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.
Deutsche Welle (Reuters, AP), January 28
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned the President Bashar al-Assad’s government against further rocket attacks on Wednesday as the focus remained on a Japanese hostage held in Syria by Islamic State (IS) extremists.
Israel evacuated its Mount Hermon ski resort on the Golan Heights on Tuesday after at least two rockets were fired, allegedly from Syrian army positions. Syria, however, made no claim of responsibility.
Yaalon on Wednesday said Israel had struck Syrian army artillery posts. It was a clear message, he said, that “we will not tolerate any firing towards Israeli territory or violation of our sovereignty.”
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. Last week, an Israeli air strike killed a Hezbollah commander.
Al Arabiya: Hezbollah claims Israel border operation
The incidents came several hours after Israel launched an air strike in Syria. Tensions that have escalated in the frontier area over the past 10 days after an Israeli strike in Syria which killed several Hezbollah men and an Iranian general.
Iran has told the United States on Tuesday that Israel “crossed Iran’s red lines” for killing an Iranian general in the attack on the Golan Heights.
“We have sent a message to the United States through diplomatic channels telling the Americans that the Zionist regime crossed Iran’s red lines by this action,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.
“In this message, we said those responsible should wait to suffer the consequences of their act,” he added, in remarks carried by the official IRNA news agency.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said before the Israeli response that Washington had seen the news of Tuesday’s rocket firing and did not want “an escalation of the situation.”
NYT – The veteran CNN anchor Jim Clancy has left the network after a series of Twitter messages he wrote about the terrorist attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.
In the tweets, which were sent on the day of the attack, Mr. Clancy wrote about the cartoons the paper had published depicting the Prophet Muhammad, but he then began criticizing supporters of Israel and sparring with other Twitter users. Mr. Clancy’s Twitter account has since been deleted, but the tweets were published on several websites, including Gawker, Twitchy and Mediaite.
AFP, January 13
Washington DC – U.S. President Barack Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that America was committed to a “comprehensive” nuclear deal with Iran, and said that Palestinian ICC membership was not “constructive,” officials said.
“The United States is focused on reaching a comprehensive deal with Iran that prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and verifiably assures the international community of the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program,” the White House said in a statement.
“The president underscored the United States’ enduring commitment to the security of Israel and the importance of continuing close cooperation with Israel on this issue.”
AP, By Josef Federman & Mohammed Daraghmeh, December 31
Ramallah, West Bank – Turning up the pressure on Israel, the Palestinians announced Wednesday that they are joining the International Criminal Court to pursue war-crimes charges against the Jewish state — a risky, high-stakes move that brought threats of retaliation from Israel and criticism from the U.S.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas acted a day after suffering a defeat in the U.N. Security Council, which voted down a resolution setting a three-year deadline for the establishment of a Palestinian state on lands occupied by Israel.
“We want to complain. There’s aggression against us, against our land. The Security Council disappointed us,” Abbas said.
Turning to the international court at The Hague marks a major policy shift, transforming Abbas’ relations with Israel from tense to openly hostile. The ultimate goal is to pressure Israel into withdrawing from the territories and agreeing to Palestinian statehood.
Reuters, By Oliver Holmes, December 7
Beirut – Syrian state television said on Sunday that Israeli jets had bombed areas near Damascus international airport and in the town of Dimas, near the border with Lebanon.
An Israeli army spokesman said he would not comment on the “foreign reports”.
Israel has struck Syria several times since the start of the three-year conflict, mostly destroying weaponry such as missiles that Israeli officials said were destined for their long-time foe Hezbollah in neighbouring Lebanon.
“The Israeli enemy committed aggression against Syria by targeting two safe areas in Damascus province, in all of Dimas and near the Damascus International Airport,” state television said, adding that there were no casualties.
AP: Syria says Israeli airstrikes hit near Damascus
As the world focuses attention on confrontations in Jerusalem, violence is spreading among Israel’s Arab population in other parts of the country.
The Daily Beast, By Creede Newton, November 10
Haifa, Israel — Over the past few days, the north of Israel caught fire.
The whole region has been a tinderbox for weeks as Israelis and Palestinians have clashed over access to the al Aqsa compound in the historic old city of Jerusalem.
The al Aqsa mosque sits on the site of the historical Jewish Temple and right-wing Israelis have been campaigning for the right to pray in the mosque, enraging Palestinians, regardless of creed.
Things have gotten ugly. Tit-for-tat car rammings have left toddlers and infants dead, assassination attempts targeting right-wing Israeli activists have incited Israeli demonstrators, and the extra-judicial killings of Palestinian suspects has enraged the Arab population.
Mondoweiss, By Annie Robbins, October 31
Wading through all the chickensh*t over the last few days Netanyahu’s “grassy knoll” comeback somehow missed out on all the action, but what the hoot guys? Where I come from that terminology only means one thing, as far as I know, that applies to the lexicon anywhere in America, if not the world. Hey, even Google agrees with me. And what are the chances Netanyahu and/or his speechwriters don’t know this? Nada. Impossible.
Why would Netanyahu make a reference to one of the most alarming chapters in American history, the assassination of a beloved American president? And for many, an assassination still shrouded in mystery and deceit? I just thought it was very weird. Where is our press?
The Guardian: Netanyahu insists he is ‘under attack for defending Israel’ after remarks from US official
Anti-War: The Chickenshit Lobby Is Mad As Hell
New York Times, By Isabel Kershner, October 30
Jerusalem — The Swedish government on Thursday officially recognized a state of Palestine, as the new prime minister, Stefan Lofven, ignored Israeli protests and followed through on a pledge he made at his inauguration this month.
The Swedish Foreign Ministry posted a message on Twitter on Thursday announcing the move and saying the Swedish government “expressed hopes for peaceful coexistence between #Israel and #Palestine.”
Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said that Sweden hoped its “excellent cooperation” with Israel would continue and that the decision would be met in Jerusalem “in a constructive way,” The Associated Press reported.
The Palestinian leadership welcomed the move, which came amid growing criticism and frustration in Europe and the United States of Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Malta and Cyprus are the only other West European countries to have recognized a Palestinian state. Britain’s Parliament passed a nonbinding resolution this month to give diplomatic recognition to a Palestinian state, although the government of Prime Minister David Cameron opposes recognition.
Israel Foreign Minister issues statement
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that the decision by the government of Sweden to recognize a Palestinian state is an unfortunate decision which strengthens radical elements and Palestinian recalcitrance. Such measures only serve to bolster the Palestinians’ unrealistic demands and delay an agreement.The only way to reach an arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians is for the parties to conduct sincere negotiations.
It is unfortunate, said FM Liberman, that the Swedish govenrment chose to adopt a declarative measure that can cause much damage and bring no benefit. The Swedish government must understand that relations in the Middle East are more complex than one of Ikea’s flat-pack pieces of furniture, and would do well to act with greater sensitivity and responsibility.
Keep it classy, Avigdor!
Al Jazeera, October 12
A donor conference in Cairo to raise money for Gaza after this year’s war between Hamas and Israel ended with pledges of $5.4 billion, half of which will be “dedicated” to the reconstruction of the coastal enclave, Norway’s foreign minister said Sunday.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende offered the figure at the end of Sunday’s one-day conference, far beyond the $4 billion initially sought by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. He did not say what will the other half of the funds would be spent on, but other delegates have spoken of boosting economic activity, emergency relief and other projects needed in the war-ravaged territory.
The message was clear to the international community that the Palestinian brothers are not alone,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said.
New York Times, By Isabel Kershner, August 31
Jerusalem — Israel on Sunday laid claim to nearly 1,000 acres of West Bank land in a Jewish settlement bloc near Bethlehem — a step that could herald significant Israeli construction in the area — defying Palestinian demands for a halt in settlement expansion and challenging world opinion.
Peace Now, an Israeli group that opposes the construction of settlements in the West Bank, said that the action on Sunday might be the largest single appropriation of West Bank land in decades and that it could “dramatically change the reality” in the area.
Palestinians aspire to form a state in the lands that Israel conquered in 1967.
Israeli officials said the political directive to expedite a survey of the status of the land came after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in June while hitchhiking in that area. In July, the Israeli authorities arrested a Palestinian who was accused of being the prime mover in the kidnapping and killing of the teenagers. The timing of the land appropriation suggested that it was meant as a kind of compensation for the settlers and punishment for the Palestinians.
CBS/AP, August 1
Washington – Both the House and Senate on Friday rushed approved a $225 million bill to replenish Israel’s missile defense system.
The money will go to restocking Israel’s Iron Dome, which has been credited with shooting down dozens of incoming rockets fired by Palestinian militants over three and a half weeks of war. The vote came two days after the Pentagon announced ammunition deliveries to the Jewish state and as a planned 72-hour cease-fire between Israel and Hamas unraveled almost as quickly as it began.
Efforts in the Senate to approve the money stalled Thursday night after Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma sought cuts elsewhere in the budget to pay for the aid. Earlier, senators attempted to lump the Israel money into a broader spending bill that included border security and wildfire assistance money. That bill failed to get the necessary 60 votes on Thursday, and the House had little interest in it, anyway. Friday’s separate Israel bill passed by voice vote.
The Iron Dome system has emerged as a game-changer in the current round of violence, with Israeli officials citing a success rate as high as 90 percent.
The New Yorker, By Katie Zavadski, July 25
When the bodies of three Israeli teenagers, kidnapped in the West Bank, were found late last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not mince words. “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay,” he said, initiating a campaign that eventually escalated into the present conflict in the region.
But now, officials admit the kidnappings were not Hamas’s handiwork after all.
Electronic Intifada: Netanyahu government knew teens were dead as it whipped up racist frenzy
Empire Burlesque: Blockading the Truth: Obama’s Big Lie About Gaza
France24: In pictures: Thousands defy Gaza demonstration ban in Paris
Washington Post: Depth of Gaza devastation becomes clear after cease-fire
Washington Post: Depth of Gaza devastation becomes clear after cease-fire
Despite Israeli lobbying, Palestinians have managed to call for a vote on Wednesday on severe condemnation of IDF operation in Gaza.
Ha’aretz, By Barak Ravid, July 23
The UN human rights chief said Wednesday during an emergency meeting that Israel may be committing war crimes in Gaza.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that incidents during fighting in Gaza raise concerns for alleged war crimes and should be investigated.
Moreover, Pillay expressed concern regarding the “rise of incitement for violence against Palestinians by Israelis” on social media.
Speaking at the emergency meeting in Geneva, Israel’s envoy to the UNHRC, Eviatar Manor, charged that the UN Human Rights Council “failed to protect the human rights of Israelis.”