Archive for the ‘Gaza’ Category

Obama, Israel Split On Iran?

March 15, 2009

In the capitals of two staunch allies last week, top intelligence officials spoke about the nuclear threat from Tehran. Differences were clear.

By DAVID E. SANGER and WILLIAM J. BROAD
The New York Times

Iran has crossed the technological threshold,” the chief of Israeli military intelligence, Amos Yadlin, told the cabinet in Jerusalem last Sunday, in words that were immediately leaked to the press. Now, he added, “its reaching military nuclear capabilities is a matter of adapting its strategy to the target of manufacturing a nuclear bomb.”

Days later in Washington, Adm. Dennis Blair, the new director of national intelligence, appeared before a Congressional committee and agreed that “there is potential for an Iran-Israeli confrontation or crisis” over reports of Iranian nuclear progress. But he said the Israelis “take more of a worst-case approach to these things.”

Both men were reacting to, and interpreting, the United Nations’ confirmation last month that Iran after a quarter-century of effort had collected enough atomic material, in dilute form, to produce a bomb.

Israel and the United States have worried for years about what they would do at such a moment. Now that it has arrived, the passing of the milestone has forced into the open longstanding differences between the two allies about how urgently to treat the threat. As Admiral Blair implied, the nuclear-threat clock ticks a lot faster in Jerusalem than in Washington.

Where this new dynamic leads is unclear. But the Israelis have seized on the Iranian milestone to redouble pressure on the United States for a tougher stance against Iran, and to remind the new president that their patience has a limit. In fact, Israeli officials have quietly been delivering the message that the diplomacy Mr. Obama wants to start with Iran should begin promptly — and be over quickly. “By late spring or early summer,” one senior Israeli intelligence official said the other day, echoing a message delivered in Israel to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Otherwise, they argue, the Iranians will drag talks on endlessly while speeding ahead on bomb work.

The Obama team, by contrast, is taking its time to craft a new diplomatic approach to Tehran, putting the veteran Middle East diplomat Dennis Ross at the head of a team to set up what Mr. Obama last year called a strategy of “bigger carrots and bigger sticks.” Real discussions may not begin until after Iran’s elections in June.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/1
5/weekinreview/15SANGER.html

Related:
 Never Wrong? U.S. Intelligence Says Iran Does Not Nave Any Highly Enriched Uranium

Allies’ Clocks Tick Differently on Iran

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at Natanz.

 
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Obama Throws Britain Under the Bus: Relationship “Reset” and “Regime Change”

March 10, 2009

Remember when Donald Rumsfeld made the remark about “Old Europe”?  Eeryone howlded, including Democrats.  Now Barack Obama has thrown Britain under the bus and nobody has said a thing….There is real “regime change” ongoing….at the White House…..What’s next?  A “special relationship” with Hamas and the Taliban?

Our fear here that barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel and others just don’t get it….In their haste to change everything about everything since moving into the White House, Team Obama may be doing irreparable harm to U.S. foreign policy, strategic alliances, along with the economy and everything else….

Primum non nocere

http://michellemalkin.com/2009/03/10/am
ericans-apologizing-to-british-pm-gordon-brown/

Donald Rumsfeld

By Frank Geffney
The Washington Times
.
The British are understandably mystified. Long accustomed to a “special relationship” with the United States, they are trying to figure out why the latter’s likable new president would go to such lengths to distance himself from the country that has for generations been America’s closest ally.

First, there was Barack Obama‘s decision to return the Churchill bust that had graced the Oval Office since then-Prime Minister Tony Blair gave it to George W. Bush as a post-Sept. 11, 2001, gesture of solidarity. Then, there were the successive affronts during the visit by Mr. Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, to Washington last week: A seemingly thoughtless official gift (a set of DVDs of popular American films); a painfully chilly and brief press availability before the start of the two men’s private meeting; and no formal joint press conference of the kind George Bush afforded Mr. Blair on all but one of numerous visits to Washington (the exception a hastily arranged trip right after the September 11 attacks).

The British press has offered several face-saving explanations for these serial rudenesses. Perhaps Mr. Obama is “exhausted.” Alternatively, he is simply “focused elsewhere” in the midst of cratering capital markets, collapsing automakers and skyrocketing unemployment.

The real answer, however, was supplied by an unnamed State Department official whom London’s Sunday Telegraph reported on March 8 “reacted with fury” when asked by the paper why the Brown visit was so, er, “low-key.” According to the Telegraph, “The official dismissed any notion of the special relationship. ‘There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.’ ”

Such a comment by a representative of the State Department – an institution that never saw a foreign government it wanted to offend – is a sign of how serious Team Obama is about “resetting” the U.S.-U.K. relationship. Of course, as that term applies to friendly Britain, it means something very different than when used to describe the administration’s desire for improved ties with America’s enemies, actual or potential, like Russia, Iran and “Palestine.”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news
/2009/mar/10/farewell-to-britain/

Related:
Era of Obama, American Weakness Emboldens Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Terrorists

Obama’s First Major Foreign Crisis Brewing?
.
Protocol: Brit Media Furious At Obama

Czech President Says Obama Views “Unknown” On Key Foreign Policy Issues

White House: U.S. Will Not Shoot North Korean Missile

Obama, State Department, White House Staff, Hillary “Unaware,” “Overwhelmed” by Expectations
.
Hillary: One-Time Health Care Failure Now American’s Chief Diplomat, Fouls Up First Time Out

 Obama Forges New Path in Protocol

 Hillary: One-Time Health Care Failure Now American’s Chief Diplomat, Fouls Up First Time Out

Russia Sees Obama, U.S., Others As “Weak,” “Naive”
(Now we can add stupid….)

*******

Right Wing Hard Liner May Become Isreal’s Foreign Minister; Stalling Peace Efforts

March 6, 2009

Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu is considering the appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister, news sources say.

Lieberman ran for Prime Minister against Netanyahu and several others and is considered an essential part of the new coalition government in Isreal.

Lieberman’s party, Beiteinu, will be the second largest faction in the new coalition government behind Likud, which is headed by Netanyahu.

Lieberman keeps a hard line attitude that is strictly pro-Israel.

His appointment may be a setback for peace talks with Hamas, Hezbollah and others in the region, most Middle East analysts believe.

But Lieberman would be expected to improve ties with Russia; which may directly assist American President Barack Obama’s efforts to gain Russian cooperation in ending Iran’s nuclear program.

Netanyahu has come to believe that Iran poses the biggest threat to israel, with its nuclear program and its funding and supply train to Hamas and Hezbollah.

Lieberman’s ties to Russia could help Israel and the U.S. and open a door toward new relations.

According to Lieberman, “The peace process is based on three false basic assumptions; that Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the main cause of instability in the Middle East, that the conflict is territorial and not ideological, and that the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders will end the conflict.”

Lieberman was born in Moldova, then a part of the Soviet Union.  His rough and tumble political style and attitudes reflects his previous work as a bouncer in a bar.

He would be a highly unusual pick for Israel’s top diplomat, but would reflect the sharp turn to the right in Israeli politics where Iran and its nuclear potential are feared.  Many Israeli’s also now have the belief that they are under seige on all sides by their neighbors.

John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia

Related:
CNN:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD
/meast/03/06/israel.fm/index.html

Jerusalem Post:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satelli
te?cid=1236269358120&pagename=
JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Avigdor Lieberman is loathed by ultra-orthodox parties because of his support for a Palestinian state.

Israel’s Netanyahu Warns Obama on Talks

February 9, 2009

Even before Benjamin Netanyahu finds out whether he will be Israel’s next prime minister, he is sending a message to President Barack Obama that he won’t be pushed around.

By Jonathan Ferziger and Hans Nichols
Bloomberg

Netanyahu, the Likud party candidate who narrowly leads Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni ahead of elections tomorrow, last week took reporters to Arab parts of Jerusalem, where he helped establish Jewish footholds when he was previously prime minister. No pressure, he said, would make him cede those neighborhoods “to our enemies.”

Just as he confounded former President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, Netanyahu probably will resist if Obama pushes too hard to extract Israeli concessions for peace in the Middle East.

“He’s extremely effective politically, unbelievably smart and relentlessly suspicious when it comes to the Arabs and the Americans,” says former U.S. negotiator Aaron David Miller, author of “The Much Too Promised Land: America’s Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace.”
Livni, leading the ruling Kadima party, has campaigned on the need to continue peace talks and compromise with the Palestinians. She would likely have a more harmonious relationship with Obama — if she were able to cobble together enough support to form a governing coalition consistent with her views. That isn’t certain, given the decline in polls of the Labor Party, Kadima’s coalition partner, which advocates Palestinian statehood.

“A Livni coalition would be so fragile that it wouldn’t be able to take any decisive steps with the Palestinians and stay in power,” says Roni Bart, a researcher at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.

Read the rest:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pi
d=washingtonstory&sid=aeKTFmR61kD0

Israel May Elect Netanyahu; Disappointing Outsiders

February 8, 2009

Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, last night launched a concerted final effort to become her nation’s first woman leader since Golda Meir, despite the rightwards shift in public opinion that has threatened to propel Benjamin Netanyahu back into the premiership.

The leader of the centrist Kadima party, who began the closing stages of her campaign with a rally for Druze Arab voters in Galilee last night, issued a direct personal challenge to Mr Netanyahu to agree to the television debate which he has consistently refused.

As polls showing the lead of Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party has narrowed to only two seats ahead of Kadima, Ms Livni’s campaign team believes she can overtake her rival by the time Israel goes to the polls on Tuesday.

Mr Netanyahu has emphasised the threats from Hamas and a nuclear Iran in his campaign.

By Donald Macintyre
The Independent (UK)

Israel's Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu smiles during ... 
Israel’s Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu smiles during a meeting with supporters in the northern city of Tiberias February 8, 2009. Surveys predict a narrow win in Tuesday’s vote for hawkish ex-premier Netanyahu, his comeback fuelled by the inconclusive wars in southern Lebanon and Gaza, formerly areas under Israel’s control and now bastions of hostile Islamists.REUTERS/Baz Ratner (ISRAEL)

Ms Livni, who strongly supported the recent invasion of Gaza, but has pledged to continue talks on a two-state solution with the moderate West Bank Palestinian leadership, said there was a public demand from potential leaders “to specify with which policies they plan to cope with the threats, and lead [Israel] to a better future of peace and quiet”. Meanwhile the outgoing Kadima premier, Ehud Olmert, was making what the Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, said were “supreme efforts” to leave a positive legacy by securing the release of Gilad Shalit, the army corporal seized by Gaza militants in 2006, before polling day.

Turkish TV reported on Friday that Turkish officials were holding talks in Damascus with exiled leaders of Hamas, which has been seeking a large-scale release of Palestinian prisoners in return.

At the same time Mr Barak, Labour’s prime ministerial candidate, told Channel 1 TV that Cpl Shalit was known to be “well, alive, breathing and OK”.

He added: “You know that I am a fierce critic of the Prime Minister, but in these matters, in these days, he is making a great effort, as am I … in order to expedite the process.” Whether the formidable obstacles to securing the release can be overcome remains to be seen, however.

A Hamas official, Osama al-Muzaini, said talks on the issue had so far made little progress because Israel “remained unwilling to pay the price”.

While Mr Barak warned the release of Cpl Shalit would require “painful decisions” – presumably on a prisoner exchange – the electoral effect, if it happened, would probably be to help Labour and Kadima at the expense of Likud and the increasingly popular Yisrael Beiteinu, led by the hard-right Avigdor Lieberman.

According to the polls, the main features of a relatively lacklustre election so far have been the Likud comeback under Mr Netanyahu from its three-decade low of just 12 Knesset seats in the 2006 election, and the seemingly relentless rise of Mr Lieberman, who could yet prove the kingmaker in forming a coalition after Tuesday.

Polls published on Friday – the last allowed before election day – showed Likud with 25 to 27 seats, just ahead of Kadima, with 23 to 25. Mr Lieberman’s party with 18 or 19, which, if fulfilled in actual voting, would push the once-dominant Labour Party into fourth place.

Most analysts think the rightward shift has resulted from a combination of two factors. One is Hamas’s continued control of Gaza. The other is the stillbirth of the centrist programme under Mr Olmert of withdrawing from settlements and negotiating a peace deal with the moderate Palestinian leadership. This was envisaged at the international Annapolis summit sponsored by President George Bush at the end of 2007.

Read the rest:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/isr
aeli-elections-be-afraid-be-very-afraid-160405
2.html

Israel Evaluates Cease Fire As New Government May Form This Week

February 8, 2009

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met Sunday to discuss an Egyptian cease fire proposal with Hamas, as voters preparered for Tuesday’s elections.

The first phase of the deal bokered with Egypt woud mandate a cessation of all hostilities between Israel and Gaza gunmen and would include a Hamas commitment to refrain from firing rockets into southern Israel for 18 months.

The second phase would be worked out later and would involve prisoner exchanges.

Polls in Israel show the far right leader Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud Party will be favored by most voters in Tueday’s election.

Likud generally takes a hard line against removing Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights and around Israel.

The Jerusalem Post also said on Sunday that twice as many lawmakers will recommend to President Shimon Peres that Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu form the next government as will back Kadima leader Tzipi Livni.

related:
 UN halts aid to Gaza, accuses Hamas of stealing

 New Israeli Government Clear: Netanyahu Won’t Debate

CNN:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/0
2/06/israel.elections.likud.netanyahu/index.html

Iran, Middle East Waiting More Than Good Words From Obama Camp

February 7, 2009

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said today at the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy, “The Iranian people are a great people. The Persian civilization is a great civilization. But Iran has acted in ways that are not conducive to peace in the region or to the prosperity of its people; its illicit nuclear program is but one of those manifestations. Our administration is reviewing policy toward Iran, but this much is clear: We will be willing to talk.”

“We will be willing to talk to Iran, and to offer a very clear choice: continue down your current course and there will be pressure and isolation; abandon the illicit nuclear program and your support for terrorism and there will be meaningful incentives.”

But on the same day at the same conference, Iran’s former nuclear negotiator defended the Holocaust denial statements of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Pierre Lellouche, a French politician attending the conference, said it is unlawful in France to deny the crimes of the Holocaust.

“In Iran, we don’t have the same sensitivities,” countered Ali Larijani, a member of Iran’s Security Council.

Meanwhile, Israeli warplanes hit targets in the Gaza again today as Hamas continued smiggling across the border from Egypt.

And the United nations stiopped humanitarian re-supply of Gaza, accusing Hamas of looting the supplies for its own uses.

Related:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1233
304708304&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2F
ShowFull

CNN:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/mea
st/02/07/israel.airstrike/index.html

UN halts aid to Gaza, accuses Hamas of stealing

February 6, 2009

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees suspended aid to the Gaza Strip on Friday, accusing the territory’s Hamas rulers of stealing a delivery of humanitarian supplies for the second time this week.

The announcement by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency deepened tensions between the international body that assists the majority of Gaza’s 1.4 million people and the Islamic group that controls the coastal strip.

By JOSEF FEDERMAN, Associated Press Writer

The crisis comes at a sensitive time. U.N. officials say Gaza’s needs are especially dire in the wake of Israel‘s military offensive against Hamas, which killed nearly 1,300 people, displaced thousands and caused widespread destruction.

Israel holds parliamentary elections Tuesday. New opinion polls published Friday showed a close race, but predicted the nationalist Likud Party, which advocates an even tougher line against Hamas, would head the next coalition government.

In a statement, UNRWA said it had suspended aid deliveries to Gaza after the Hamas-run Ministry of Social Affairs stole 10 truckloads of flour and rice delivered to Gaza on Thursday. Earlier this week, Hamas police took thousands of blankets and food parcels meant for needy residents.

“Hamas has got to hand back all the aid that they have taken and they have to give credible assurances that this will not happen again. Until this happens, our imports into Gaza will be suspended,” said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.

He said the agency, which maintains “working level contacts” with Hamas, had filed a protest with the government. Gunness said UNRWA would continue to distribute aid from its existing supplies in Gaza, but that stocks were running thin.

“There is enough aid for days, not weeks,” he said.

Some 80 percent of Gaza’s 1.4 million people rely on the U.N. agency for food or other support.

In Gaza, Hamas Social Affairs Minister Ahmed al-Kurd dismissed Thursday’s incident as a “misunderstanding” and expressed hope the dispute would soon be resolved.

“We welcome all aid, whether from UNRWA or international organizations,” he said. “Any international organization that wants to help or build in Gaza, we have no conditions, come to Gaza, and we will provide security, safety and calm,” he said.

The spat with Hamas created a challenge for UNRWA, which already has been pressuring Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza’s borders to allow more aid into the area.

Most cargo into Gaza comes through Israeli-controlled crossings. Israel has largely closed the crossings since Hamas seized control of Gaza in June 2007. Israel fears supplies will reach Hamas, which it considers a terrorist group.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090206/ap_o
n_re_mi_ea/ml_israel_palestinians

New Israeli Government Clear: Netanyahu Won’t Debate

February 6, 2009

As John McCain fell further behind in the polls last year, he wanted to debate Barack Obama more and more.

That is the way the Israeli Prime Minister’s race is shaping up as the poll leader Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to debate Tzipi Livni.

Polls in Israel’s newspapers gave Netanyahu’s Likud Party a slight lead over the Tzipi Livni’s centrist Kadima centrist Party in the Tuesday ballot.

Netanyahu is a hard line right wing defender of Israel who might have just taken Gaza over during the last military action — and talked about destroying Hamas.

Netanyahu probably won’t debate issues with Hamas, Iran or Hezbollah either.

Tzipi Livni sent a letter to Netanyahu asking — begging, really —  for debates.

“I turn to you personally, on the eve of the elections, to again ask you to join me in a public debate in which we, the candidates for prime minister, can present our positions and our proposals for the coming years,” she wrote.

Most observers say Netanyahu will win the election — and that could complicate Middle East peace efforts.

Related:
From the Jerusalem Post:
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=123330
4705531&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Netanyahu Ahead in Polls (From AP):
http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9
666SC00&show_article=1

AFP:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090206/w
l_mideast_afp/mideastvote_20090206134801

Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, center, reacts during ... 
Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu, center, reacts during an election campaign event in the settlement of Beit Arieh in the West Bank, Friday, Feb. 6, 2009. Israeli polls Friday showed a narrowing race between front-runner Netanyahu and his rival, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, giving Livni a chance at an upset victory just days before Tuesday’s national election.(AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

Gaza: More Rockets Hit Israel; Gazans Warned of Attack in Response

February 3, 2009

After a rocket attack from Gaza into the Israeli city of Ashkelon on Tuesday morning, Israel warned Gazans that an air stike would come soon.

Knowing that Israel has promised a disproportionate response to Hamas rockets, the rockets continue to come from Gaza.

And Hamas is shooting them.

Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said “that if there is rocket fire at southerners, there will be a response that will essentially be disproportionate.”

After Tuesday’s rocket attack, recorded messages, in Arabic, said people who work in tunnels, live near them or are “giving logistical help to terrorists” should evacuate the area immediately, residents said.

On Sunday, the IAF launched strikes against Hamas installations and smuggling tunnels throughout Gaza in response to the more than 15 rockets and mortar shells fired at southern Israel by Gaza terrorists throughout the day.

This aerial view shows the power station and industrial zone of Ashkelon, Israel, in March of 2008.

This aerial view shows the power station and industrial zone of Ashkelon, Israel, in March of 2008.

Related:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/m
east/02/03/israel.rocket.attack/in
dex.html