Does America want “regime change” in Netanyahu’s Israel?

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    16th March 2010

    The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth quoted the normally cool Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, an academic-turned diplomat, as saying: “Israel’s ties with the United States are in their worst crisis since 1975 … a crisis of historic proportions.”

    IS AMERICA ABOUT TO THROW THEIR CLOSEST MIDDLE EAST ALLY UNDER A BUS?

    Er, no. Though some are hinting that they will. There is now some backtracking on the heavy talk from the USA after the Israeli ambassador described the situation as ‘the greatest crisis between the two countries since 1975’. Netanyahu’s office declined to comment on the report. And still Hillary Clinton is awaiting Israel’s response to America’s list of demands, probably including the final status of Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu reminded the Knesset yesterday that no Israeli government has EVER failed to build homes in its land as then or presently constituted.  And he pushed the boat out a little further saying “Israel will build in ALL of Jerusalem”

    It may not be surprising if Israel is now feeling backed into a corner. From the Quartet to the EU, from Russia to the UN, from Syria to most of the Arab world there is strong condemnation of Israel’s announcement of the 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem just as US vice-president Joe Biden landed in Israel last week.

    The principle was bad enough; the timing was dastardly, according to most onlookers and participants in the peace process.

    1. On Friday, from The Office of The Quartet Representative Tony Blair: (without additional comment)

    ‘The following statement was issued today by the Middle East Quartet of the United Nations, United States, Russia and European Union after the announcement of approval for 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem:

    “The Quartet condemns Israel’s decision to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem. The Quartet has agreed to closely monitor developments in Jerusalem and to keep under consideration additional steps that may be required to address the situation on the ground. The Quartet reaffirms that unilateral actions taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community.

    “The Quartet reiterates that Arab-Israeli peace and the establishment of an independent, contiguous and viable State of Palestine is in the fundamental interests of the parties, of all States in the region, and of the international community. In this regard, the Quartet calls on all concerned to support the urgent resumption of dialogue between the parties and to promote an atmosphere that is conducive to successful negotiations to resolve all outstanding issues of the conflict, including the status of Jerusalem. The Quartet will take full stock of the situation at its meeting in Moscow on 19 March.”‘

    2. The EU’s High Representative will also be attending the Russian gathering on Friday. Excerpt:

    ‘The visit comes at a time of increased tensions over Israeli settlements. The Middle East Quartet (UN, EU, Russia and US) on Friday issued a statement condemning Israel’s decision to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem. “The Quartet re-affirms that unilateral actions taken by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community.”

    Israel’s decision “endangered and undermined the tentative agreement to begin proximity talks,” Ashton said in Cairo. “The EU position on settlements is clear. Settlements are illegal, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible.”

    Cathy Ashton said “the possibility now before us of proximity talks could be the beginning of a new opportunity to find a solution. But we have to be clear: talks not for the sake of talks. We want results and genuine commitment, not a restating of well-known positions. We need a process that leads to outcomes.”’

    3. Un Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking to Russian press, says “Quartet meeting crucially important”

    Ban Ki moon, RIA Novosti, Sergey Pyatakov

    The upcoming Moscow meeting of the Middle East Quartet comes at a “crucially important” time for talks between Israel and the Palestinian authorities, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has told RIA Novosti.

    Ban arrives in the Russian capital on March 17, two days ahead of the meeting of the Quartet of international mediators in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The Quartet is made up of Russia, the UN, the United States and the European Union.

    “I appreciate, first of all, and highly commend the initiative and leadership of the Russian government to host the Quartet meeting at this time,” Ban said in an exclusive interview. “This is crucially important timing for the peace process in the Middle East.”

    Ban noted that with “proximity talks” being facilitated by the U.S., “it is very opportune timing for the principles of the Quartet to express their support and to encourage further, to try to find out what kind of role the Quartet can play.”

    “I’m quite convinced that this time the Quartet leaders will be able to play a significant role,” he added.

    Hopes for peace talks were dampened when Israel announced on Tuesday it would build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem. The move came shortly after the Palestinian authorities had agreed to participate in U.S.-mediated indirect peace talks after a 15-month break.

    Jewish settlements on Palestinian territories are one of the main obstacles to continued peace talks with Israel.

    “I have strongly condemned this settlement policy, which goes counter to the peace process mood,” Ban said.

    UNITED NATIONS, March 15 (RIA Novosti)

    4. Does Mideast Peace Run Through Damascus?

    Long isolated by Washington, shunned for its support of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, the Obama administration now appears to be courting Syria as a possible solution to the problems of the Middle East.

    Syria has been using its influence over groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, traditionally viewed as “spoilers,” to drive the peace process, something that Washington appears to be using to its advantage.

    Recently, a U.S. ambassador was named after a five-year absence. And in the space of the past month, Syria has been visited by American counter-terrorism experts –but also by the Iranian president.

    It’s all a very delicate game of chess, says Damascus-based Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group.

    “You have a lot of re-alignments going on, but not simply between good and bad, between being pro-U.S. or anti-U.S., it’s much more subtle than that,” said Harling.’

    FROM THE BIBLE WATCHERS THERE IS THIS …

    Tony Blair, whose Quartet power (at least as far as the American quarter of the Quartet is concerned) has been upgraded to "political", with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    The Zionist Israel will not give up East Jerusalem, without getting something in the bargain. The state of Israel will have to be offered a peace deal that Jews can live with. Now the Papist Tony Blair will be the mediator of a new covenant, that is not based on the truth. East Jerusalem will not come under Islamic control, alone. The International community will be responsible for a new International Zone. A new Quartet promoted body will govern East Jerusalem, and secure that all the three major World faiths will get access to their Holy sites. The Temple Mount will be made into an International temple of all faiths, and the UN will establish an International peace center in East Jerusalem.

    […]

    When East Jerusalem is handed over to the control of the Quartet, the stage is set for the entry of the last antichrist.

    […]

    The London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported Saturday, that US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has promised the Palestinians that Israel will not construct new homes in east Jerusalem during peace negotiations.

    According to the paper, Mitchell told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas over the phone that Washington would provide the PA with guarantees that Israel would halt construction in the east of the city. This is reported by the Jerusalem Post.

    Quite who exactly is ‘the antichrist’ we are left guessing.

    Opinion at Fox News by Joshua Block – Act Now to defuse US tension with Israel.

    Joshua Block is spokesman & Director of Strategic Communications for AIPAC.

    Guardian: White House will not shy away from pushing for talks

    President Barack Obama and the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, are on a collision course today in a row described by a senior Israeli diplomat as the worst crisis between the two countries for more than three decades.

    An Obama administration source told the Guardian that the White House and US state department are intent on pushing Israel into substantive peace talks with the Palestinians and will not shy away this time as they did when the last effort ended in embarrassing failure in September.

    “No one gets anywhere by accusing each other. We are hoping to lay the foundations for negotiations,” the source said. In order to get negotiations under way, the US is demanding that Netanyahu cancel or freeze plans to build 1,600 planned Jewish homes in Palestinian East Jerusalem. But Netanyahu, speaking at a meeting of his own Likud party, showed no signs of backing down. “The building in Jerusalem, and in all other places, will continue in the same way as has been customary over the last 42 years,” he said.

    The Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, in a weekend telephone call to other Israeli diplomats, expressed alarm about the extent of the confrontation.

    The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth quoted the normally cool Oren, an academic-turned diplomat, as saying: “Israel’s ties with the United States are in their worst crisis since 1975 … a crisis of historic proportions.”

    Oren was called to the state department last week in a rare rebuke for a diplomat from a country the US normally regards as one of its strongest allies.

    The crisis began last week when the US vice-president, Joe Biden, travelled to Israel in the hope of securing a start to the long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. But his hopes were dashed when Israel announced the new construction in East Jerusalem.

    The Palestinian cabinet reiterated today that it will not enter into talks while such construction is planned.

    The White House has steadily built up the heat on Israel over the last few days, with the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, berating Netanyahu in a 45-minute call on Friday and David Axelrod, the chief White House adviser, describing Israeli behaviour as an insult yesterday.

    The US wants Israel not only to backtrack on the East Jerusalem building plans but to enter into talks with the Palestinians on substantive issues and not just talks about talks, as Israel wants. Washington also wants Israel to make gestures towards the Palestinians, such as releasing Palestinian prisoners and withdrawing more Israeli forces from Palestinian territory. The US special envoy to Israel and the Palestinian territories, the former senator George Mitchell, is to visit Israel this week in the hope of hearing that Israel will bow to at least some of the US demands.

    Netanyahu is scheduled to address a meeting in Washington early next week of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), the powerful Israeli lobbying group. The US does not yet know whether he will attend in person or make a televised address.

    The Israeli prime minister faces the problem of whether to offer the US a concession, such as a short freeze on house-building in East Jerusalem, a move that might lead to the break-up of his coalition government. Clinton will address the Aipac conference in person, a potentially dramatic occasion if she opts to repeat her calls for Netanyahu to back down.

    Yesterday Aipac issued a statement critical of the Obama administration and today embarked on an intensive lobbying exercise to secure the backing of Jewish or strong Israeli-supporting members of Congress.

    The more liberal Jewish lobbying organisation, J Street, said the US should use the crisis to push for peace talks. Its executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said: “Too much time has already been lost in getting the two sides into negotiations. We must not lose further time allowing a single development, as objectionable as it may be, to derail progress.”

    The US magazine Foreign Policy posted a report on its website yesterday that in January top US commanders briefed the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, that US failure to stop Israel continuing with settlement building on the West Bank damaged US relations with the Arab world. Judith Kipper, a Middle East specialist at the Washington-based Institute of World Affairs, said there had long been a divergence between the US and Israel over various issues and a recognition of this fact was overdue.

    She did not expect the US to threaten to withhold financial or military aid or intelligence and that going public was sufficient as a big stick.

    Paul Scham, an academic at Washington’s Middle East Institute, said: “What is interesting is that US has chosen to make a big deal of it. The reason for doing this is, it seems, to be ready to pull out some version of the peace offensive Obama has been promising for a year. Hopefully, it will not die down as it did last year.”

    Former British prime minister, Tony Blair, now mediator for the Middle East Peace Quartet, at a news conference in the West bank town of Ramallah, 9 March, in front of a portrait of late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat |ANA/EPA/ATEF SAFADI

    From Tony Blair while in Ramallah 0n the day that Israel made its settlement announcement –

    ‘Former British prime minister Tony Blair, now a Special Envoy to the Middle East, says the problem has become so intransigent that there is “no hope” for Palestinians unless they have an independent state, an idea now rejected by a once-receptive Israeli government, which exacerbated the idea of a peace in the region by allowing the continued building of Jewish settlements. Blair’s remarks after meeting Arab League head Amr Moussa came amid a fresh international push to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks, which were suspended in 2008. “For people in Jenin, Gaza, and everywhere in the occupied territories, there is no hope unless they have a state,” said Blair, who now represents The Middle East Quartet – an informal grouping of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia.’


    WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, THE TOUGH KEEP TALKING

    The Quartet meeting is due in Russia on Friday, but will US envoy George Mitchell be there?

    Of course he will. The US Secretary of State is already on her way

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