AP, By Cara Anna, May 22
United Nations — The United States on Friday blocked a global document aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons, saying Egypt and other states tried to “cynically manipulate” the process by setting a deadline for Israel and its neighbors to meet within months on a Middle East zone free of such weapons.
The now-failed final document of a landmark treaty review conference had called on the U.N. secretary-general to convene the Middle East conference no later than March 2016, regardless of whether Israel and its neighbors agree on an agenda.
Israel is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has never publicly declared what is widely considered to be an extensive nuclear weapons program. A conference might force Israel to acknowledge it.
Since adopting a final document requires consensus, the rejection by the United States, backed by Britain and Canada, means the entire blueprint for global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation for the next five years has been blocked after four weeks of negotiations. The next treaty review conference is in 2020.
New York Times, By Jody Rudoren & Diaa Hadid, May 13
Jerusalem – The Vatican announced Wednesday that it would soon sign a treaty that includes recognition of the “state of Palestine,” lending significant symbolic weight to an intensifying Palestinian push for international support for sovereignty that bypasses the paralyzed negotiations with Israel.
Palestinian leaders celebrated the Holy See’s endorsement as particularly important, given the international stature of Pope Francis. For Israelis, it was an emotional blow, since Francis has deep relationships with Jews dating back decades, and Christians are critical backers of their enterprise.
“The Vatican is not just a state. The Vatican represents hundreds of millions of Christians worldwide, including Palestinians, and has vast moral significance,” said Husam Zomlot, a senior Palestinian foreign-affairs official.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it was “disappointed” by the Vatican’s decision, and that the recognition would “not advance the peace process.” That echoed similar statements after a wave of European Parliamentary resolutions on Palestinian statehood last fall, but some Israeli analysts said the Vatican’s step hurt more.
Rights groups say newly revealed policy change is meant to “scare” critics of Palestinian oppression
Common Dreams, By Lauren McCauley, May 11
The Canadian government is threatening to charge those participating in boycotts of Israel with a hate crime, CBC revealed on Monday.
The information came following an attempt by the news agency to obtain clarification on statements made by federal ministers about a “zero tolerance” approach to supporters of the international Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement protesting Israeli apartheid and occupation of Palestinian land.
In response to the query, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, who is in charge of federal law enforcement, sent reporters “a detailed list of Canada’s updated hate laws, noting that Canada has one of the most comprehensive sets of such laws ‘anywhere in the world.'”
“Such a move could target a range of civil society organizations, from the United Church of Canada and the Canadian Quakers to campus protest groups and labour unions,” CBC reports. “If carried out, it would be a remarkably aggressive tactic, and another measure of the Conservative government’s lockstep support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
The Intercept: Canadian Government Says Free Speech is for Offending Muslims — Not Opposing Israel
You’ll no doubt recall the hue and cry when Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his stand on nuclear non-proliferation and his attempts to engage the Muslim world. Both the right and left in this country had great sport at this — and here I’ll agree — premature awarding of a prize to a man with few signal accomplishments in foreign policy, apart from being “not Bush”.
Six years later and I think it’s time to give him the Prize for real this time. Think about this past year: for a man who started his administration hoping to hit singles and doubles in foreign policy (consumed as he had to be by the domestic economic crisis), he’s kind of knocked a couple out of the park, provoking admiration from aboard and from mainstream Americans, and consternation from the idiot fringe that will sit on perches and poop all day, parroting “Obama bad, BRAWK!” Read More
CNN, By Oren Liebermann and Kevin Conlon, May 3
Tel Aviv – Protests in Tel Aviv over alleged police mistreatment of Ethiopian Jews turned violent Sunday, resulting in twenty-three officers being injured, according to Israeli police.
The planned demonstration by the Ethiopian Jewish community — incensed over a video gone viral that shows a uniformed Israel Defense Forces soldier of Ethopian descent being assaulted by police — had been peaceful for hours before things took a violent turn.
Authorities employed horses, water cannons and smoke to disperse the crowd in Rabin Square, which had been chanting slogans such as “a violent cop should be in jail.”
The Nation, By William Greider, March 20
While the Washington press corps obsessed over Hillary Clinton’s e-mails at the State Department, reporters were missing a far more important story about government secrets. After five decades of pretending otherwise, the Pentagon has reluctantly confirmed that Israel does indeed possess nuclear bombs, as well as awesome weapons technology similar to America’s.
Early last month the Department of Defense released a secret report done in 1987 by the Pentagon-funded Institute for Defense Analysis that essentially confirms the existence of Israel’s nukes. DOD was responding to a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by Grant Smith, an investigative reporter and author who heads the Institute for Research: Middle East Policy. Smith said he thinks this is the first time the US government has ever provided official recognition of the long-standing reality.
It’s not exactly news. Policy elites and every president from LBJ to Obama have known that Israel has the bomb. But American authorities have cooperated in the secrecy and prohibited federal employees from sharing the truth with the people. When the White House reporter Helen Thomas asked the question of Barack Obama back in 2009, the president ducked. “With respect to nuclear weapons, you know, I don’t want to speculate,” Obama said. That was an awkward fib. Obama certainly knows better, and so do nearly two-thirds of the American people, according to opinion polls.
Al Arabiya, March 19
The Obama administration on Thursday raised the prospect of lifting vital diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations, following Benjamin Netanyahu’s divisive election victory and his campaign promise that he would not allow a Palestinian independent state to be established.
“Steps that the United States has taken at the United Nations had been predicated on this idea that the two-state solution is the best outcome,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
“Now our ally in these talks has said that they are no longer committed to that solution. That means we need to reevaluate our position in this matter, and that is what we will do moving forward,” he added.
But Netanyahu appeared on Thursday to backtrack on his campaign promise, saying in a television interview that he remains committed to a Palestinian statehood – if conditions in the region improve — and to the two-state vision first spelled out in a landmark 2009 speech at Israel’s Bar Ilan University.
“I haven’t changed my policy,” he said in a full interview with MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” excerpts of which will be shown on NBC’s “Nightly News” later on. “I never retracted my speech.”
Reuters, By Ori Lewis & Ari Rabinovitch, March 15
Tel Aviv – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, trailing in opinion polls two days before a parliamentary election, on Sunday implored right-wing voters to turn out and “stop a left-wing government from coming to power.”
Speaking to a rally of thousands of supporters of Israel’s right-wing parties from behind a bulletproof screen at Tel Aviv’s main square, Netanyahu warned that the right-wing government he leads could be voted out of office.
“Our rivals are investing a huge effort to harm me and the Likud, to open a gap between my party, the Likud, and (our rivals), and if we don’t close this gap, there is a real danger that a left-wing government will rise to power,” Netanyahu said.
Final opinion polls published on Friday predicted the center-left Zionist Union led by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni would take between 24 and 26 seats in Tuesday’s vote, compared to 20-22 seats for Likud.
Exclusive: As the Obama administration is rushing to complete a nuclear agreement with Iran and reduce regional tensions, the Israeli media is reporting on a deal with Saudi Arabia to let Israeli warplanes transit Saudi airspace en route to bombing Iran, reports Robert Parry.
Consortium News, By Robert Parry, February 25
According to an Israeli media report, Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Israeli warplanes fly over Saudi territory to save fuel while attacking Iranian nuclear sites, the latest indication of how the two former enemies have developed a behind-the-scenes alliance that is reshaping geopolitics in the Middle East.
“The Saudi authorities are completely coordinated with Israel on all matters related to Iran,” a European official in Brussels told Israel’s Channel 2 in a report broadcast on Tuesday and described in other Israeli media outlets.
Riyadh’s only condition was that Israel make some progress in peace talks with the Palestinians, a stipulation that may be mostly cosmetic so the Saudis can save face with other Arab states without really interfering with an Israeli flyover to strike Iran.
Disclosure of this Israeli-Saudi military cooperation comes as the United States and five other world powers rush to finish an agreement with Iran to curtail but not eliminate its nuclear program, which Iran says is only for civilian purposes. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to appear before the U.S. Congress on March 3 to undercut President Barack Obama’s negotiations.
The reported Saudi permission for Israeli warplanes to take a shorter route to bomb Iran also suggests that Netanyahu may be laying the groundwork for his own plans to attack the Iranian nuclear sites if the international negotiations are successful. Netanyahu has denounced a possible deal as an “existential threat” to Israel.
AFP, February 20
The United States voiced fears Thursday that the Palestinian Authority may be teetering on the brink of collapse because of a lack of funding, as Israel withholds taxes and donor aid stalls.
Washington has been in urgent talks with regional leaders as well as other stakeholders in the frozen Middle East peace process in a bid to try to release more funds. “It’s true we’re very concerned about the continued viability of the Palestinian Authority if they do not receive funds soon,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. Such funds would include the resumption of monthly Israeli transfers of Palestinian tax revenues, or additional donor assistance, she said.
In January, Israel suspended $127 million in tax revenues which should have been transferred to the Palestinian Authority as punishment for its move to join the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Palestinians’ membership in the ICC, which takes effect on April 1, sets the scene for potential legal action against Israelis for alleged war crimes, in a move which has infuriated the Jewish state.