Tag Archives: Tzipi Livni

Is another ‘Cast Lead’ in the offing?

Are we witnessing the stirrings of a new, large-scale Israeli military operation?  Haaretz today reports that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Wednesday that the Israel Defense Forces would continue to use ‘firm determination and assaults’ on Gaza…[Netanyahu said:] ‘It could take the form of exchanges of fire, it could continue for a particular length of time.'”

Indeed, the stars seem to be aligning for another brutal Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip two years after “Operation Cast Lead” killed some 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians, and completely destroyed 3,000 homes in what Judge Richard Goldstone termed a “deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.”

Eerie parallels between the period leading up to “Cast Lead” and the situation now exist, and there’s nothing to stop Israel from launching another assault, given that the United States has sent the world the message that Israeli war crimes will go unpunished.

First, the parallels.  In the months leading up to the 2008-09 assault on Gaza, a tenuous truce held between Hamas and Israel as Hamas stopped firing rockets at Israeli communities and attempted to reign in other armed groups in Gaza from doing so.  An August 2008 WikiLeaks cable that describes a visit by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to Egypt reports:

Regarding the Tahdiya [“calm” in Arabic], Hacham said Barak stressed that while it was not permanent, for the time being it was holding. There have been a number of violations of the ceasefire on the Gaza side, but Palestinian factions other than Hamas were responsible. Hacham said the Israelis assess that Hamas is making a serious effort to convince the other factions not to launch rockets or mortars. Israel remains concerned by Hamas’ ongoing efforts to use the Tahdiya to increase their strength, and at some point, military action will have to be put back on the table. The Israelis reluctantly admit that the Tahdiya has served to further consolidate Hamas’ grip on Gaza, but it has brought a large measure of peace and quiet to Israeli communities near Gaza.

Despite this “peace,” Israel decisively broke the truce on November 4, 2008 when they raided Gaza and killed six members of Hamas, leading to an increase in Hamas and other armed groups’ rocket attacks on Israel.  According to a January 2009 report by investigative journalist Gareth Porter, Israel rejected a Hamas ceasefire offer in December 2008.

After the assault ended in January 2009, a tenuous lull, punctuated by sporadic violence on the Gaza-Israel border, has held.  In January 2011, Hamas again attempted to reign in other armed groups from firing at Israeli communities.

But now this lull seems to be breaking down.  The Israeli daily Haaretz reports on what has occurred in the last week:

The current tensions began exactly a week ago when Israel launched an air attack on a Hamas base in the ruins of the settlement of Netzarim, killing two Hamas men. That attack came in response to a Qassam fired from Gaza that landed in an open area. Hamas then responded with a barrage of 50 mortars on communities south of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli attacks on Gaza over the last few days have left eight people dead, including five civilians, and another twelve civilians have been wounded.  The air strikes came after Hamas offered a truce--events that bear a striking resemblance to what occurred in the run-up to “Operation Cast Lead.”

What makes a renewed assault seem more possible is the fact that strident warnings are coming from Israeli leaders.  Tzipi Livni, the head of the opposition party Kadima and who was the foreign minister during the 08-09 Gaza assault, recently said that “the right way to contend with [the recent rocket attacks] is through force, as Israel did during Operation Cast Lead and after it.”  Both the Vice Premier and and the culture minister have voiced similar warnings.

The frightening warnings and attacks on Gazan civilians could stop if the international community would pressure Israel.  But what’s to stop Israel if they have U.S.-guaranteed impunity?  The Goldstone report recommended that proceedings against Israelis and Palestinians who committed war crimes occur if domestic systems do not uphold international law.  No high-level officials, on the Palestinian or Israeli side, have been held accountable.  The U.S. has ensured that Israeli leaders who committed war crimes will get off free.

A promise of law is that the deterrent effect of punishment may prevent future crimes.  That promise goes out the window if there is no punishment–exactly what happened after the publication of the Goldstone report.




‘The Palestine Cables’: WikiLeaks dox expose Netanyahu’s vision of Palestinian bantustan

This is the second installment of my new column on WikiLeaks and Israel/Palestine at Mondoweiss.  You can read all the installments here.

The Obama administration’s failure to bribe Israel’s right-wing government into accepting a three-month settlement “freeze” should have ended talk about the “peace process,” but Obama’s Middle East team is still crawling towards a two-state solution with little light at the end of the tunnel.  State Department cables released by WikiLeaks will dim the lights further.  The cables show that Israeli officials’ stated vision of a Palestinian state is one that is feeble and toothless–a vision that could snuff out any remaining hope of a viable Palestinian state.

During an April 2007 meeting with Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY), an ardent supporter of Israel, then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said that “a return to the 1967 borders and dividing Jerusalem was not a solution since further withdrawals would only whet the appetite of radical Islam.”  Netanyahu also referred to the Palestinian right of return as an “acid test,” saying that “the Palestinians must drop the right of return and accept Israel’s right to exist,” and that “not one refugee could ever return.”

Another cable, which describes a meeting Netanyahu held with a U.S. Congressional delegation two weeks after the 2009 Israeli elections, shows Netanyahu repeating his vision of a Palestinian bantustan.  According to the cable, Netanyahu’s vision of a Palestinian state is one where Palestinian sovereignty is “refined,” meaning “without an army or control over air space and borders.”

Once he assumed the office of prime minister, Netanyahu’s conception of a Palestinian state stayed the same.  A cable describing an April 2009 meeting with another Congressional delegation notes that Netanyahu said that “a Palestinian state must be demilitarized, without control over its air space and electro-magnetic field, and without the power to enter into treaties or control its borders.”

The image of a sovereign-less, still-occupied state for the Palestinians isn’t just confined to the leader of the right-wing Likud party; the leader of Kadima, which is routinely described as a “centrist” party, also shares that image.  In a January 2007 document meant to prepare Condoleeza Rice for an upcoming trip to Israel, the author references a Ha’aretz interview where Livni said her vision of “an interim agreement with the Palestinians” was one in which the illegal “separation barrier would serve as the border.”

The negotiations brokered by the Obama administration have not changed Israeli leaders’ insistence on creating a sliced-up Palestinian entity that lacks any real power.  Newsweek, relying on “a Palestinian official involved in the talks and an Israeli source familiar with the details,” lately reported on the September 2010 round of negotiations:

Netanyahu told the Palestinians they had to accept Israel’s “security concept” before he would discuss other issues, including borders. The concept involved keeping Israeli troops stationed along territory on the Palestinian side of the barrier Israel has built in the West Bank to protect what Israel calls its “narrow waistline.” That strip would be several kilometers wide at some points, says the Palestinian negotiator, and run along much of the seam line. Also, to protect itself against the possible rise of a hostile Islamic state in Jordan, say both sources, Netanyahu insisted Israeli troops would remain posted in the Jordan Valley for years. Though Netanyahu didn’t present maps, Abbas and his negotiators calculated that Palestinians would be left with just 60 percent of the West Bank.

This conception of a Palestine that lacks some of the core attributes a nation-state possesses–the ability to defend themselves with a military, and control over their air space and borders–is wholly inconsistent with international law and the United States’ past statements.

But there George Mitchell is, still talking to both Israeli and Palestinian officials and trying to jump start the moribund “peace process” once again.  And for what?

As the WikiLeaks cables reveal, not much of anything.

Two Years After ‘Cast Lead,’ and Six Months After Flotilla, Gaza Remains Ignored

The political and economic situation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, and the daily suffering of Palestinians living there due to a crippling blockade, only breaks into the headlines during wars or incidents like the Israeli raid on the “Freedom Flotilla.”  But other than that, Gaza remains ignored.

Events this past weekend brought no renewed attention to Gaza, and it seems as if no one wants to acknowledge the suffocation that Gazans feel after years of closures and blockades.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a much anticipated address on the “peace process” last Friday at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy.  A mere three paragraphs were spoken about Gaza–with the qualification that the U.S. is “pleased with Israel’s recent decision to allow more exports from Gaza which will foster legitimate economic growth there.”  But Israel’s recent decision is limited in scope, and the changes to the blockade that were announced after Israel killed 8 Turks and 1 American on the May 31 aid flotilla have done little to change the situation in Gaza.

The news media has been no different.  Last Sunday, Christine Amanpour, the host of ABC’s This Week, had on Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni.  No one mentioned a word about Gaza.

Livni was foreign minister during Israel’s brutal 2008-09 assault on Gaza.  As such, she bears responsibility for the 1,400 Palestinians, the vast majority of them civilians, who were killed by Israel during “Operation Cast Lead.”  Livni had to cancel a trip to Great Britain in December 2009 after an arrest warrant was issued for her complicity in what the U.N. and many other international organizations have called war crimes.

Will the two-year anniversary of Israel’s assault on Gaza continue to go unnoticed?