|Southwest Asia News Digest
Kadima's Livni To Form Government
Sept. 23 (EIRNS)Israel's Kadima Party leader Tsipi Livni received the go-ahead from President Shimon Peres to form a government as the new Prime Minister, but the other two major parties, Labor and Likud, are apparently ganging up on her, perhaps to force new elections. Livni must successfully form a coalition government in the next few weeks, with Kadima in the minority. Ehud Barak, the Labor Party head who was Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Defense Minister, shunned Livni by meeting first with their mutual arch-enemy, Benjamin Netanyahu, before meeting the new Prime Minister-designate. Israeli sources close to EIR report that Livni did not make the pay-offs promised before the Kadima primary election.
Israeli Minister Calls for Release of Barghouti
Sept 25 (EIRNS)Israel's Minister of Infrastructure, Benjamin Ben Eliezer, has called for Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti to be released from prison so that he can become the Palestinians' next leader.
"I would consider releasing him. I think it's a legitimate move, though I believe that his actions were sinister, and I don't take them lightly at all," Ben Eliezer said.
Both Lyndon LaRouche Jr. and former Secretary of State James Baker III have called for Barghouti's release from prison as a means of getting serious peace talks going.
Ben Eliezer, who is a member of the Labor Party, suggested releasing Barghouti in a prisoner exchange for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held captive in Gaza for more than a year.
"We have to find a suitable opportunity to release Barghouti, and we have to link it to the release of Gilad Shalit," Ben Eliezer said. "I know this is hard to cope with. But we have to look ten years down the line, and ask ourselves where we want to go."
Ben Eliezer knows Barghouti well, especially from the period following the signing of the Oslo Accords, since Barghouti was a leading peace advocate. Barghouti also has the respect of the leaders of Hamas who are held in the same prison that he is.
Assassination Attempt by Israeli Right-Wing Terrorists
Sept. 26 (EIRNS)Israeli right-wing terrorists planted a pipe bomb at the home of Israeli historian and Ha'aretz columnist Ze'ev Sternhell on Sept. 25. He was slightly wounded when the bomb went off in front of the door of his home. Police have now put Peace Now secretary general Yariv Oppenheimer under police protection, fearing further attempts by rightists.
Police found a flier at the scene offering a 1 million shekel reward for anyone who would kill Oppenheimer.
The right-wing National Jewish Front, although denying any connection to the attack, refused to criticize it: "We will not condemn it. Sternhell legitimized attacks against settlers."
Israeli Police and Security Minister Avi Dichter said that Jewish terrorists' attack on Sternhell had murder as its objective.
"We should see the explosive as aimed at killing," Dichter said, adding that the attack "takes us back to the days of [Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin's assassination."
This was a charge also stressed by the police.
Sternhill, who is an expert on fascism, is quoted as saying from his hospital bed, "If this is not an act committed by a deranged person but by someone who represents a political view, then it is the beginning of the disintegration of democracy." He is quoted further in today's Ha'aretz as saying that the "incident illustrates the fragility of Israeli democracy, and the urgent need to defend it."
Pointing to the dangers posed by the extremist settler movement, Sternhell told Israel radio that, "There are two populations in the territories, and there are two systems of law, and if settlers are allowed to beat Palestinians, to uproot their orchards and demolish their houses, why shouldn't this happen across the Green Line?" He went even further, saying, "It is possible that this was done by a lone crazy person, an organization or an entire settlement." Comparing it to the rise of fascism in Europe, he said, "These are the developments that lead to the collapse of a very fragile democracy, as happened in Europe."
Israel Asked U.S. for Okay to Strike Iran
Sept. 26 (EIRNS)An article in the London Guardian today claims that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked U.S. President George W. Bush for a green light for a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities when he met with the President on May 14. The article says the request was denied.
The Guardian cites an unnamed European source as having said Olmert took the refusal as a sign of "where they were at the moment, and that the U.S. position was unlikely to change as long as Bush was in office."
Bush's decision, this source said, was based on U.S. concerns over Iranian retaliation in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in the Gulf. Also, the U.S. did not believe a strike against Iran by Israel would succeed in stopping, or even delaying the program. The U.S. is also concerned that even if Israel did it without U.S. approval, the U.S. would be seen as complicit, since Israel would have to most likely fly over U.S.-controlled airspace over Iraq. The Guardian claims that this could put an end to speculation that an "October surprise" is being planned prior to the election.
The Jerusalem Post runs an article quoting its own European source, who is said to be an advisor to an unnamed head of state who spoke with Olmert after May 14. (This could be French President Nicolas Sarkozy, since he is one head of state who did meet Olmert in this time frame.) This source told the Post that Israel could not stop the Iranian project by military means, especially without U.S. support. He warned that "Iran's counterstrike would not be an end of the story. There is no military solution and no stabilizing outcome."
This source then said that sanctions will not be effective, and that the "only game in town is the 'freeze-for-freeze' proposal now being discussed with the 5+1 mediatorsthe U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China. This source went on to say that Iran really wants talks with the U.S., since only the U.S. can give Iran the security guarantees it really wants. The source said that that the Iranians "are looking through them to America." The other concerns Iran has, according to the source, are with Iraq, where it has an interest in a unified and stable Iraq, and the situation in Afghanistan, because it is concerned about the Afghan heroin that is flooding Iran.
Although this story is given big play in all the Israeli papers, Ha'aretz, rather than quoting bomb-Iran supporters, runs a puff piece on Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who, through his own dark methods, which do not involve the Israeli air force, has set back the Iranian program by several years.
Iran Blockade Bill on Hold for Now
Sept. 28 (EIRNS)According to House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.), a bill that would establish authority for a blockade of Iran, House Congressional Resolution 362, has been removed from the agenda of the 110th Congress. The resolution has 270 co-sponsors, more than a majority of the House, and so Berman's decision to block a vote was decisiveif the announcement holds. Among the most egregious language in the bill, which aimed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons technology, was a provision "prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran's nuclear program."
Americans for Peace Now had denounced the bill, charging that it gave the Bush Administration or any future administration the green light to conduct a blockade of Iranan overt act of war.
A spokesman for Berman told the New York Times, "If Congress is to make a statement of policy, it should encompass a strategy on how to gain consensus on multilateral sanctions to change Iran's behavior." The spokesman confirmed that Berman agreed with the critics of the bill, who denounced it as a back-door authorization for preventive war. A coalition of groups, including the National Iranian American Council, had attacked the bill, which came out of the May 2008 annual AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) convention in Washington, at which time Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Congressional leaders that economic sanctions against Iran were no longer successful, and a naval quarantine was required.