- Created: Wednesday, 14 April 2010 12:29
- Written by Bob Shepherd
On 9 March, the Zionists announced plans to build 1,600 new homes in Ramat Shlomo, an ultra-orthodox settlement in East Jerusalem. The declaration amounted to a very public humiliation for US Vice President Joe Biden, who was on a visit to Israel at the time. Later, at an Israeli Cabinet meeting on 21 March, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu arrogantly declared: ‘Our policy on Jerusalem is the same policy followed by all Israeli governments in the last 42 years, and it has not changed ... As far as we are concerned, building in Jerusalem is the same as building in Tel Aviv.’
His timing was deliberate: it was just before he was due to fly to the US to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – the leading Zionist lobby group in the US – and afterwards to meet President Obama.
The purpose of Biden’s visit was to help solidify the agreement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to restart the peace process through proximity talks with Israel. Proximity talks are not face-to-face but are conducted through an intermediary. Abbas had agreed to this step even though Israel had not made any formal commitment to halt settlement construction in East Jerusalem, his supposed pre-condition.
The Ramat Shlomo settlement plan is one of the biggest in East Jerusalem in recent years and the proposals include a new trunk road and many public facilities, ones which will of course be denied to Palestinians. Biden reflected his humiliation at the announcement when he said at the end of his trip: ‘I condemn the decision of the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units.’
The Zionist state has laid down a challenge to US imperialism’s attempts to curb the open provocations of Israeli settlement expansion and its hopes both of restarting peace talks between Abbas and Netanyahu, and of rehabilitating US imperialism’s image in the Middle East and the wider Islamic world. However, the US will find it hard to rein in the racist arrogance of the Zionists who believe they have an absolute right to build anywhere in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
On 15 March US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stepped up the pressure on the Zionists when she demanded to know whether the settlement announcement was a ‘bureaucratic mistake, or a deliberate act, carried out for political reasons.’ The following day, Chief of US military forces in Central Asia General Petraeus, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, cited ‘insufficient progress’ in resolving the ongoing Israeli-Arab conflict as a significant impediment to achieving US goals in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Iran, and as encouraging ‘anti-American sentiment.’
Israeli newspaper Haaretz highlighted the scale of the proposed expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem, reporting that the Israeli government has plans for a total of 50,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem in the coming years. Further pressure on Israel to curb its settlement activity in the city came on 19 March when the Quartet of Middle East mediators – Russia, US, EU and UN – called on ‘the government of Israel to freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth, dismantle all outposts erected since March 2001; and to refrain from demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem’. The statement also called for the end of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza by 2012. This is clearly pie in the sky but it does put Israel under increased pressure to allow some forms of talks to take place with Abbas.
Clinton spelled out the US’s position on the need to curb settlement expansion and to re-engage with Abbas and his pro-imperialist cronies when she addressed the AIPAC conference on 22 March. While emphasising the ‘rock solid’ nature of the US’s commitment to Israel’s security, she called for an end to settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since ‘the status quo is unsustainable ... new construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides want and need’. She put this in the context of normalising Israel’s relationship with its Arab neighbours: ‘The way forward is clear: two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and security, with peace between Israel and Syria, and Israel and Lebanon, and normal relations between Israel and all the Arab states.’
When Netanyahu met with President Obama on 23 March, he was subjected to a series of diplomatic slights. There was no joint photo opportunity, no joint statement; at one point Obama left Netanyahu to stew whilst he dined with his family. Later, Haaretz said, ‘The Prime Minister leaves America disgraced, isolated and altogether weaker than when he came... Instead of a reception as a guest of honour, Netanyahu was treated as a problem child, an army private ordered to do laps around the base for slipping up at roll call.’
This diplomatic pressure could be overtaken by the upsurge of resistance of Palestinian youth in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. On 16 March thousands of Palestinians responded to Hamas’s call for a Day of Rage against the settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the inauguration of a new synagogue built near the Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem. Over 100 Palestinians were injured in the demonstrations but the protests continued across the West Bank in the days that followed. Israeli repression has also continued. On 20 March, Israeli settlers from Bracha attacked the village of Iraq Burin, just south of Nablus. When villagers came out of their homes to defend themselves and their village, two Palestinian youths, 15 and 17, were shot and killed by the Israeli military. On 21 March, two more young Palestinians aged 17 were shot and killed in the Nablus area after being detained by Israeli troops.
The US realises that it needs to be seen to be able to restrain the forces of Israeli fascism if it wishes to pursue its wider strategy in the Middle East. Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are eager to play the US game and have now indicated that a Zionist commitment to freeze settlement building in East Jerusalem for three years would be enough for them to agree to start the proximity talks. However Netanyahu remains defiant about the settlement construction and it will take more than diplomatic slights from the US to rein in the Zionist monster.
Solidarity with the Palestinian resistance! Boycott Israeli goods!
Labour expels Mossad agent
On 23 March, Britain expelled an Israeli official who was in charge of Mossad operations at its London embassy. The action was in response to the use that Israeli agents made of 12 cloned British passports when they assassinated Hamas leader Mahmoud Al Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel on 19 January. Up to 27 Israeli agents had been involved in the operation, using forged passports from Ireland, France and Australia as well.
Labour Foreign Minister Miliband said that Britain had no prior knowledge of the murder, and declared that the use by Israel of British passports was ‘intolerable’. As well as expelling the Israeli diplomat, Miliband handed his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, a letter seeking assurances that Israel would never again ‘misuse’ British passports. In 1986 Israel had been found to have used forged British passports and had given an undertaking then not to do so again. Like a lot of Israeli assurances, it was clearly not worth the paper it was written on. Miliband’s diplomatic rebuke came at the same time as Netanyahu was being told by US President Obama to stop the settlement construction in East Jerusalem. However, Israel’s mass selling Yediot Aharonot daily said that Israel had got off lightly, given that the agent can be replaced within six weeks. The paper concluded: ‘Whoever used forged British passports knew that he might have to pay the price. And the price set by the British yesterday was a clearance sale price.’
Break all diplomatic links with Israel!