|Southwest Asia News Digest
New Palestinian Political Party Brings New Life Into Elections
The political earthquakes that have struck Israel over the recent months have now spread into the Palestinian National Authority, and will have a major impact on the January 2006 elections. On Dec. 15, it was announced that three of the leading younger generation of Fatah: Marwan Barghouti, who has been in an Israeli jail since 2002; former head of PNA Gaza security Mohammed Dahlan; and Jibril Rajoub, are forming a new party named al Mustaqbal or the Future. Barghouti, who is currently in an Israeli prison, is the most popular Palestinian leader, formed the party in reaction to the refusal of Palestinian President Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) to put him at the head of the Fatah list. Instead, Abu Mazen put Abu Ala, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) "old guard," at the head of the list.
Dahlan had been close to Abu Mazen and has a strong base of support in the Gaza Strip and Rajoub; he is a West Banker, and was Yasser Arafat's security chief. In 2005, Barghouti dropped his own candidacy for President of the PNA, paving the way for Abu Mazen's victory.
Other leading members of the new party include Barghouti's wife Fadwa, Palestinian parliamentarian Kadoura Fares, and former Fatah official Samir Masharawi.
The three founders of the partyBarghouti, Dahlan, and Rajoubhave played major roles in the security services for the PNA, and have worked closely with U.S. officials, both under President Bill Clinton, and the current Bush Administration. Dahlan, as one of the Palestinian security chiefs, had worked closely in the recent period with various U.S. military leaders, including General William Ward, who, until recently, was helping to reorganize the Palestinian security services in the Gaza Strip, prior to the Israeli withdrawal. Ward was not liked by the circles around Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Rajoub, who also headed a Palestinian Preventive Security unit in the 1990s, had worked closely with former CIA director George Tenet, especially during the Clinton Presidency.
The new party was welcomed by a well-placed Israeli, who had been an active participant in the Geneva Accord dialogue between Israel and Palestine. The Israeli noted that this election group was not created to weaken Abu Mazen, but provides an important "new guard" alternative to the growing "anti-establishment" posture of militant groups such as Hamas, which have not renounced violence. Barghouti has long been recognized as one of the strongest, and most popular Palestinian leaders. Several months ago, former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III, who had served under Bush "41" called for Barghouti's release from jail, so he could become a partner in peace negotiations.
Lyndon LaRouche has repeatedly called for Barghouti's release from Israel imprisonment, in the name of justice, and because of his important, positive role in the leadership of the Palestinians.
Sharon's Economic Policies Violate Israelis' Civil Rights
A report by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, covered in Ha'aretz Dec. 12, states: "State economic policy, including cutting stipends, reducing housing assistance, and constantly declining state participation in health-care and education costs, are forcing more elderly, children, and whole families into poverty and despair. The increasing damage to citizens' rights to earn a dignified livingboth due to low wages and the lack of enforcement of labor lawsis particularly prominent."
Among the economic policies singled out, the report attacked the government's privatization laws: "Civil rights should be a matter between the state and the citizen. Privatization means preferring economic streamlining over civil rights and the transferal of roles, for which the executive authority is clearly responsible, to private companies, even foreign companies. The entry of the free-market economics between the state and the citizen is expropriating civil rights and [turning] each of useach holder of rightsinto a consumer."
First Kadima Candidate Indicted for Bribery
The first member of Ariel Sharon's Kadima Party was indicted for corruption, forcing him to withdraw from the party, according to Ha'aretz Dec. 13. Haim Barbivai, Mayor of Kiryat Shmona, was indicted for shaking down contractors and businessman to donate money to his 2003 election campaign. This involved tens of thousands of shekels.
Barbivai is only the first to be indicted. Tzachi Hanegbi, the former head of the Likud Party who jumped into the Kadima, could be indicted any day now, since the police announced they have finished a corruption investigation against him with a recommendation that the state prosecutor indict him. A similar legal action could be taken against Sharon himself, who has a few cases hanging over his head, as well.
Mofaz Approves New Housing Construction in Settlements
Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz approved permits for the construction of hundreds of new housing units in the West Bank, in violation of the Road Map for a Middle East Peace, Ha'aretz reported Dec. 14. He made the decision after leaving the Likud Party Dec. 11 on the claim that it was "extremist," and he wanted to join the "centrist" Kadima of Ariel Sharon.
Mofaz's move occurred while Sharon's spin doctors were leaking to the press that Sharon intends to divide Jerusalem, a claim that Sharon later denied. It is all part of a campaign of lies. While his spin doctors are trying to create the image that Sharon will bring "peace with security," various military spokesmen and others are playing up the threat of a nuclear Iran to create the 'proper' security atmosphere for his election. This latter point has prompted Labor Party Knesset member Benjamin Ben-Eliezer to declare, "I hope the upcoming elections won't motivate the Prime Minister and Defense Minister to stray from government policy and place Israel on the front lines of a confrontation with Iran."
ElBaradei: USA Should Give Security Guarantees to Iran
Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has called for the U.S. to provide security guarantees to Iran, in order to reach a solution in talks over Iran's nuclear program, reported Agence France Press Dec. 13. "I see security assurances provided by the U.S. as part of the solution to conflict over Iran's nuclear program," the IAEA chief said.
State Department spokesman Adam Ereli, in an apparent response, said Iran has to first act like a responsible member of the international community. "I don't think people should be asking the United States, 'Why don't you do this or why don't you do that?' " he said.
New Assassination in Lebanon Heightens Fears of War
On Dec. 12, Gibran Tueni, a member of the Lebanese Parliament and managing editor of the Lebanese daily An Nahar, was killed by a car bomb in a Beirut suburb, just days after he returned to Lebanon from Europe. Tueni, like many other prominent Lebanese, had been living outside of the country because they are named on an assassination target list.
Tueni was killed on the same day that part two of the report by UN investigator Detlev Mehlis, on the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was to be turned over to the UN Security Council. The release of this report has heightened tensions and prompted the Lebanese government to call for an international court to be convened to try Syrian officials named in the report.
Adding to the tension is the recent discovery of several mass graves, which a senior British intelligence source told EIR has caused "shivers throughout Lebanon," since there are many mass graves throughout the country as a result of the 30-year-long civil war. He raised the concern that this could incite sectarian tensions.
Although the source said that he had spoken to people in Lebanon recently who said that the situation resembled the beginning of 1976 when the civil war began, Muslim and Christian sources reached in Lebanon shortly after the Tueni assassination stressed that government officials and other leaders were doing everything in their power to avoid sectarian strife, and that the population was continuing to respond to their efforts.
Several Western newspapers, including the Washington Post, have played up the growing sectarian divide. But, Hisham Melhem, Washington correspondent for An Nahar, in a conversation with EIR, called this "irresponsible journalism." He added, "One could find a few examples in this country too. and weave them into such a story of great chasms among people. It doesn't mean they are planning a civil war."
The other feared war danger concerns the drive by U.S. neo-conservatives, led by Dick Cheney, and his lackey, U.S. temporary envoy to the UN, John Bolton, to use the Mehlis investigation to launch a U.S. war against Syria. Lebanese patriots have repeatedly told EIR that they are opposed to the U.S. using Lebanon as a springboard for a war that will crush Lebanese interests, and serve the agenda of the U.S. neo-cons.