead of Gaza’s Reconstruction Donor Aid Finances Terrorism And Corruption )

Hamas is in its own race against time.  From the organization’s perspective, it’s already finished its preparations for a military entanglement with Israel and is now grappling with timing. And thisn timing will be greatly affected by the pace of the Israeli project’s progress. Hamas is preparing a surprise attack. If they are led to believe for a moment that Israel has a solution that will bring its tunnels out into the open, it  will push them to bring their attack forward. The IDF is already making estimates around possibility that the collision is likely to take place within a few months. A series of gestures and events over the past few weeks attest to the building concern that the next round of fighting between Israel and Hamas will arrive sooner rather than later. It started with reports, specifically in Israel, on the certainty that Hamas’ tunnels have already entered Israeli territory.

Both Palestinian Hamas and the pro-Iranian Hizballah are working overtime on tunnels for sneaking terrorists and commando
fighters into Israel to attack IDF posts and civilian locations. During Israel’s last counter-terror operation in the Gaza Strip, Hamas staged a deadly tunnel attack on the Israel side of the border and is planning repeats. Hizballah is training commando units for underground surprise incursions to capture parts of Galilee in northern Israel. Israel still appears unable to completely counter Hamas’s subterranean advantage. And if the development of the Underground Iron Dome is any indication, it could be several years before Israel is able to employ an effective anti-tunnel system.

An injection of US cash into Israel’s anti-tunnel technology will speed up its development. But the increased activity on the Israeli side is liable to  provoke Hamas into jumping the gun and launching an early surprise attack.
Tunnel war infograph by Ari Rusila

Some  related articles:

New Israel Military Strategy

Now Israel Has The Most Advanced Missile Defense System In The World

Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!

 

 

 


Hamas’ Relations With Egypt Worsened

March 13, 2016

 

Hamas = ISISResearch institute JCPA reports that Egypt has officially accused Hamas of training the terror operatives who assassinated Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat last year. Hamas now fears that Egypt will declare the movement a terror organization and torpedo Turkey’s efforts to ease the blockade of Gaza.

In recent weeks, senior Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip claimed that the movement’s relations with Egypt have improved somewhat thanks to contacts initiated by Hamas leaders. However, an announcement by the Egyptian Interior Ministry on March 6, 2016, sharply rebuffed such claims.

In a press conference, the Egyptian interior minister, General Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, declared that Egyptian security forces had arrested a network of 48 Muslim Brotherhood terror operatives responsible for the assassination of Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat and that Hamas had played a “major role” in training the operatives.

The prosecutor general’s convoy after a bomb on a Cairo Street

The prosecutor general’s convoy after a bomb on a Cairo Street

Barakat was killed by a car bomb directed at his convoy as it passed through central Cairo. According General Ghaffar Barakat’s assassination had been planned by Muslim Brotherhood leaders who had found political asylum in Turkey and that the terrorists had been trained by Hamas. Hamas, he said, had played a “major role” in training and preparing the perpetrators over a period of three months. That claim was bolstered by electronic communications between Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Turkey that were intercepted by Egypt.

The Egyptian operatives had been trained in northern Sinai and then brought into Gaza with the help of Bedouin residents. At the end of the training, they returned to Sinai where they prepared the explosives for the attack. The Egyptian Interior Ministry said the terror operatives who were apprehended also planned to attack several public figures as well as foreign embassies in Egypt, with the aim of destabilizing the country.

The Balad Egyptian TV channel cited an Egyptian security expert who said the explosives used in the attack had been brought to Egypt from Qatar through diplomatic mail channels of the Qatari embassy in Egypt. Both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood maintain offices in Qatar.

Hamas – Daesh cooperation?

Egyptian authorities say Hamas is also actively assisting Wilayat Sinai, the Islamic State movement’s branch in northern Sinai, and that this aid involves training its operatives in Gaza and treating its wounded fighters in Gaza hospitals. In return, Wilayat Sinai helps Hamas smuggle weapons into Gaza from Sinai.

Some similarities: Hamas-Hizbollah-ISIS

Some similarities: Hamas-Hizbollah-ISIS

The timing of the Egyptian announcement on Hamas and Turkey’s connection with the prosecutor general’s murder is not coincidental. Egypt is now under pressure from Saudi Arabia to agree to a Turkish foothold in Gaza, linked to the easing of the blockade and the building of a floating seaport that would enable Turkish ships to reach the Gaza Strip. The Egyptians strongly oppose Turkey’s demand because of its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, outlawed by Egypt, and because of Hamas’ involvement in terror within Egypt.

Egypt is under pressure from Saudi Arabia to agree to a Turkish foothold in Gaza. Hamas pins great hopes on Turkey’s efforts to get Israel to ease the blockade on Gaza and build the floating seaport in return for normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations. Hamas fears that Egypt will decide to declare it a terror organization, just as the Gulf States declared Hizbullah to be one on March 2, 2016. The Arab interior ministers’ meeting in Tunisia also came out in support of the move against Hizbullah.

Egypt is rejecting Hamas’ requests for a permanent opening of the Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only egress to the Arab world. Since Sisi took office Egypt has opened the crossing for only a few days each year. The aim is to pressure the Hamas government, which is working with radical Islamic forces to undermine the Egyptian regime. Source and more at: Hamas’ Terrorism in Egypt Yoni Ben Menachem/JCPA

Hamas-Israel cooperation?

Easing of longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza is related to planned long ceasefire deal between Hamas’ political wing and Israel. In April 30, 2015 it was reported, that official representatives of the Israeli government and defense establishment have been holding a real dialogue with the Islamic terrorist group – Hamas – in a bid to reach a long-term calm on the Gaza border. These secret talks have been “partly direct” and partly through Qatari and European mediators. There is struggle inside Hamas between political and military wings and same time a group calling itself Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem has continued to challenge the Gaza-ruling Palestinian entity Hamas.

From point of view Fatah (PLO/West Bank) Hamas’ agreement to establish a seaport under Israel’s full supervision and opposition to transferring the Rafah crossing to PA control, constitute clear proof of Hamas’ intentions to sever Gaza from “the homeland.”

More in my articles What’s Going On In Gaza (And Mideast Peace) and Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander

Egypt is implementing sc Gaza blockade

Following the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007 the imposition of a sc blockade or siege took place. The situation has been compounded by the restrictions imposed since June 2013 by the Egyptian authorities at Rafah Crossing. Egypt is now implementing measures which will totally block unofficial traffic aka smuggling. In my opinion Egypt not Israel is blocking Gaza today.

Egyptian military vehicles are transferring Mediterranean Sea water to the Rafah border, to fill a newly-built crude canal, flooding and destroying the lifeline tunnels connecting Egypt and blockaded Gaza. By canal the Egyptian government is trying to economically crush Hamas, an ally of the Muslim brotherhood. Egypt is planning that sea water will flood into any remaining undiscovered tunnels and completely destroy them. So called Gaza blockade or siege is one of the main causes or excuse – depending from viewpoint – for flotillas, BDS, EU’s labelling plans, anti-Semitism, donations to Hamas, humanitarian crisis etc. Given the facts referred above one could conclude that blaming Israel for blockade is at least unjust. (More in Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel! )

Egypt discovers enormous tunnels coming from Gaza

YNetNews reported on 11th March 2016 that tunnels big enough to fit a truck have been discovered by the Egyptian military on the Sinai-Gaza border. These tunnels are allegedly the source of weapons being used by ISIS and Islamic Jihad in the peninsula, and point to a thriving weapons industry in the Strip. The tunnels connect the Gaza Strip with the Sinai Peninsula, and are being built in order to compensate for the tunnels which were flooded or blocked by the Egyptians.

Israeli security officials don’t know of any tunnels that large crossing into Israel. However, if they do exist, Israel will have to take into account the possibility of the existence of tunnels that are over three kilometers in length, which will make them harder to find.

Israel estimates that the recent increase in the number of tunnel collapses in Gaza in the past several months is due to the increased difficulty in obtaining materials to structurally support the tunnels – principally wood and cement. To replace these materials, Hamas is using fiberglass, which is also illegal to import into the Strip. Hamas still tries to smuggle it in, even though the material can’t support the same amount of weight as cement, and collapses.

The Egyptian government also notes another worrying phenomenon regarding the relations between Hamas and the terrorist organizations in the Sinai: it turns out that Hamas has become a weapons exporter to Egypt  – the export of weapons made in the Gaza Strip in industrial quantaties is a new phenomenon which indicates a new level of institutionalization of the weapons manufacturing process in the Strip.

Hamas' tunnelIn the past several months, several types of weapons were found by Egyptian security forces which bear the markings of being manufactured by the Hamas military wing. Amongst the weapons found were solar water heaters filled with explosive materials, which are one of the deadliest weapons ISIS in Sinai uses against the Egyptian military. The solar water heaters are used as ‘Improvised explosive devices’ (IEDs) with the ability to take out a tank. 

The Egyptian government also claims that ISIS shoots Hamas-made rockets at Egyptian military bases in the peninsula. Hamas also ships weapons from the Gaza Strip to elements affiliated with global Islamic Jihad which is active in Sinai. These are weapons which were smuggled into Gaza either by the Iranians or from Libya, which then ended up in the hands of the jihadists.  Source: YNetNews

10th March 2016 again at least seven Palestinians digging a wide tunnel to smuggle “goods” under the divided Gaza-Egyptian town of Rafah died when the Egyptian army flooded the tunnel with sea water and caused its collapse.

Bottom line

The relations between Egypt and Hamas are one core question in (partial) Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Besides planned Hamas-Israel ceasefire deal Egypt has a decisive role if sc ‘Sinai option’ (more in Sinai Option again ) will go further as partial solution to conflict. Also even without these kind progress Egypt’s actions with Rafah crossing have great importance for welfare of Gaza population.

sinai option by Ari Rusila

 

 


Article first appeared in Conflicts by Ari Rusila


Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!

October 3, 2015

Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza. Many of the current restrictions, originally imposed by Israel in the early 1990s, were intensified after June 2007, following the Hamas takeover of Gaza and the imposition of a sc blockade or siege. The situation has been compounded by the restrictions imposed since June 2013 by the Egyptian authorities at Rafah Crossing.

Gaza vs Rafah

Kerem Shalom vs Rafah 2015

Despite restrictions there has been whole time – even during conflicts/wars – movement of commodities as well Palestinians to and from Gaza via Israeli border crossings. During last months movement of goods has increased via Kerem Shalom Crossing at Israeli border to/from Gaza but is almost non-existent via Rafah Crossing at Egyptian border. Besides official border crossings Egypt is now implementing measures which will totally block unofficial traffic aka smuggling.  In my opinion Egypt not Israel is blocking Gaza.

 

The Rafah Border Crossing

The Rafah Border Crossing lies on the international border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip that was recognized by the 1979 Israel–Egypt Peace Treaty and confirmed during the 1982 Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. The crossing was managed by the Israel Airports Authority until Israel evacuated Gaza on 11 September 2005 as part of Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan. It subsequently became the task of the European Union Border Assistance Mission Rafah (EUBAM) to monitor the crossing. Though Israel and Egypt allow limited imports into Gaza, the economy of Gaza largely relies on illicit trade that flourishes via an alternative “tunnel economy.” Hamas enriches itself at the expense of the Palestinian Authority (PA) by collecting tolls from tunnel operators and import taxes on goods brought into Gaza. This second economy increases ordinary Gazans’ reliance on Hamas rule, which most would prefer to see end. Making peace deal only between Israel and the PA does not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ignoring Gaza further incentives Hamas to oppose peace with Israel and any deal its Palestinian adversaries conclude.

Since former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in June 2013, the Egyptian military has been trying to eliminate the smuggling tunnels beneath the border in the southern Gaza Strip, destroying them and expanding the buffer zone.  Egypt has demolished tunnels e.g. by exploding them, Egyptian army also fires tear gas or throws wastewater inside the tunnels to kill diggers. Rafah crossing with Egypt has been closed almost permanently since October 2014, heavily restricting those who can enter or leave the Gaza Strip. Egypt closed the border after relations soured between the Gazan and Egyptian leaderships after the overthrow of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the ensuing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its followers. Egypt has linked instability in the Sinai peninsula to Gaza causing it to isolate the strip. Since 17th September 2015 the Egyptian army has been pumping large volumes of Mediterranean Sea waters  into the buffer zone that it began building two years ago, along 14 kilometers of the Palestinian-Egyptian border. The move is the latest attempt to destroy the tunnels dug by Palestinians under the city of Rafah over the years of the Israeli blockade. (Source and more e.g. in Al-Monitor )
rafah_tunnel-e1406588938670 (2)

2014—15 Egyptian demolition of homes and terror/smuggling tunnels

In 2008 and 2009, according to media reports and the US Defense Department, the US Army Corps of Engineers trained Egyptian troops to use advanced technological equipment that measures ground fluctuations to indicate tunnel digging. In August 2013, the US Defense Department awarded the defense company Raytheon a $9.9 million contract to continue research and development in Egypt on its version of this technology, which is known as a laser radar vibration sensor.

The tunnels were first constructed immediately after Israel’s disengagement from the Sinai Peninsula, as part of the Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt. But digging got more intense after Israel declared a blockade on Gaza after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections. Hamas’s government started to flourish on what economists called the booming “tunnel economy” until current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi joined Israel in trying to destroy it.

In October 2014 Egypt announced that they planned to expand the buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt, following a terrorist attack from Gaza that killed 31 Egyptian soldiers. The buffer was created “in a move meant to halt the passage of weapons and militants through cross-border smuggling tunnels but which also puts more pressure on the Palestinian militant Hamas group.” The buffer zone originally was 500 meters, following the announcement of the expanded buffer zone many residents voluntarily left the area. Ibrahim Mahlab the Prime Minister of Egypt announced that any residents unwilling to move willfully would be forcefully removed from their homes. Between July 2013 and August 2015, Egyptian authorities demolished at least 3,255 residential, commercial, administrative, and community buildings in the Sinai Peninsula along the border with the Gaza Strip, forcibly evicting thousands of people.

On 17 November, 2014, Egypt announced that the buffer zone would be doubling to 1 km due to the longer than expected tunnels discovered, in addition to a night time curfew for the area. On January 8, 2015, Egypt’s expansion resulted in the destruction of about 1,220 homes, while destroying more than 1,600 tunnels. Some tunnels discovered ranged over 1 kilometer long and contained lighting, ventilation and phone systems. In February 2015, in response to the buffer zone, ISIS beheaded 10 men they believed were spies for Mossad and the Egyptian Army. In June 2015 Egypt completed its digging of a ditch by the Rafah Crossings, 20 meters wide by 10 meters deep. (Source and more e.g: Wikipedia )

Over the past months Egyptian military bulldozers have also destroyed many Egyptian homes to create a buffer zone of at between 500 and 1,000 metres on the Egyptian side, and 1,000 metres. Entire neighborhoods have been flattened being gutted.

 

Egypt floods the rest of Gaza’s tunnels with seawater

According  MEE – Middle East Eye report Egyptian military vehicles are transferring Mediterranean Sea water to the Rafah border, to fill a newly-built crude canal, flooding and destroying the lifeline tunnels connecting Egypt and blockaded Gaza. By canal the Egyptian government is trying to economically crush Hamas, an ally of the Muslim brotherhood. Egypt is planning that sea water will flood into any remaining undiscovered tunnels and completely destroy them. Most tunnels are usually 20 meters deep, and can stretch for three hundred meters inside Egyptian Rafah. Israel also tried to fight Gaza’s tunnels by digging a canal and pumping sea water into the 14 km borderline with Egypt, but due to environmental damage and danger to natural aquifer water systems, it built a separation wall instead; deep into, and above, the ground.

Egyptian military personnel won’t speak openly of the nature of the project, but some local experts have said the aim is to create fish farms. Water pipes can be seen on the Egyptian side of the border-leading from the beach area into the west of the city, to an area filled with supply tunnels. A local water engineer said that pumping sea water into natural clean-water aquifers will increase salinity twenty-fold.

Palestinians inspect the damage after Egyptian forces flooded smuggling tunnels dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip September 18, 2015. | Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Palestinians inspect the damage after Egyptian forces flooded smuggling tunnels dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip September 18, 2015. | Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Mayor of Rafah, Subhi Radwan believes this could lead to the forced migration of the local population. “The sea water is leaking into the clean aquifer, damaging the ground structure and pure water,” he said. Radwan said that drinking water, for the population, will not be available soon, as dirty salt water is pushed into the already damaged plumbing system of Gaza. “This will also deprive farmers of the ability to plant consumable vegetables and all forms of fresh plants which rely on clean aquifer waters,” the mayor added.

Economic analyst Moein Rajab told Al-Monitor that the pumping of salt water into the tunnels will affect agriculture and render farmlands unproductive as salt levels rise. As such, large tracts of Palestinian agricultural land that stretches along the Egyptian border will be made useless, leading to a marked decrease in agricultural production. Rajab added that soon after, the area’s inhabitants would be forced to leave as the topsoil is destabilized, further exacerbating the current Gaza Strip housing crisis. He explained, “Due to the fact that houses are so close to the border — mere hundreds of meters away — homes will become threatened with demolition or damaged to the point of being unlivable, with their foundations buckling as the earth liquefies. As a result, inhabitants will be forced to abandon their homes, which will add problems and further exacerbate the housing crisis engendered by the scarcity of building materials, blockade and pitiable economic situation.”

 

The Kerem Shalom crossing

Kerem Shalom in Israel is the main – and now practically only – border crossing to and from Gaza for goods (People are using more Erez crossing in Northern Gaza).   Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is part of the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL) agency monitoring and reporting e.g. Gaza’s situation to international community. Its statistics show clearly where movement of commodities to and from Gaza take place. To the text frame below I have collected from OCHA reports the main points about import and export of Gaza through Israel on August 2015:

Gaza Import/Export, August 2015

Gaza Import/Export, August 2015

And here is wider picture of Gaza crossings in infographic:

Commodities Dashboard I

 

The Kerem Shalom crossing is relatively small and is not enough for the entry of all of Gaza’s needs. An average of 300 to a maximum of 700 trucks enter every day. To increase the truckloads of supplies that enter Gaza from Israel and speed up efforts to rebuild the territory, the Dutch government donated a new security scanner on July 2015. Some 1,000 trucks are expected to cross with the new scanner, according to COGAT and the Dutch Foreign Ministry. (Source. The Times of Israel )

 

My  conclusions

Hamas’ economic well-being was in large part dependent on its system of smuggling tunnels snaking underneath the Gaza border with Egypt. The supply lines that have fed it cash, arms, goods, luxury items, fuel, and cement for its terror-tunnel industry suddenly were gone. These goods, which were smuggled into Gaza at obscenely low prices at the expense of Egyptian citizens, were no longer flowing in due to the closure of the tunnels. The economy of Hamas is weakening as Egypt has closed main part of over one thousand smuggling tunnels on Gaza border; before that Hamas administration got remarkable income from smuggling activities.

Gaza’s isolation was imposed originally to delegitimize and undermine Hamas’ leadership. Palestinian Authority or better say Fatah was hoping to produce positive economic development in the West Bank which could lead Gazans to overturn Hamas rule. The opposite came true as Hamas’ control grew tighter. During last year there has been talks about national reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. The Hamas-Israel dialogue is the last example that instead unity the split between Hamas and Fatah as well between the West Bank and Gaza Strip is even wider than before.

This situation can at best to lead long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Part of deal is lifting of an eight-year blockade placed on the Gaza Strip, less restriction for goods and people to go over border, importing goods to Gaza through a Cyprus port overseen by NATO representatives (until a floating offshore port can be developed). Hamas-Israel Deal could pave way for the ‘Cold Peace Solution’ and beyond. (More in Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal )

EU claims that imaginary Gaza blockade is the reason for slow reconstruction in Gaza strip while the main reason is corruption and misuse of funds. (More e.g. in Instead of Gaza’s Reconstruction Donor Aid Finances Terrorism And Corruption ). Besides emergency relief the international community gives also huge donations for capacity building activities. One problem however is that the impact of the international assistance is poor if not even non-existent in relation to sustainable development. As The Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) concluded “it has been almost impossible to trace any positive impact of these mobilized resources on the ground”. More about MAS analysis in Placebo effect for people and society with 20 bn bucks .

So called Gaza blockade or siege is one of the main causes or excuse – depending from viewpoint – for flotillas, BDS, EU’s labelling plans, anti-Semitism, donations to Hamas, humanitarian crisis etc. Given the facts referred above one could conclude that blaming Israel for blockade is at least unjust.

Cold-Peace-Solution by Ari Rusila

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

 

 


Peace Index 2015: BRIC, Balkans And Eastwards

June 18, 2015

 

The Global Peace Index (GPI) is implemented by organization called Vision of Humanity, which groups together a number of interrelated initiatives focused on global peace. As its mission Visions of Humanity brings a strategic approach to raising the world’s attention and awareness around the importance of peacefulness to humanity’s survival in the 21st century. Now on May Vision of Humanity published its new edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI). It has been expanded to rank 162 independent states and updated with the latest-available figures and information for 2013-14.

Indicators

The index is composed of 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from respected sources, which combine internal and external factors, such as violent crime, political stability and military expenditure, correlated against a number of social development indicators such as corruption, freedom of the press, respect for human rights and school enrolment rates and relations with neighbouring countries. These indicators were selected by an international panel of academics, business people, philanthropists and members of peace institutions.

Global%20Peace%20Index%20Results%20Map

Some reservations

  • Vision of humanity, its expert panel and GPI are representing mainly western methodology, approach and values
  • GPI is based to data available of different indicators and as such a compromise
  • The 2015 scores are based information collected mainly information for 2013-2014 so there is some delay

With these reservations I however find GPI both interesting and useful and anyway I haven’t seen any better global survey.

 

The Rank

To the table below I have collected the GPI rankings from the Balkans and Eastwards on countries analysed in 2015 report. In addition I have included to table also top-3 and worst-3 countries, the BRIC countries and USA. Besides 2015 ranking I show also rankings and score in 2010 [when available]  to see trend during last years as this may help to track when and how some countries become more or less peaceful. Countries most at peace are ranked first. My source – Vision of Humanity Org, GPI results, full list of 149 countries, methodology and other explanations and scores per country/indicator can be found from here! Besides my table one can also explore the data on the interactive Global Peace Index map.

 

Country 2015 2010
Rank Score Rank Score
Iceland Iceland 1 1.148 2 1.212
Denmark 2 1.150    
Austria 3 1.198    
Slovenia Slovenia 15 1.378 11 1.358
Romania Romania 26 1.542 45 1.749
Croatia Croatia 27 1.550 41 1.707
Bulgaria Bulgaria 32 1.607 50 1.785
Serbia Serbia 46 1.768 90 2.071
Albania Albania 52 1.821 65 1.925
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina 53 1.839 60 1.873
The image “https://i2.wp.com/europeandcis.undp.org/uploads/public1/images/Montenegro_Flag-RESIZE-s925-s450-fit.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Montenegro 57 1.854 88 2.060
gr Greece 61 1.878
Kosovo 69 1.938    
Moldova Moldova 70 1.942 66 1.938
Republic of MacedoniaMacedonia (FYR) 71 1.944 83 2.048
Georgia (country) Georgia 79 1.973 142 2.970
Armenia Armenia 91 2.028  113  2.266
United StatesUSA 94 2.038 85 2.056
BrazilBrazil 103 2.122 83 2.048
People's Republic of China China 124 2.267 80 2.034
AzerbaijanAzerbaijan 132 2.325 119 2.367
TurkeyTurkey 135 2.363 126 2.420
IndiaIndia 143 2.504 128 2.516
Ukraine Ukraine 150 2.845 97 2.115
Russia Russia 152 2.954 143 3.013
AfghanistanAfghanistan 160 3.427 147 3.252
Iraq Iraq 161 3.444 149 3.406
Syria 162 3.645    

Highlights

  • Since last year, 81 countries have become more peaceful, while 78 have deteriorated.
  • Many countries in Europe, the world’s most peaceful region, have reached historically high levels of peace. 15 of the 20 most peaceful countries are in Europe.
  • Also Balkans has bacome more peaceful as all countries of this region made better ranks between positions Slovenia – 15 to Macedonia (FYROM) -71.
  • All ranks of BIRC countries as well USA went down. 
  • In general the world is less peaceful today than it was in 2008. The indicators that have deteriorated the most are the number of refugees and IDPs, the number of deaths from internal conflict and the impact of terrorism. Last year alone it is estimated that 20,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks up from an average of 2,000 a year only 10 years ago.
  • Due to an increase in civil unrest and terrorist activity, the Middle East and North Africa is now the world’s least peaceful region for the first time since the Index began.  The best in Mideast ranks was Jordan -71 following Saudi Arabia -95, Egypt -137, Iran -138, Lebanon -145, Israel -150 and on the bottom Iraq -161 and Syria -162.
  • The country that suffered the most severe deterioration in peace was Libya, which now ranks 149th of 162 countries. Ukraine suffered the second largest deterioration, from 97 to 150: following a revolution which brought down the administration of Viktor Yanukovych, Russia supported regions of East Ukraine agains Kiev regime, meaning it scored poorly on organised conflict indicators.
  • Globally the intensity of internal armed conflict has increased dramatically, with the number of people killed in conflicts rising over 3.5 times from 49,000 in 2010 to 180,000 in 2014.
  • The economic impact of violence reached a total of US$14.3 trillion or 13.4% of global GDP last year.

Economic%20impact%20of%20violence_1

Peace and global challenge

“The world is over-armed and peace is under-funded” (Ban Ki-moon )

Related to the economic impact of violence one esily can see that peace has also its monetary value in terms of business growth and economic development.  However also war has its monetary value and in short term business – especially inside military-industrial-complex – world the profits from war can be more attracting than those from peace. In my previous articles Arms Trade: The Crux Of The MIC“, BTW MIC Still Rules and   “Peacemaking – How about solving Conflicts too?”.

Global challenges, such as climate change, decreasing biodiversity, lack of fresh water and overpopulation, call for global solutions and these solutions will require co-operation on a global scale unparalleled in history. Peace is the essential prerequisite because without it the level of needed co-operation, inclusiveness and social equity necessary to solve these challenges will not be achieved. The big challenge at global, regional and state level is to strengthen factors – or “drivers” of peace in social structures and attitudes.

 

 

 

 


Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander

April 30, 2015

 

For several weeks or even three months now, official representatives of the Israeli government and defense establishment have been holding a real dialogue with the Islamic terrorist group – Hamas – in a bid to reach a long-term calm on the Gaza border. These secret talks have been “partly direct” and partly through Qatari and European mediators. (Source e.g. YNet ) There has been rumours about this dialogue and both parties have so far denied them, for example a senior Hamas official said earlier that group does not conduct any negotiations with Israel; “We negotiate with the occupation only through the rifle.”

Gaza2However now Hamas official Ahmed Yousef confirmed to Maan News that Hamas is having “chats” with Israel through mediators but denied direct contacts. Yousef told Ma’an that “we await the formation of an Israeli government so things can get more serious. European diplomats and civil society activists come to the Gaza Strip constantly and pose Israeli viewpoints and convey the reaction of the movement through unofficial chats.”

While both sides are preparing for next Gaza war, estimated start in one year or even this coming Summer, there is slight chance that Hamas and Israel can broke a deal as the war would not benefit either side. If so the outcome might be a longer calm period or even a Gaza state, while Fatah led Palestinian authority on West Bank will stay as bystander or try to build its own state with their unitary actions.

Hamas-Israel Dialogue in progress

It was reported in The Times of Israel that Hamas offers long-term calm in exchange for end of blockade. Senior Hamas officials met with Western diplomats about the ceasefire, and also reached a number of understandings about the character of the ceasefire. During the talks, Hamas officials emphasized that they were willing to agree on a ceasefire of at least five years (though some sources said the offer was for 15 years), during which time all military activities “above and below ground” from both parties would end. At the same time, the blockade on Gaza would be removed, including restrictions on exports, and Israel would allow the construction of a seaport and an airport.

An Israeli official confirmed that the offer was presented to Israeli officials.

In conversations with other diplomats, Hamas presented different terms for a ceasefire with Israel. One of the draft agreements reached The Times of Israel, with the following clauses:

1) All forms of military conflict between Israel and the Palestinians will cease.

2) Israel will commit to removing the blockade on Gaza, including: opening all crossings around Gaza; permitting unfettered import and export from Gaza; allowing the construction of a sea and airport.

3) The tahdiyya [ceasefire, AR] will last between three and five years starting from the moment the agreement is signed, but the two sides will finalize the exact length of the ceasefire.

Earlier there was unconfirmed rumour that three months before the elections, Israel received a concrete and detailed proposal from Hamas for an agreement on a calm period of five to 10 years. The official Israel did not respond but both sides’ interests dictate cooperation without formal decisions in the government. And now this cooperation is changing Israel’s strategy towards Hamas and same time bypassing the Palestinian Authority.

 Hamas-agreement-1

Israeli side it has confirmed a report that Israel had received a concrete and detailed proposal from Hamas for a truce of five to 10 years. Explaining the Israeli rationale, Ynet quotes defense establishment officials believe that the absence of a dialogue that will help ease the living conditions in Gaza will lead an armed conflict in the summer, and Operation Protective Edge will be perceived as a colossal failure. The person pushing for talks with Hamas is the coordinator of the government’s activities in the territories (COGAT), in cooperation with new IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot , with assistance from the political leadership. The official Israel continues to conceal the dialogue with Hamas: It would have disrupted the elections, it’s not good for the image of a right-wing government, and it gets in the way of continuing to define Hamas as a terror organization in the world. (Source and more in Ynet)

 

Palestinian Authority – West Bank remains bystander

According Jerusalem Post Hamas is negotiating with Israel on Palestinian state in Gaza. The Palestinian officials have claimed that Hamas was negotiating with Israel about its plan to turn the Gaza Strip into a separate Palestinian entity. Mahmoud Habbash, the chief Palestinian Authority religious judge, who also serves as PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ advisor on religious affairs, said that Hamas’ “plan” to create a separate entity in the Gaza Strip was a “dangerous Israeli conspiracy.” Habbash claimed that the Israeli “conspiracy” envisages the total separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank. “Israel wants to divide the Palestinian people and turn the Palestinian territories into separate entities and cantons,” he said.

imagesUFO2G8JXKayed al-Ghul, a senior official with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), said that the idea of establishing a Palestinian state only in the Gaza Strip was first raised by late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1988. Al-Ghul warned that the “plan” would have serious repercussions for the Palestinians. Ahmed Majdalani of the Popular Struggle Front, another PLO faction, accused Hamas of working toward establishing an “Islamic emirate” in the Gaza Strip. “There will be no Palestinian state without the Gaza Strip,” he said. He claimed that the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proposed the idea about 10 years ago, when he decided to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

Another PLO official, Wasel Abu Yusef, warned that Hamas’ effort to create an “Islamic emirate” in the Gaza Strip would hinder the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and solidify divisions among the Palestinians. He urged Palestinians to work toward scuttling Hamas’ alleged scheme. Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf claimed that Israel and Hamas have already reached understandings regarding the separate state in the Gaza Strip. “This is an Israeli plot designed to eliminate the Palestinian cause,” he argued. “What is the price that Hamas will pay to Israel in return for allowing the movement to establish its mini-state in the Gaza Strip?” (Source Jerusalem Post )

 

Preparations ongoing for the next war

Despite dialogue both sides are preparing themselves for the next war. Hamas is intensively rebuilding its terror tunnel infrastructure, that were used to attack Israelis during previous war, with the digging reportedly taking place six days a week with three shifts each day. Over 1,000 diggers are said to be employed by Hamas to construct the tunnels, and the current estimation is that the tunnels lead up to Israeli territory – Hamas will extend them beyond when it feels the time is right to strike.

Shujaiya-3-300x268Iran has sent Hamas’s military wing tens of millions of dollars to help it rebuild the network of tunnels in Gaza destroyed by Israel’s invasion last summer, intelligence sources have told The Sunday Telegraph. It is also funding new missile supplies to replenish stocks used to bombard residential neighborhoods in Israel during the war, code-named Operation Protective Edge by Israel. (Source: i24news )

From the opposite side the Israeli military is actually training for the reconquering of the entire Gaza Strip next time a confrontation flares up between the two sides. A new tunnel detection system developed by Elbit Systems will protect Israeli citizens from the threat of infiltration by Hamas terrorists. Now, after two months of development, the Israel-based international defense electronics company says that they have created an effective system which uses sensors to detect tunnel building activity. The system will be implemented along the entire Israel-Gaza border, Elbit said. The system includes a series of sensors. The information they receive is analyzed using a control system based on algorithms. This method enables the precise identification of tunnel building and its location without false alarms. The system is the first of its kind in the world and was developed in Israel in record time by the Director of Research and Development in the Defense Ministry in cooperation with Israeli industries. (YNetNews )

The Lebanese Shiite Hizballah group, Iran’s Lebanese surrogate, has clearly taken a leaf out of its Palestinian ally, Hamas’ book, for a fully mobilized terror tunnel project against northern Israel. Its manpower, including engineering units, is working under the guidance of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers to sink a large network of tunnels leading under the border into Galilee. They are working efficiently and at top speed with the aid of modern Western-made earthmoving equipment and foreign professionals paid top dollar to manage the project. Debkafile

 

A Hamas State of Palestine in Gaza?

Hamas is consolidating its grip over the Gaza Strip and making plans to turn it into a separate state. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah consider the purported plan a “severe blow” to the two-state solution and unity among Palestinians. As the U.S. Administration and the international community continue to push for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, Hamas seems to be working toward establishing an independent state of its own in the Gaza Strip. In recent weeks, reports have surfaced in a number of Arab and Western media outlets to the effect that Hamas leaders have decided to establish a “higher committee” for managing the affairs of the Gaza Strip.

300px-Gaza_Strip_map2.svgMahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, last week confirmed that his movement was working toward turning the Gaza Strip into an independent state. “There is nothing wrong or shameful about labeling the current situation in the Gaza Strip an authority or administration,” Zahar said. “If we establish an emirate or state in the Gaza Strip or in any part of Palestine, this would not mean that we are prepared to give up one inch of Palestine.” (Source: Gatestone Institute )

 

The bottom line

During last year there has been talks about national reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. The Hamas-Israel dialogue is the last example that instead unity the split between Hamas and Fatah as well between the West Bank and Gaza Strip is even wider than before. It might be that the international community must define their two-state solution with new content including two Palestinian state – one Islamist emirate in the Gaza Strip and an other Fatah-controlled state in the West Bank.

Related to possible deal between Hamas and Israel there is a risk that internal disagreements between Hamas’ political and military wings could endanger it. The rift within Hamas is widening amid disagreement over several issue: First the organization’s position on the recent turmoil in the Arab world, specifically over its stance on a Saudi-led coalition against Yemen’s Huthi group and second Hamas’ policy in Gaza concerning the confrontation with Israel and the deterioration of ties with Egypt. Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades might take advantage of this instability within the organization to carry out attacks on the border with Israel without getting a green light from Hamas’ political leaders.

 

*   *   *

Earlier related to Hamas e.g:

Fatah-Hamas Accord can be more an Opportunity than an Obstacle

Analysis: 2014 Gaza Conflict

Peculiarities of Operation Protective Edge

Reality Check Time of Mideast Peace Process

Hamas’ Miscalculation: Israel Started Operation Pillar of Defense

Fatah-Hamas Deal: Three Scenarios

Will Iron Dome balance the Hamas Terror?


Top Priority of EU Foreign Policy: A New ‘Jude’ Badge

April 23, 2015

emergencyssxfoiWhen fragile Minsk II for Ukraine is ‘to be or not to be’ stage, while 21 Ethiopian Christians were beheaded in Libya and while hundreds of refugees drowned in the Mediterranean and while there the increasing chaos in the Maghreb region and in the Middle East with increasing refugee problem, when Palestinians are being brutally murdered by ISIL in refugee camps in Syria, so during these ongoing conflicts it might be difficult to decide about priorities of EU foreign policy. However EU Foreign ministers found an easy and cheap solution – their top priority is labelling Israeli products from the disputed territories (West Bank).

16 of the European Union’s (EU) 28 foreign ministers co-signed a letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, urging her to advance the creation of guidelines to separately label goods produced in the West Bank as part of an economic offensive on Israel. The labeling plan was first mooted in 2012, but the 16 member states told EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini it was now time to press ahead as part of efforts to force Israel to divide in a “two state solution.”

When the whole MENA region risks falling into an abyss of war and genocide EU foreign ministers choose to attack the only stable democracy in the region, namely Israel. And this attack even does not help Palestinians as its effect might be totally opposite.

In response, a senior Israeli diplomat told the EU “labeling products from Judea and Samaria is a yellow badge,” referencing the “Jude” stars the Nazis forced Jews to wear during the Holocaust. One should note that the letter was signed in same week when it was Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.

bds-bigotry-double-standards-bigotryThe letter was signed by Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz and drafted by his Belgian counterpart Didier Reynders who also signed it. UK, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Malta, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia, Croatia, Finland, Denmark, The Netherlands and Luxembourg were the other signatories.

 

 

Palestinian workers come under threat due BDS

The number of Palestinians working for Israelis on either side of the Green Line doubled in the last four years and now make up 2.2 percent of all workers in the country, according to the Bank of Israel’s upcoming 2014 annual report. The 92,000 Palestinians who work for Israelis make on average NIS 198 per day, while their peers in the Palestinian territories make just 45% of that, on average, or NIS 91 per day, according to the report. According to a Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics report published in February 2014, there were 105,200 Palestinians employed in Israel, including 20,200 in the settlements. (Source: Jpost )

Sieppaa

According to Israeli law, Palestinian workers are entitled to employment terms and rights guaranteed by Israeli labor laws. Based on a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, they should enjoy the same rights enjoyed by Israeli workers.

The September 21 [2014] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida article, translated by Palestinian Media Watch, said that “whenever Palestinian workers have the opportunity to work for Israeli employers, they are quick to quit their jobs with their Palestinian employers – for reasons having to do with salaries and other rights.” Wael Nazif, CEO of the Union of Palestinian Workers’ Organizations in the Jericho district, said it was “inconceivable that the Palestinian worker should receive his full rights from the Israeli employers but not from the Palestinian ones.” Surveys and interviews conducted by Al-Hayat Al-Jadida clarify that the salaries of workers employed by Palestinians amount to less than half the salaries of those who work for Israeli employers in the areas of the Israel-occupied  West Bank, which house factories, tourist facilities and agricultural lands. Although the Palestinian Authority has criminalized working in the settlements but given the high unemployment rate PA do not enforce the law that criminalizes work in the settlements.

Daniel-Birnbaum-CEO-SodaStream-Forward-BDS-quote-01There are 15 industrial zones in territory Israel seized in the 1967 war. They have about 1,000 plants — sophisticated aluminum and food manufacturers as well as tiny textile and furniture workshops — that pump roughly $300 million into the Palestinian economy through salaries .

My view

The proposed labelling of Israeli goods from the disputed territories is giving supporting message to the growing anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiments in Europe, while EU instead should promote cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. The letter might reflect EU frustration over the re-election of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his recent remarks on the difficulties of creating a Palestinian state in the current circumstances.

One should note that the employment of Palestinians, including refugees, is one of the main problems that must be solved if the stability of the region is to be ensured. Instead of BDS foreign investment to West Bank and Gaza should be encouraged; restrictions on marketing West Bank and Gaza produce in Israel, Europe and the rest of world should be removed to create employment opportunities for the Palestinians. Beside salaries Israeli enterprises provide rare opportunities for coexistence between the two peoples.

My related earlier article (in Finnish): SodaStream rauhanmallina

¤     ¤     ¤

P.S:  The BDS  poster below can be used also opposite way – as shopping list of Israeli products

bigbig

 and more:boycott_israeli_products_2014_by_islamalive-d7tnyns


Chemical Fabrications: East Ghouta and Syria’s Missing Children

April 13, 2015

In my earlier articles – see appendix on the end – I claimed that there’s little dispute that a chemical agent was used in an Aug. 21st 2013 attack outside of Damascus – and probably on a smaller scale before that – but there is a reasonable doubt if the Assad regime used sarin gas in this operation. The CW attack nearly led to U.S. military intervention against Syria. From my perspective this case should not be forgotten as it is a good example about media war and can be repeared as e.g. as false flag operation in other theatres.

It might be possible that US did not implemented planned military intervention against Syria as its political leadership knew first that Syrian rebels had chemical weapons, second it knew that Al Assad regime maybe not used CW in Damascus August 2013 and third that Syrian opposition might on the end not be better alternative than Al Assad.

However now Prof. Tim Andersson his comprehensive analysis – Chemical Fabrications: East Ghouta and Syria’s Missing Children – reblogged here below:

A Syrian refugee child sits at an abandoned school in the Wady Khaled area, northern Lebanon

The dirty war on Syria has involved repeated scandals, often fabricated against the Syrian Government to help create pretexts for deeper intervention. Perhaps the most notorious was the East Ghouta incident of August 2013, where pictures of dead or drugged children were uploaded from an Islamist-held agricultural area east of Damascus, with the claim that the Syrian Government had used chemical weapons to murder hundreds of innocents. The incident generated such attention that direct US intervention was only averted by a Russian diplomatic initiative. The Syrian Government agreed to eliminate its entire stockpile of chemical weapons (Smith-Spark and Cohen 2013), maintaining that it had never used them in the recent conflict.

Indeed, all the independence evident on the East Ghouta incident (including evidence from the US and the UN) shows that the Syrian Government was falsely accused. This followed a series of other false accusations, ‘false flag’ claims recorded by senior nun Mother Agnes (SANA 2011), a shamefully biased investigation into the Houla massacre (see Anderson 2015) and failed or exposed attempts to blame the Syrian Government over Islamist group killings, for example at Daraya and Aqrab (Fisk 2012; Thompson 2012). The Islamist groups’ use of chemical weapons was mostly dismissed by the western powers, and that dismissal has been reflected in most western media reports. However, because the chemical weapon claims have been repeated for years, public perceptions seem to have little reference to facts based on evidence. After a little background, let’s consider the independent evidence on the East Ghouta incident, in some detail. Arising from that evidence we are led to another serious crime of war, the fate of the dead or drugged children portrayed in those infamous images.

1. Chemical Weapons in Syria

Chemical weapons are a crude relic of an earlier era, such as the trench warfare of a century ago. They have no utility in urban warfare, where an army hunts armed groups amongst streets, buildings and civilian populations. No real utility, unless a ruthless party wants to create a general panic. In the case of the Syrian Arab Army, their conventional weapons were far superior to such crude weapons and their urban warfare training, often done in Iran, had the aim of rooting out terrorist groups, building by building (al Akhras 2013). A stockpile of chemical weapons had been kept as a deterrent to Israel, which holds nuclear weapons; but there had been no proven use of them in recent decades.

By mid 2013 the war had turned in favour of the Government. Although parts of Aleppo and some parts of eastern Syria were held by various Islamist groups, the Army had secured the major populated areas in western Syria and had closed much of the armed traffic across the mountainous Lebanese border. Along the borders with states which backed the Islamists – Turkey, Israel and Jordan – there were regular incursions, but they were always beaten back by the Syrian Army. Over May-June 2013 the Army, backed by Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia, took back the city of Qusayr, south-west of Homs, from a combination of the Farouq Brigade and Jabhat al Nusra, including many foreigners (Mortada 2013).

In this context anti-government armed Islamist groups were accused of using chemical weapons. The main foreign support group for the Syrian Islamists, Jabhat al Nusra, were reported to have seized a chemical factory near Aleppo in December 2012 (Gerard Direct 2012). Then in March the Syrian Government complained to the UN that sarin gas had been used in a major battle with the Islamists at Khan al Assal, west of Aleppo. The Syrian news agency SANA reported that terrorists had fired a rocket ‘containing chemical materials’, killing 16 people and wounding 86, soldiers and civilians. The death toll later rose to 25 (Barnard 2013). The Muslim Brotherhood-aligned British-based source, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, along with other anti-government ‘activists’, confirmed the casualties but insinuated that the Syrian Army might have used the weapons and ‘accidentally’ hit themselves (Barnard 2013). Western media reports mostly elevated the Islamist counter-claims to the level of the Government’s report. In April 2013 Jabhat al Nusra was reported as having gained access to chlorine gas (NTI 2013).

About Khan al Asal, a 19 March statement from Syria’s UN Ambassador, Bashar al Ja’afari, said that ‘armed terrorist groups had fired a rocket from the Kfar De’il area towards Khan Al Asal (Aleppo district) … a thick cloud of smoke had left unconscious anyone who had inhaled it. The incident reportedly resulted in the deaths of 25 people and injured more than 110 civilians and soldiers who were taken to hospitals in Aleppo’. The following day the Syrian Government ‘requested the Secretary-General to establish a specialized, impartial independent mission to investigate the alleged incident’ (UNMIAUCWSAA 2013: 2-3).

Almost immediately following this, from 21 March onwards, the governments of the USA, France and Britain (all of which were by then directly or indirectly supporting the Islamist groups) began to add a series of incidents, claiming the use of chemical weapons in Syria (UNMIAUCWSAA 2013: 2-6). Washington repeatedly claimed there was ‘no proof’ the ‘rebels’ were responsible for chemical weapon use. They sought to turn the accusations against the Syrian Government.

However, in an interim statement in May, UN investigator Carla del Ponte said she had testimony from victims that ‘rebels’ had used sarin gas (BBC 2013). Then in May, Turkish security forces were reported to have found a 2kg canister of sarin, after raiding the homes of Jabhat al Nusra fighters (RT 2013). In July Russia announced it had evidence that Syrian ‘rebels’ were making their own sarin gas (Al Jazeera 2013).

Despite dissatisfaction over the Houla inquiry the previous year (see Anderson 2015), the Syrian Government invited UN inspectors to visit the Khan al Asal attack site. Details were organised and the UN’s Special Mission finally arrived in Damascus on 18 August 2013. The Mission ‘intended to contemporaneously investigate the reported allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Khan Al Asal, Saraqueb and Sheik Maqsood’, that is three of the 16 reported sites, ‘which were deemed credible’. However, ‘after the tragic events of 21 August 2013’ the UN Secretary General directed the group to investigate that incident ‘as a matter of priority’ (UNMIAUCWSAA 2013: 7-8). The East Ghouta incident and claims of mass gassing derailed the initially planned investigations. Despite the implausibility of the Syrian Government launching a chemical weapons attack, just as it had invited UN inspectors in Damascus, the Islamist claims succeeded in gaining world attention.

2. The East Ghouta Incident

The main armed Islamist group which controlled the area, the Saudi-backed Islamic Front (Liwa al Islam), blamed the Government for gassing children. Photos of dozens of dead or injured children were circulated. Supporting the ‘rebel’ accusations, the US government and the Washington-based Human Rights Watch blamed the Syrian government. Human Rights Watch said it had ‘analyzed witness accounts of the rocket attacks, information on the likely source of the attacks, the physical remnants of the weapon systems used’, and claimed the rockets used were ‘weapon systems known and documented to be only in the possession of, and used by, Syrian government armed forces’ (HRW 2013a). Much the same was said by the US Government. Close links between the two should tell us that this was more collaboration than corroboration. A group of Nobel Prize winners would later accuse Human Rights Watch of running a ‘revolving door’ between its offices and those of the US government (Pérez Esquivel, and Maguire 2014).

The New York Times backed the US Government claim ‘that only Syrian government forces had the ability to carry out such a strike’ (Gladstone and Chivers 2013). The paper claimed vector calculations of the rocket trajectories indicated they must have been fired from Syrian Army bases in Damascus (Parry 2013). Yet studies at MIT quickly showed the rockets to have a much shorter range than was suggested. The NYT retreated from its telemetry claims saying, while ‘some argued that it was still possible the government was responsible’, new evidence ‘undermined the Obama administration’s assertions’ about the rocket launch points’ (Chivers 2013; also Parry 2013). The final MIT report was more emphatic, concluding that the rockets ‘could not possibly have been fired at East Ghouta from the ‘heart’, or from the eastern edge, of the Syrian Government controlled area shown in the intelligence map published by the White House on August 30, 2013’ (Lloyd and Postol 2014).

While western media outlets mostly repeated Washington’s accusations, independent reports continued to contradict the story. Journalists Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh reported direct interviews with ‘doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families’ in the East Ghouta area. Many believed that the Islamists had received chemical weapons via Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the gas attack (Gavlak and Ababneh 2013). The father of a rebel said his son had asked ‘what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry’. His son and 12 other rebels were ‘killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha’ (Gavlak and Ababneh 2013). A female fighter complained they had no instructions on how to use chemical weapons. A rebel leader said much the same. Many of those interviewed reported that their salaries came from the Saudi government (Gavlak and Ababneh 2013).

Next a Syrian group, ISTEAMS, led by Mother Agnes Mariam, carried out a detailed examination of the video evidence, noting that bodies had been manipulated for the images and that many of the children appeared ill or drugged (ISTEAMS 2013: 32-35). The videos used ‘artificial scenic treatment … there is a flagrant lack of real families in East Ghouta … so who are the children that are exposed in those videos? (ISTEAMS 2013: 44). All reports came from ‘rebel’ controlled areas. The medical office of the area claimed 10,000 injured and 1,466 killed, 67% of whom were women and children; while the Local Coordinating Committee (an FSA linked group) said there were 1,188 victims; but videos showed less than 500 bodies, by no means all dead (ISTEAMS 2013: 36-38). Even more striking was the subsequent absence of verified bodies. ‘Eight corpses are seen buried. [The] remaining 1,458 corpses, where are they? Where are the children?’ (ISTEAMS 2013: 41). A ‘rebel’ spokesperson claimed that ‘burials took place quickly for fear the bodies might decompose as a result of the heat’ (Mroue 2013).

The ISTEAMS report suggested a possible link with a large scale abduction of children in Ballouta, Northern Latakia, just two weeks prior to the East Ghouta incident. ‘We refer also the list of the victims of the invasion of 11 Alawite villages in Lattakia the 4th of August 2013, where 150 women and children were abducted by Jobhat Al Nosra’ (ISTEAMS 2013: 43). The report said: ‘the families of some adducted women and children … recognise their relatives in the videos’, and called for an ‘unbiased’ investigation to determine the identity and whereabouts of the children (ISTEAMS 2013: 44). Later reports noted that the children abducted in northern Syria had been held in the northern town of Selma (Martin 2014; Mesler 2014), with one alleging the armed groups had drugged those children to create a video, sending it to East Ghouta to be uploaded (Mesler 2014). If this were true, those children were never in the East Ghouta.

At the end of 2013 a Turkish lawyers and writers group issued a substantial report on crimes against civilians in Syria. A particular focus was the responsibility of the Turkish Government, which was backing the ‘rebel’ groups. The report concluded that ‘most of the crimes’ against Syrian civilians, including the East Ghouta attack, were committed by ‘armed rebel forces in Syria’. The Saudi backed group Liwa al Islam, led by Zahran Alloush, was said ‘by several sources to be the organization behind the chemical attack (Peace Association and Lawyers for Justice 2013).

North American veteran journalist Seymour Hersh interviewed intelligence agents and concluded that Washington’s claims on the evidence had been fabricated. Al Nusra ‘should have been a suspect’, he said, ‘but the [US] administration cherry picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad’ (Hersh 2013). President Obama cited as evidence the Syrian Army’s preparation for a gas attack and ‘chatter’ on the Syrian airwaves at the time of the incident. However Hersh said he had found ‘intense concern’ and anger amongst agents over ‘the deliberate manipulation of intelligence’. One officer said the attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’ (Hersh 2013). The White House backgrounder combined facts after the event with those before. Hersh concludes that the White House ‘disregarded the available intelligence about al-Nusra’s potential access to sarin and continued to [wrongly] claim that the Assad government was in sole possession of chemical weapons’ (Hersh 2013).

The UN special mission on chemical weapons returned to Syria in late September and investigated several sites, including East Ghouta. They decided to investigate seven of the initial sixteen reports (UNMIAUCWSAA 2013: 10). This Mission was not briefed to determined responsibility, but rather to determine whether chemical weapons had been used and what had been the results. In a December 2013 report they reported that chemical weapons had been used in Syria, and specifically ‘against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale in the Ghouta area of Damascus on 21 August … in Khan Al Asal on 19 March 2013 against soldiers and civilians … in Jobar on 24 August 2013 on a relatively small scale against soldiers … in Saraqueb on 24 August 2013 on a small scale, also against civilians … [and] in Ashrafiah Sahnaya on 25 August 2013 on a small scale against soldiers’ (UNMIAUCWSAA 2013: 19-21). Notice that on three of these five occasions chemical weapons were used against soldiers. Logically those attacks came from groups were fighting soldiers, not from government forces. A later report for the Human Rights Council (February 2014) noted that the chemical agents used in Khan-Al-Assal attack ‘bore the same unique hallmarks as those used in al Ghouta’; however they could not determine the perpetrator (HRC 2014: 19). The independent evidence was overwhelming and inescapable: chemical weapons had been used in East Ghouta, but the charges against the Syrian Army were fabricated.

East Ghouta chemical weapons incident (August 2013): significant reports
Source/report/evidence Method and conclusion
Carla del Ponte (UN) Pre-East Ghouta: ‘Rebels’ believed to have used sarin gas in North Syria
Various news reports Pre-East Ghouta: ‘Rebels’ (al Nusra) arrested in Turkey with sarin gas
‘Syrian Rebels’ and associates 1,300+ killed, including children, from Government CW shelling (however only 8 bodies are publicly buried)
Human Rights Watch The CW used were only in possession of the SG
New York Times Telemetry evidence links attacks to SG bases (later MIT studies force NYT to modify this claim)
Lloyd and Postol (MIT) Rockets used had limited range and could not have been fired from suggested SG positions.
Gavlak and Ababneh (MINT Press) CW had been supplied by Saudis to ‘rebel’ groups, some locals had died due to mishandling
Mother Agnes / ISTEAMS Images were contrived, no social context, only eight people buried – who are the children?
John Mesler (NSNBC) Parents identified children in photos as those kidnapped in Latakia, two weeks earlier
Seymour Hersh (LRB) Interviewed US officials. Intelligence was manipulated to blame President Assad, false claims used.
Turkish lawyers and writers group (PALJ) Saudi backed ‘rebel’ group Liwa al Islam believed to be responsible.
UN Dec 2013 report on CW attacks in Syria CW were used in East Ghouta; three of five CW attacks were ‘against soldiers’ or ‘against soldiers and civilians’
HRC Feb 2014 report chemical agents used in Khan-Al-Assal attack ‘bore the same unique hallmarks’ as those used in East Ghouta

Independent evidence came from Syrian, Jordanian, Turkish and US sources, and from a United Nations team. Further, many of the displays of children were not reliably linked to East Ghouta. Nor is there independent verification of who those children are and what happened to them. The weight of evidence proves this was another ‘false flag’ incident, designed to attract deeper foreign intervention. The scale of independent reporting which undermines claims against the Syrian Government stands in contrast to the open self-publicity of ‘rebel’ atrocities such as beheadings, public executions, truck bombings, mortaring of cities, bombing of hospitals and destruction of mosques and churches. The fact that the Syrian Army strongly contests civilian atrocity claims (the treatment of captured fighters is another matter), while many of the ‘rebel’ groups publicise their own atrocities against civilians, sets a distinct background to these controversies.

3. Chemical Fabrications and Syria’s Missing Children

After the East Ghouta incident, Islamist groups supported by a range of anti-Syrian governments kept up their accusations, while covering up their own exposures. Jabhat al Nusra claimed the chemicals they were caught with in Turkey were ‘not for making sarin gas’ (Today’s Zaman 2013). Yet video evidence from south Syria showed al Nusra using chemical weapons against Syrian soldiers (Turbeville 2014). In July 2014 barrels containing sarin were reported as discovered in parts of ‘rebel-held Syria’ (RT 2014). Then in 2015 Iraqi Kurds reported the al-Nusra breakaway group ISIS using chemical weapons (Solomon 2015; Ariel 2015). Kurdish fighters seized chlorine canisters after a suicide bomb attack which left them ‘dizzy, nauseous and weak’ (Akbar 2015).

Anti-Syrian ‘activists’, plus US-based NGOs such as Avaaz, the Syria Campaign and The White Helmets, also repeated and extended their accusations, while urging a Libyan styled ‘no fly zone’ (NFZ Syria 2015; White Helmets 2015), clearly intended to topple the Government in Damascus. By 2014 there seemed little chance that would happen. Such one-sided campaigns seemed unlikely to do much except help extend the killings. In April 2014 Al Jazeera accused the Syrian Government of using chlorine gas (Baker 2014), while anonymous activists’ accused the Syrian army of a poison gas attack (Mroue and Lucas 2015). In neither case was there any independent verification. Counter-campaigners exposed the financial and political links between Washington and a range of US-based ‘civil society’ groups like Avaaz (Morningstar 2014; Sterling 2015). Nevertheless, media channels repeated the initial claims of the East Ghouta incident, as though they were fact, oblivious to the evidence. An April 2015 article in the UK Guardian, for example, claimed in its backgrounder that the Syrian Government had used chemical weapons and ‘killed up to 1,400 people in August 2013’ (Black 2015).

The smokescreens around chemical weapons have effectively derailed reasonable public discussion about the war in Syria, at least in western circles; and perhaps that was the point. It is sad, though, that reasonable discussion of the evidence should matter so little. Further, the constant stream of fabrications have certainly aggravated and helped prolong the violence. Islamist militia carry out their crimes with relative impunity, often blaming them on the Syrian Government.

Another crime has been buried by the chemical fabrications: the fate of the children kidnapped in Ballouta. Even Human Rights Watch reported this crime (HRW 2013b), if not the link to the children said to have been injured or killed in East Ghouta. This mass kidnapping was just one of many by the Islamist groups. The victims are held for ransom, for prisoner exchanges, or simply slaughtered because they are thought be from pro-government families. The latter was the case with Alawi families in the Aqrab massacre (Thompson 2012), while a failed prisoner exchange was behind the Daraya massacre (Fisk 2012).

However in the East Ghouta incident, several sources (ISTEAMS 2013; Martin 2014; Mesler 2014) now link the Ballouta children to the photos of the dead or drugged little bodies said to be in Ghouta. That is, their images may have been uploaded from East Ghouta but the bodies were never there. While some of those kidnapped were released in a 2014 prisoner exchange, many are still held; and this is said to be why many families in north Syria have not yet more publicly identified their children. The want to see them released. Western media sources continue refer to ’1,400′ dead, without names, but only eight bodies are known to have been buried. In the fog of war, Mother Agnes Mariam has been right all along to insist on names and details of people killed, and not just a recital of numbers, as though these killings were a cricket match. Back in September 2013 her ISTEAMS group posed one of the most most vital questions of this whole affair: ‘Eight corpses are seen buried’. [The] remaining 1,458 corpses, where are they? Where are the children?’ (ISTEAMS 2013: 41).

Notes:

Al Akhras, Samir (2013) Interview with this writer, Damascus, 24 December

Al Jazeera (2013) ‘Syria rebels made own sarin gas, says Russia’, 10 July, online: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/07/20137920448105510.html

Anderson, Tim (2015) ‘The Houla Massacre Revisited: “Official Truth” in the Dirty War on Syria’, Global Research, 24 March, online: http://www.globalresearch.ca/houla-revisited-official-truth-in-the-dirty-war-on-syria/5438441

Ariel, Ben (2015) ‘United States ‘concerned’ about ISIS use of chlorine gas’, Arutz Sheva, 17 March, online:http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/192730#.VSJJc5MY6q4

Akbar, Jay (2015) ‘More evidence emerges of ISIS using chemical weapons as Kurdish fighters seize chlorine canisters after suicide bomb attack that left them ‘dizzy, nauseous and weak’’, 15 March, Daily Mail, online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2995150/More-evidence-emerges-ISIS-using-chemical-weapons-Kurdish-fighters-seize-chlorine-canisters-suicide-bomb-attack-left-dizzy-nauseous-weak.html

Baker, Graeme (2014) ‘Syrian regime accused of chlorine gas attacks’, Al Jazeera, 17 April, online:http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/04/syrian-regime-accused-chlorine-gas-attacks-201441703230338216.html

Barnard, Anne (2013) ‘Syria and Activists Trade Charges on Chemical Weapons’, New York Times, 19 March, online:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/20/world/middleeast/syria-developments.html?pagewanted=all

BBC (2013) UN’s Del Ponte says evidence Syria rebels ‘used sarin’’, 6 May, online: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-22424188

Black, Ian (2015) ‘Former ambassador attacks Cameron’s ‘arrogant’ Syria policy’, UK Guardian, 8 April, online:http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/apr/07/former-ambassador-attacks-camerons-arrogant-syria-policy

Chivers, C.J. (2013) ‘New Study Refines View of Sarin Attack in Syria’, New York Times, online: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/29/world/middleeast/new-study-refines-view-of-sarin-attack-in-syria.html

Eva Pal (2014) ‘Talk with Lilly Martin and Steven Sahiounie, part 1’, YouTube, May 10, online:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc2HRk42O-w

Fisk, Robert (2012) ‘Inside Daraya – how a failed prisoner swap turned into a massacre’, 29 August:http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-inside-daraya–how-a-failed-prisoner-swap-turned-into-a-massacre-8084727.html

Gavlak, Dale and Yahya Ababneh (2013) ‘Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack’, MINT PRESS, August 29, online: http://www.mintpressnews.com/witnesses-of-gas-attack-say-saudis-supplied-rebels-with-chemical-weapons/168135/

Gerard Direct (2012) ‘Syria: jihadist al-Nusra Front seizes chemical factory near Aleppo’, 9 December, online:http://gerarddirect.com/2012/12/09/syria-jihadist-al-nusra-front-siezes-chemical-factory-in-allepo/

Gladstone, Rick and C.J Chivers (2013) ‘Forensic Details in U.N. Report Point to Assad’s Use of Gas’, New York Times, 16 September, online: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/17/world/europe/syria-united-nations.html?_r=0&amp;adxnnl=1&amp;adxnnlx=1387381766-55AjTxhuELAeFSCuukA7Og

Hersh, Seymour M. (2013) ‘Whose Sarin?’, London Review of Books, Vol. 35 No. 24, 19 December, 9-12, online:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n24/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin

Hersh, Seymour M. (2014) ‘The Red Line and the Rat Line’, London Review of Books, 36:8, 17 April, pp 21-24, online:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line

HRC (2014) ‘Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic’, Human Rights Council, A/HRC/25/65, 12 February, online: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/IICISyria/Pages/IndependentInternationalCommission.aspx

HRW (2013a) ‘Attacks on Ghouta: Analysis of Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria’, Human Rights Watch, Washington,10 September, online: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/09/10/attacks-ghouta

HRW (2013b) ‘You Can Still See Their Blood’, Human Rights Watch, Washington, 11 October, online:http://www.hrw.org/node/119675/

ISTEAMS (2013) ‘Independent Investigation of Syria Chemical Attack Videos and Child Abductions’, 15 September, online:http://www.globalresearch.ca/STUDY_THE_VIDEOS_THAT_SPEAKS_ABOUT_CHEMICALS_BETA_VERSION.pdf

Lloyd, Richard and Theodore A. Postol (2014) ‘Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013’, MIT, January 14, Washington DC, online: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1006045-possible-implications-of-bad-intelligence.html#storylink=relast

Malas, Nour (2013) ‘As Syrian Islamists Gain, It’s Rebel Against Rebel’, Wall Street Journal, 29 may, online:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323975004578499100684326558.html

Martin, Lilly (2014) in Deena Stryker ‘The Hidden Australia/Syria Story’, Op Ed News, 22 December, online:http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Hidden-Australia-Syria-by-Deena-Stryker-Children_Community_Death_Government-141222-294.html

Mesler, John (2014) ‘Combating the Propaganda Machine in Syria: The ‘Moderate Opposition’, the Children from Ballouta, and the Sarin Gas Attack on Eastern Ghouta’, NSNBC, 10 October, online: http://nsnbc.me/2014/10/10/combating-propaganda-machine-syria/

Morningstar, Cory (2014) ‘Syria, Avaaz, Purpose and the art of selling hate for empire’, Wrong Kinds of Green, 17 September, online: http://wrongkindofgreen.org/tag/white-helmets/

Mortada, Radwan (2012) ‘Syria Alternatives (II): no homegrown solutions’, Al Akhbar, 13 June, online: http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/syria-alternatives-ii-no-homegrown-solutions

Mortada, Radwan (2013) ‘The Battle for Qusayr: Decisive Victory or War of Attrition?’, Al Akhbar, May 21, online:http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/15864

Mroue, Bassem (2013) ‘Syrian forces bomb area of alleged chemical attack’ USA Today, 22 August, online:http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/08/22/syria-attack/2683855/

Mroue, Bassem and Ryan Lucas (2015) ‘Activists accuse Syrian military of deadly poison gas attack’, 17 march, online:http://news.yahoo.com/group-syrian-attacks-may-amount-war-crimes-074128323.html

NFZ Syria (2015) ‘Call from Syria: London march 26th April’, 4 April, online: http://www.nfzsyria.org/

NTI (2013) ‘Syrian militants have access to chlorine gas: plant owner’, 1 April, online: http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/syrian-militants-have-access-chlorine-gas-plant-owner/

Parry, Robert (2013) ‘NYT Backs Off Its Syria-Sarin Analysis’, Global Research, 30 December, online:http://www.globalresearch.ca/nyt-backs-off-its-syria-sarin-analysis/5363023

Peace Association and Lawyers for Justice in Turkey (2013) ‘War Crimes Committed Against the People of Syria’, December, online: http://www.wpc-in.org/sites/default/files/documents/war-crimes-committed-againts-the-people-of-syria.pdf

RT (2013) ‘Turkey finds sarin gas in homes of suspected Syrian Islamists – reports’, 30 may, online: http://rt.com/news/sarin-gas-turkey-al-nusra-021/

RT (2014) ‘‘Abandoned’ barrels containing deadly sarin seized in rebel-held Syria’, 8 July, online: http://rt.com/news/171076-two-sarin-barrels-found-syria/

SANA (2011) ‘Mother Agnes Merriam al-Saleeb: Nameless Gunmen Possessing Advanced Firearms Terrorize Citizens and Security in Syria’, Syrian Free Press Network, 19 November, online: http://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/2011/11/19/mother-agnes-merriam-al-saleeb-nameless-gunmen-possessing-advanced-firearms-terrorize-citizens-and-security-in-syria/

Smith-Spark, Laura and Tom Cohen (2013) ‘U.S., Russia agree to framework on Syria chemical weapons’, CNN, 15 September, online: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/09/14/politics/us-syria/

Solomon, Erica (2015) ‘Iraqi Kurds claim ISIS used chemical weapons’, Financial Times, 14 March, online:http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/6e69cfca-ca78-11e4-8973-00144feab7de.html#axzz3WW8sO2k1

Turbeville, Brandon (2014) ‘New video evidence points to al-Nusra chemical attack against Syrian soldiers’, 5 May, Online:http://www.activistpost.com/2014/05/new-video-evidence-points-to-al-nusra.html

Stack, Liam and Hania Mourtada (2012) ‘Members of Assad’s Sect Blamed in Syria Killings’, New York Times, December 12, online: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/13/world/middleeast/alawite-massacre-in-syria.html?_r=0

Sterling, Rick (2015) ‘Humanitarians for War on Libya’, Syrian Free Press, 5 April, online: https://syrianfreepress.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/report-44442/

Thompson, Alex (2012) ‘Was there a massacre in the Syrian town of Aqrab?’, 14 December: http://blogs.channel4.com/alex-thomsons-view/happened-syrian-town-aqrab/3426

Today’s Zaman (2013) ‘Detained al-Nusra members say chemicals not for making sarin gas’, 13 September, online:http://www.todayszaman.com/national_detained-al-nusra-members-say-chemicals-not-for-making-sarin-gas_326332.html

UN (2013) United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, December, online: https://unoda-web.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/report.pdf

UNMIAUCWSAA (2013) ‘Final report’, United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, 12 December, online: https://unoda-web.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/report.pdf

White Helmets (2015) ‘It’s time to stop the bombs’, March, online: https://www.whitehelmets.org/

o o o

Original article by Tim Anderson [GlobalResearch 12/4/2015]

o o o

Appendix: Some of my own articles about Syria:

Syria Updates: The New Islamic Front And Whodunnit III
Syria Chemical Weapons Attack – Whodunnit II
Demolition Of CW Stockpiles Is Only Contributory Factor In The Syria War
The Four-stage Plan For Syria – Can It Work
Whodunnit in Syria
Syrian Rebels Admit Chemical Attack In Damascus???
Syria: From War To Dissolution With Help Of Media


Does Israeli Society explain Its Superiority in The Middle East?

June 24, 2014

In Arab and Iranian dictators’ propaganda there is almost no problem that is not caused by the existence of Israel, the Middle East’s sole democracy. Most of the Arab and Muslim states do not recognize Israel’s right to exist. However the freest Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East live in Israel. The Israeli government is the only one in the Middle East that is elected by free citizens — including Arabs and Muslims. Ironically even Islamic values seems better to be implemented in Western countries than in any country in world dominated by Islam.
In my opinion the modern society based on (Western or European) civilization or cultural history might explain the huge imbalance in the Great Middle East.The core reason for the imbalance between societies in the great Middle East might be from my point of view in the role of religion in different societies – in the lines between religion and secularism , between state and religion, between theocracy and democracy.

 

Why are Muslims so backward and powerless?

All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.(Richard Dawkins)

Why Arabic Spring transformed itself Islamic winter and why also after that it is so difficult to establish some kind of constititional democracy in any Arab country even if the majority of population demands the change of regime. A quite good answer I found from article Why are Muslims so backward and powerless? written by Dr.Farrukh Saleem, the Pakistani Executive Director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a think tank established in 2007 and an Islamabad-based freelance columnist. Some highlights from his article describing not only Arab states but Muslim world in general:

  • There are an estimated 1,476,233,470 Muslims on the face of the planet: one billion in Asia, 400 million in Africa, 44 million in Europe and six million in the Americas . Every fifth human being is a Muslim; for every single Hindu there are two Muslims, for every Buddhist there are two Muslims and for every Jew there are one hundred Muslims. There are 57 member-countries of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), and all of them put together have around 500 universities; one university for every three million Muslims. The United States has 5,758 universities and India has 8,407. In 2004, Shanghai Jiao Tong University compiled an ‘Academic Ranking of World Universities’ , and intriguingly, not one university from Muslim-majority states was in the top-500.
  • As per data collected by the UNDP, literacy in the Christian world stands at nearly 90 per cent and 15 Christian-majority states have a literacy rate of 100 per cent. A Muslim-majority state, as a sharp contrast, has an average literacy rate of around 40 per cent and there is no Muslim-majority state with a literacy rate of 100 per cent.
  • Some 98 per cent of the ‘literates’ in the Christian world had completed primary school, while less than 50 per cent of the ‘literates’ in the Muslim world did the same.
  • Around 40 per cent of the ‘literates’ in the Christian world attended university while no more than two per cent of the ‘literates’ in the Muslim world did the same.
  • Muslim-majority countries have 230 scientists per one million Muslims. The US has 4,000 scientists per million and Japan has 5,000 per million. In the entire Arab world, the total number of full-time researchers is 35,000 and there are only 50 technicians per one million Arabs. (in the Christian world there are up to 1,000 technicians per one million).
  • Furthermore, the Muslim world spends 0.2 per cent of its GDP on research and development, while the Christian world spends around five per cent of its GDP.

Dr. Saleem concludes that the Muslim world lacks the capacity to produce knowledgeand continues his statistics:

  • Daily newspapers per 1,000 people and number of book titles per million are two indicators of whether knowledge is being diffused in a society.
  • In Pakistan, there are 23 daily newspapers per 1,000 Pakistanis while the same ratio in Singapore is 360. In the UK , the number of book titles per million stands at 2,000 while the same in Egypt is 20.

Sothe Muslim world is failing to diffuse knowledge.Exports of high technology products as a percentage of total exports are an important indicator of knowledge application. Pakistan’s export of high technology products as a percentage of total exports stands at one per cent. The same for Saudi Arabia is 0.3 per cent; Kuwait , Morocco , and Algeria are all at 0.3 per cent, while Singapore is at 58 per cent. So the Muslim world is failing to apply knowledge. Interestingly, the combined annual GDP of 57 OIC-countries is under $2 trillion. America , just by herself, produces goods and services worth $12 trillion; China $8 trillion, Japan $3.8 trillion and Germany $2.4 trillion (purchasing power parity basis). Oil rich Saudi Arabia , UAE, Kuwait and Qatar collectively produce goods and services (mostly oil) worth $500 billion; Spain alone produces goods and services worth over $1 trillion, Catholic Poland $489 billion and Buddhist Thailand $545 billion. In addition Muslim GDP as a percentage of world GDP is fast declining.

Why are Muslims powerless?
Dr. Farrukh Saleem‘s final conclusion: Because they aren’t producing, diffusing and applying knowledge. And, the future belongs to knowledge-based societies.

Country Literacy rate (all) Male Literacy Female Literacy
World

Israel

Egypt

Iran

Iraq

Lebanon

Jordan

Morocco

Libya

Tunisia

Syria

Saudi Arabia

84.1%

97.1%

72%

85%

78.2%

87.4%

93.4%

56.1%

89.2%

74.3%

79.6%

86.6%

88.6%

98.5%

80.3%

89.3%

86%

93.1%

96.6%

68.9%

95.6%

83.4%

86%

90.4%

79.7%

95.9%

63.5%

80.7%

70.6%

82.2%

90.2%

43.9%

82.7%

65.3%

73.6%

81.3%

 

Quite the contrary in Israel

For comparison Israel, the 100th smallest country, with less than 1/1000th of the world’s population, can lay claim to the following:

  • Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world. Three Israeli universities are ranked within the top 100 universities in the world. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has risen 4 points from number 57 in 2011 to 53 in 2012, according to the Shanghai Academic Ranking. The Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) was ranked 78th, and the Weizmann Institute of Science was ranked 93rd. The Tel Aviv University ranked in the top 150 while the Bar Ilan University and the Ben Gurion University were both ranked in the top 400. When ranked according to specific fields, Israel fares even better. In Mathematics, three universities made it to the top 100; The Hebrew University in 16th place, Tel Aviv in 30th and the Technion in the top 74. In Computer Science, four Israeli schools were ranked in the top 100. The Weizmann Institute was ranked 12th, the Technion came in 15th, the Hebrew University 27th, and Tel Aviv University – 29th.
  • Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation by a large margin – 109 per 10,000 people – as well as one of the highest per capita rates of patents filed. Twenty-four percent of Israel’s workforce holds university degrees – ranking third in the industrialized world, after the United States and Holland – and 12 percent hold advanced degrees.
  • Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce, with 145 per 10,000, as opposed to 85 in the U. S., over 70 in Japan, and less than 60 in Germany. With over 25% of its work force employed in technical professions. Israel places first in this category as well.
  • In proportion to its population, Israel has the largest number of startup companies in the world. In absolute terms, Israel has the largest number of startup companies than any other country in the world, except the US (3,500 companies mostly in hi-tech). On a per capita basis, Israel has the largest number of biotech start-ups. Israel is ranked #2 in the world for venture capital funds right behind the US and outside the United States and Canada, Israel has the largest number of NASDAQ listed companies. Israel has the third highest rate of entrepreneurship – and the highest rate among women and among people over 55 – in the world.
  • Israel has the highest average living standards in the Middle East. The per capita income in 2000 was over $17,500, exceeding that of the UK.
  • Israel’s $100 billion economy is larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined.
  • Relative to its population, Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on earth. Immigrants come in search of democracy, religious freedom, and economic opportunity.
  • Israel has the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita as well Israel has the world’s second highest per capita of new books and has more museums per capita than any other country. Israel has the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita.

All this from a country just 60 years young while engaged in regular wars with an implacable enemy that seeks its destruction, and an economy continuously under strain by having to spend more per capita on its own protection than any other country on earth. Israel is a success story, and it seems that it will continue: Israel’s acceptance into the exclusive club of OECD, as well last year into EU’s Horizon 2020 program and CERN constitutes recognition of its accomplishments. Its integration into the global economy is further evidence that it is not isolated internationally. In the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel will be negotiating from a position of strength. By contrast, the Arab states that are dealing with the challenges of modernity are in a severe economic, social and political crisis, particularly since the Arab Spring, and the power gap between Israel and its Arab neighbors has steadily widened. A strong economy is a significant factor in the building of military might and also in a society’s ability to withstand a protracted conflict.

Despite Islam’s rise in the region, which is problematic for Israel, Egypt and Jordan have stuck to the peace treaties. Israel continues to have unofficial relations with the Gulf emirates and the North African states. The fluctuations in relations between Israel and the Palestinians have almost no effect on the relations between Israel and most of the world. Relations with the Muslim world have actually improved since Israel established good relations with Muslim states in the Caucasus and central Asia, which became independent after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Non-Muslim Countries Lead in Islamic Values!

We must emphasize that many countries that profess Islam and are called Islamic are unjust, corrupt, and underdeveloped and are in fact not ‘Islamic’ by any stretch of the imagination.”( Hossein Askari)

In a BBC interview, Hossein Askari, an Iranian-born academic, Professor of International Business and International Affairs at George Washington University said a study by himself and colleague Dr Scheherazde S Rehman, also rates Israel (27) as being more compliant with the ideals of the Koran than any predominantly Muslim country. Not a single majority Muslim country made the top 25 and no Arab country is in the top 50. In doing the study they applied the ideals of Islam in the areas of a society’s economic achievements, governance, human and political rights, and international relations, he said. On that index “Muslim countries do very badly,” he said and accused them of using religion as an instrument of power.

Looking at an index of Economic Islamicity, or how closely the policies and achievements of countries reflect Islamic economic teachings – Ireland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Singapore, Finland, Norway, and Belgium round up the first 10”. In their ‘Overall Islamicity Index’, a measure that encompasses laws and governance, human and political rights, international relations, and economic factors, “the rankings are much the same: New Zealand, Luxembourg, Ireland, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Netherlands; and again only Malaysia (38) and Kuwait (48) make it into the top 50 from Muslim countries,” he said.
If a country, society, or community displays characteristics such as unelected, corrupt, oppressive, and unjust rulers, inequality before the law, unequal opportunities for human development, absence of freedom of choice (including that of religion), opulence alongside poverty, force, and aggression as the instruments of conflict resolution as opposed to dialogue and reconciliation, and, above all, the prevalence of injustice of any kind, it is prima facie evidence that it is not an Islamic community,” he said.

Source and more in An Economic IslamicityIndex by Scheherazade S. Rehman and Hossein Askari and in BBC interview .

My conclusions

So, why are Muslims so powerless? Answer: Lack of education. All we do is shouting to Allah the whole day and blame everyone else for our multiple failures! ( Dr. Farrukh Saleem)

In my opinion the core obstacle to democracy in Arab countries is that a big share of population does not have access to many-sided information sources nor they don’t have means to make a critical analysis even about that limited information which they can reach. When biased (ruling regime) tv-broadcasts, rumours and fanatic provocatours lay the basis to ones personal decisions the public opinion easily reflects the will of others.

The cause for the huge imbalance between societies in the Great Middle East might be in the role of religion in different societies. In Israel there is a clear line between religion and state, and in overall European or Western countries have embraced secularism. In Arab or Muslim dominated countries Islam is more than a religion and it is primarily a political system controlling all aspects of the life of the believer. The main difference of approaches is that in democracy, laws are made by people but in Islam the laws made by people are not recognized as the laws are made by God and the ruler, as the executioner of divine law, is not accountable to the people. In a strict theocratic system with Allah alone at its head and where allah’s law is interpreted by a ruling body of clerics is absolutely incompatible with democracy as there is no room for a secular political system in which all people are treated as equals.

The progress and the political and economic reforms that spread across the world during the 20th Century largely skipped the Arab world and much of the Muslim world. Come the 21st Century, with all the new technological power and information, not only with Al-Jazeera, through the internet and social networks that we are familiar with; and it hits these societies with a harsh blow; it exposed the citizens of these countries to what they had been missing. This caused a huge turmoil as these changes did not occur gradually, allowing for economic and political liberalism. The irony of the Arab Spring was that in opening the door for popular discontent, it demonstrated that while the discontent was real, it was neither decisive nor clearly inclined toward constitutional democracy.

Different paths of development – or lack of that – in Israel vs Arab countries are creating in my opinion basic obstacle to solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As democratic constitutional state Israel must deal with more or less undemocratic regimes, tyrannies,dictatorships. At best the peace treaties can gain time for some period, at worst the treaty is immediately forgot after ceremonies and photo-opportunity. From my perspective peace process can be successful only if it sprouts from the grassroots of society – otherwise it is both pointless and useless.

 


Reality Check Time of Mideast Peace Process

April 14, 2014

The Mideast peace process is now on the edge of collapse and the parties desperately are looking for a package of measures which would be the basis for extending talks beyond the original deadline at the end of April 2014. Ironically one could note that now talks are ongoing only to find whom to blame about failure of peace process.

peace logoThe Obama administration’s efforts to impose a peace settlement seems to be a disastrous failure despite whether the negotiations formally break down or a face-saving formula is adopted which is nonbinding and incorporates sufficient reservations to make it meaningless. It seems that U.S. is preparing for a possible reduction of its involvement in the Israel-Palestinian peace process and Obama administration is taking position that Israel and Palestinians need to work through current deadlock themselves. Abed Rabbo (SG of PLO) might hit the nail on the head saying “We can’t return to the empty routine, a search for a framework for talks – this empty routine which is negotiating about negotiating,”.

Is it time issue a death certificate for the peace process or keep the facade?

The apparent breakdown in the American-brokered Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is a good time to re-evaluate basic assumptions of the diplomatic process. As reports about possible deal and even changes for deal differ it remains to see if there will be extension of negotiations or not. Even if formal meetings take place the peace deal in my opinion would be extremely unlikely. “The way it’s looking now, the talks as they were several weeks ago are no longer relevant. Last week’s package deal (offered to the Palestinians) is now off the table and Israel is preparing to return to routine dealings with the Palestinians as they were before the negotiations started nine months ago,” one official said. “As far as we’re concerned, the coordination on the ground with the different security forces continues, but the peace process is no longer relevant,” he added. (Source: YnetNews )

mideast peace talks

However Channel 2 reported that based on a source in Washington Israel and the Palestinians were close to finalizing a deal that would see peace talks extended by nine months. Also the head of the Arab League – Nabil Elaraby – said he was confident that Israel and the Palestinians would resolve the crisis soon and extend peace talks beyond April. (Source: The Times of Israel )

The Palestinians reportedly issued a long list of new preconditions for resuming talks — demands that Israeli officials privately dismissed immediately. These preconditions, according to the Ma’an news agency, included a demand for official Israeli agreement to the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital; the release of 1,200 Palestinian prisoners including convicted terrorist chiefs Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat; a building freeze in East Jerusalem and the West Bank; granting Israeli citizenship to 15,000 Palestinians under a family reunification program; the termination of Israel’s security blockade of Gaza; permission to bar the IDF from West Bank Area A (areas under full PA control) for entrance to arrest or kill terror operatives; and increased Palestinian control in Area C (areas under full Israeli control). (Source: The Times of Israel ) However, according to Haaretz, Erekat denied that his team presented such a list, arguing instead the demands had been issued by Fatah officials, rather than the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation), and did not represent the official Palestinian negotiating position.


A potential deal which would extend final status negotiations between the two sides for a further year would include a Palestinian commitment not to make use of international conventions they have already joined and suspend additional applications for membership. In exchange, Israel would go ahead with the suspended release of the fourth group of 26 prisoners serving long sentences for terror offences agreed in July 2013, including Arab-Israelis. Israel would further release hundreds of additional Palestinian prisoners described as “high calibre,” and also agree to a quiet freeze on settlement construction. It is expected that the deal will include the release from prison of Jonathan Pollard, a former US intelligence officer convicted of spying for Israel 30 years ago.

Unilateral options

After Israel initially postponed the fourth prisoner release, Abbas retaliated by resuming efforts to win further recognition of a state of Palestine, over Israeli and U.S. objections. Among Palestinians, lead negotiator Saeb Erekat recommended his government unify with militant groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – designated as terrorist organizations by the U.S. – to govern the Gaza Strip. Probably the PA would now continue their unilateral steps by applying to numerous other international organizations, including pushing for boycotts of Israel and seeking legal rulings against Israel via international courts in The Hague. Earlier the Palestinian leadership was planning to apply for member in 48 additional international treaties if peace talks with Israel failed. The immediate implications might be: international legitimization of the Palestinian appeal to the UN for recognition, with European backing, and a parallel intensification of the settlement boycott phenomenon – with it leaking across the Green Line – causing harm to the Israeli economy.

American legislators – in senate and Congress and both Republican and Democratic leaders – have expressed disappointment with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas’s latest move – applying for membership in United Nations organizations as the “state of Palestine.” Both said that the U.S. should seriously consider cutting aid – about $400 million annually from the US – to the PA if Abbas continues with the process. The PA’s applications are violating the agreed framework of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Israel area CFrom Israeli point of view if even three-state solution does not come true so then unilateral solution would be in my opinion the best option. To connect main blocs up to Israel will require a land swap of about 6% and 20-30,000 households will have to be absorbed back into Israel. That is doable as this has been almost accepted in previous talks at Camp David and Annapolis as well in Olmert’s proposal at last final status negotiations 2008. (More in PaliLeaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace )

Recently Mr Yoaz Hendel (chairman of the Institute for Zionist Strategies ) offered his solution in his column in the Guardian as follows:

For the international community to remain relevant it must understand the restrictions and the available options. The most realistic practical option in the current circumstances is the drawing of borders along demographic lines. Most Palestinians (98%) in the West Bank live in Areas A and B, under the control of the Palestinian Authority. These areas are spread over 40% of Judea and Samaria. Most Israelis live in 12% of the West Bank in large settlement blocks.
The remaining 48% of the territory has 100,000 Israelis and an equal number of Palestinians. The Palestinians’ territories should be upgraded to the status of demilitarised state with interim borders and continuity based on A and B. The large settlement blocks can be annexed to Israel, and as result of that the disputed territory would be immediately halved.
It is not a permanent solution, but it would be progress. If the money from the various pro-peace organisations were to be invested in the Palestinian education system, encouraging support for democracy, it would be possible to restart negotiations in a generation. If the international community can let go of its attachment to the phrase “an end to the conflict” who knows – maybe we will have a glimmer of a practical peace on the ground, which would improve the chances for a comprehensive peace in the future.

Indeed Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett has urged PM Netanyahu to turn his back on the failed negotiations and annex portions of the West Bank. In a letter to Netanyahu, Bennett requested “to have a session as soon as possible on an alternative plan (Plan B) to begin the process of applying Israeli sovereignty on areas in Judea and Samaria that are under Israeli control.” The economy minister listed some of the blocs he wants to annex, including Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim, the settlements of Ofra and Beit El and more. These areas are home to 440,000 Israeli settlers, Bennett argued, and only tens of thousands of Palestinians, and would therefore not cause a demographic crisis and undermine the Jewish majority. Bennett compared the process of absorbing these areas into Israel to the incorporation of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, and the Golan Heights during then-prime minister Menachem Begin’s reign. (Source: Times of Israel )

palestine mapAnnexation the main (settlement) blocs from sc Area C to Israel in my opinion means inheriting the arabs: Israel would be obligated – while excluding mass population transfer as option – to give the Arabs full citizenship which would change the demographic balance. Palestinians could then have full autonomy in areas A and Band most parts of area C. While the situation is not ideal, until the Palestinians agree to full peace with Israel, they could build capacity of their society as well be welcomed as neighbors in the Israeli economic system – participating in Israel’s commercial and creative life.

Negotiating about negotiating or minor points

The whole April so far has been mostly empty talks about wheater to negotiate after April or not. In addition issues outside this formality have in my opinion been only secondary ones. From my point of view the core issues are borders, Jerusalem, refugees and security. The dispute over recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is only secondary one and simply hides that chasm.

Recognizing Israel as ‘Jewish State’ has been from Israeli side a core element in peace deal as from my point of view it is only unnecessary and empty phrase. The Palestinians have already recognized the State of Israel de facto, through Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat and then by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas. In addition, the Arab peace initiative also officially recognized the State of Israel, as have Jordan and Egypt, which signed peace treaties with it. Moreover, Israel has no need of specific recognition by any country or entity. “‘Jewish state’ was resolved in 1947 in resolution 181, where there are more than 30 mentions of ‘Jewish state’ and this in my opinion should be enough. Even if that kind of formulation would be in agreement so what is the worth of this kind of lip-service without any commitment from PA side.

West bank settlements mapSpeaking about settlements one should note that besides allowing to build new homes in disputed territories Israel also tries to remove some illegal (according Israeli law) constructions and outposts. Last example was on 8th Apr. 2014 when Israel Defence Forces (IDF) soldiers met with violent resistance from extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank as they moved in to destroy four illegally constructed buildings in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar. Hundreds of settlers participated, throwing stones, burning tires, blocking roads, and damaging IDF vehicles. An IDF post in the area to protect the settlement was also attacked. The soldiers responded with riot dispersal methods. According to reports six soldiers and four settlers were hurt in the clashes. Yitzhar is a small mainly Orthodox settlement with a population of just 1000, situated just south of the Palestinians city Nablus in the northern West Bank. It is known as one of the most extreme settlements, and its residents have a history of clashes with IDF forces and local Palestinians. (Source: Bicom )

The Mideast peace process with or without Kerry

(Kerry) has come to us determined and is acting out of an incomprehensible obsession and a messianic feeling – (he) cannot teach me a single thing about the conflict … The only thing that can save us is if (he) wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us alone … The security plan is not worth the paper it is written on.” (Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon)


In wider perspective I have some doubts if the negotiations with PA will have real impact to the Mideast peace process. One should remember that with the exception of Fatah, all PLO factions were against the resumption of the peace talks under Kerry’s terms. These factions include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Peoples’ Party, in addition to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. With this background the options of President Abbas and PA are quite limited.


One possible scenario could be a partial – temporary – deal; a gradual deal that would require neither dividing east Jerusalem nor an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, despite fears that any partial agreement will end up constituting a permanent arrangement the partial deal not necessry solve any core problems.


Failure with the Mideast peace process might be the last nail to Kerry’s Nobel Peace Prize coffin. “He doesn’t understand the situation on the ground,” Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said, adding that Kerry’s motives were illegitimate, “messianic” and “obsessive.” Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl echoed Yaalon’s sentiments, saying that the secretary was “delusional” and “detached from reality.” At the same time, the Palestinians view Kerry as someone incapable of pressuring Israel and getting results, deeming him irrelevant.

From my point of view FM Kerry’s commitment to the success of the diplomatic process and the time he has invested in solving the Mideast problem, regardless of the other unresolved conflicts (Ukraine, Syria, Iran…) in the world, should to be appreciated. Regrettably, the U.S. intervention has only exacerbated the situation and even undermined the chances of low-profile interim progress and economic cooperation. One way to continue the Mideast peace process could be to dig the archives and pull out two or three documents bearing the signatures of various Israeli prime ministers, including the present one, dust them off and implement them. Fulfilling the existing agreements could completely change the skeptical and even gloomy mood hanging over the diplomatic negotiations. The United States, which was an active partner in formulating these documents and which provided them with its imprimatur, cannot absolve itself from them. (More e.g in Al-Monitor )

peace sign israelThe peace settlements between Israel and Egypt and Jordan were achieved because both parties sought to come to an accommodation. The U.S. did not then seek to impose solutions. It only became involved as a facilitator and honest broker after both parties had taken the initial steps and invited them.

Three State Solution(s)

One interesting approach for replacing two-state solution is a new kind of three-state solution proposed by Georgetown University lecturer Ori Z Soltes few years ago. In his article A Modest Proposal: The Three-State Solution he uses the experience of India and Pakistan. Having primarily Muslim Pakistan divided into two parts by primarily Hindu India proved disastrous for decades, until finally the two Muslim states were disconnected from each other, leaving one as Pakistan and the other as Bangladesh. Why not do the same with non-Israeli Palestine?


According Mr Soltes, this proposal would eliminate the main logistical complication pertaining to the communication between the two parts of the Palestinian state. The notion of creating a land corridor between Gaza and the West Bank, with a free flow of people and commerce between the two, seems ill-conceived as an on-the-ground practicality. It effectively cuts Israel in half: how do Israelis then flow from north to south of the corridor? There have been other proposals, for extensive connecting tunnels or bridges, but these, too, are a logistical challenge. Moreover, two separate states for Palestinians would accord more realistically with a key current political reality: Hamas controls Gaza and the Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank. Creating two separate states would allow each to develop according to its own plans.

The three-state solution would make it possible for Israel to focus toward normalized relations with the West Bank, PA-led Palestinians; and on defense measures with regard to the Gazans. The possibility of Hamas being voted out by the Gazan Palestinians themselves would increase. But the potential isolation might also increase the incentive for Hamas to accept peaceful co-existence with Israel.

The idea of Mr Soltes is different than that three-state approach, which I have propagated a half decade. There Gaza is returned to Egyptian control and the West Bank in some configuration reverts to Jordanian sovereignty. From my point of view this solution is both pragmatic and doable and now more actual than ever as two-state solution is more and more utopia and road map towards it has been death for years. (More in A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move and The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )

The three-state solution essentially replicates the situation that existed between the 1949 Armistice Agreements and the 1967 Six-Day War. Beginning in 1949, Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip, Jordan occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and no Palestinian Arab state existed. In 1950, Jordan officially annexed the West Bank and granted the Arab residents Jordanian citizenship.

 

Potential scenarios

A monthly peace index, last published in March by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University, found 69 percent of Israelis “somewhat don’t believe” or “don’t believe at all” that the negotiations will lead to peace. A poll conducted last month in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research showed that about three-quarters of those surveyed believed chances for establishing a Palestinian state in the next five years are “slim or non-existent.” (Source: The Jerusalem Post )

An face-saving win-win deal now could be following: The Palestinian Authority terminates their U.N. bid, Israel withdraw their plans for economic retaliation, the Palestinian prisoners who were going to be released are released, the U.S. releases convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, and possibly the Israelis make some muted statement about restraint on construction in disputed territories in the future. Each side would be able to state that had it not been for their tough actions, a deal would have been impossible.


intifada logoThe crisis in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians has shaken up the Israeli political scene. The stability of the governing coalition has once again come into question, with Yisrael Beytenu’s leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, saying that he would prefer new elections over the release of more terrorists, and Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) calling for the formation of a new government comprised of the Left and haredi parties without holding new elections.

Publicly all sides want the peace talks to continue, but also know that they will not lead to anything. Negotiations and attaining a peace agreement that will, in the short-term, prevent regional violence and isolation of Israel, and in the long-term avoid a binational state with a Palestinian majority, are essential interests of the State of Israel. It is therefore believed that, just like in previous rounds of gestures to the Palestinians, Netanyahu will manage to reach a series of silent understandings with them and attempt to win their approval for a quiet freeze in settlement construction, rather than engage in a demonstrative release of terrorists. Such a scenario would grant Netanyahu another half a year of quiet and enable him to maintain the diplomatic status quo. In the end, however, even this six-month grace period will end, and Netanyahu will no longer be able to avoid anymore making political decisions and then the outcome might be that Netanyahu will be forced to make the necessary changes to his coalition.

In my opinion the situation now is leading Israel toward a de facto binational future toward one-state solution and this might be the worst option for both sides. If negotiations now fail so I think that unilateral moves might not be so bad idea. If three-state option can not replace the buried two-state solution so then the way forward for Israel seems to be annex the main settlements to Israel, finalize the security fence and wait if and when the Palestinian side and international facilitator want negotiate about some details based on this reality on the ground.

anti-obama plakat

Appendix:

An excellent background information in concerning the guidelines on European funding of Israeli entities in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”:


ECI Open Letter to Ashton April 2014

israel peace sign

 


%d bloggers like this: