|Southwest Asia News Digest
Ha'aretz, Livni Call Netanyahu's Bluff on Peace Talks
Oct. 7 (EIRNS)On Oct. 3, Kadima Party head and former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced that she and Kadima would be prepared to join a secular national unity government with Likud and Labor, in order to complete a two-state peace deal with the Palestinians. The next day, the daily Ha'aretz published an editorial demanding that Netanyahu take the deal. Under the headline "Netanyahu's decision: Lieberman or peace," Ha'aretz called on Netanyahu to appoint Livni as foreign minister in a unity government, dump the current foreign minister, right-winger Avigdor Lieberman and the religious parties, and freeze settlement expansion. "As long as Netanyahu sticks with Lieberman and [Interior Minister Eli] Yishai, his emotional calls to the Palestinians to return to negotiations ring hollow. If it is the coalition that is preventing him from continuing with the freeze and progressing with the diplomatic process, he must replace his partners. Kadima should join the government and wants to do so. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who declared her support for Netanyahu's diplomatic steps, must promote them as foreign minister. Only a centrist government, in which there is a clear majority of supporters of compromise, will be able to promote an agreement with the Palestinians and extricate Israel from its international isolation. The formation of such a government is crucial at this point in time."
Senior U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources confirm that both U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and special peace envoy George Mitchell, have been in quiet talks with Livni and Defense Minister and Labor Party head Ehud Barak for months, about just such a unity option. Netanyahu has been, for the moment, boxed into a corner. He can no longer justify intransigence on settlements and other key issues on the grounds that his government would fall, were he to genuinely work out a just peace deal, involving the crackdown on the settlers. The Arab League are to meet on Oct. 8 in Libya to advise Palestine Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas on how to proceed.
Israeli Jews Compare Loyalty Law to Nazi Laws of 1935
Oct. 10 (EIRNS)The Israeli Cabinet's enactment of a "loyalty oath" law for non-Jews becoming citizens has been met with a storm of criticism from Israeli Jews comparing this move to "fascism" and apartheid, reports Ha'aretz today. Prof. Gavriel Solomon, an educational psychologist, is quoted: "The idea of Judenrein (Jew-free zone), or Arab-rein is not new.... Some might say 'how can you compare us to Nazis?' I am not talking about the death camps, but about the year 1935. There were no camps yet but there were racist laws. And we are heading forward towards these kinds of laws. The government is clearly declaring our incapacity for democracy."
The law demands an oath of allegiance to Israel as "a Jewish and democratic state."
Other Jewish writers, professors, and artists are speaking out against the law. On Oct. 10, one hundred of these intellectuals demonstrated at the Hall of Independence in Tel Aviv. One demonstrator was Israeli author Sefi Rachlevsky, who read from a document titled "The Declaration of Independence from Fascism," and said: "A country that invades the sacred space of the citizen's conscience, and punishes him for opinions and beliefs that are not in line with the authorities, ceases to be a democracy and becomes a fascist state."
Haaretz's Gideon Levy, a supporter of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, wrote a commentary, "The Jewish Republic of Israel." "Remember this day," he wrote. "It's the day Israel changes its character. As a result, it can also change its name to the Jewish Republic of Israel, like the Islamic Republic of Iran. Granted, the loyalty oath bill that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to have passed purportedly only deals with new citizens who are not Jewish, but it affects the fate of all of us.
"From now on, we will be living in a new, officially approved, ethnocratic, theocratic, nationalistic and racist country. Anyone who thinks it doesn't affect him is mistaken.... Anyone who thinks the world will continue to relate to Israel as a democracy after this law doesn't understand what it is about."
Tzipi Livni, head of the Kadima Party (which holds one more seat in parliament than does Netanyahu's Likud), on Oct. 10, attacked this billwhich both Kadima and the Labor Party consider to be a "sop" to the far right racists of the Yisrael Beiteinu party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Livni also gave an interview on Israeli radio attacking Netanyahu's refusal to extend the freeze on building new settlements on Palestinian territory.
Blair Boosts 'Special Relationship' Against Islamic Terrorism
Oct. 6 (EIRNS)Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was this year's recipient of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's (WINEP) Scholar-Statesman Award. The award dinner began with the singing of "God Save the Queen," and the introductory remarks by the WINEP representative praised the U.S.-British "special relationship," and, especially how Blair expressed it after 9/11. WINEP is a top think-tank of the U.S. Zionist Lobby.
Blair said that recent threats of terrorism in Europe remind us that the threat of Islamic terrorism is still alive, and it cannot be managed "benignly." The terrorist "narrative" extends into the mainstream, he said, as the education system in Southwest Asia demonstrates. Children are taught that the West supports the Israelis because they're Jews, and rejects the Palestinians because they're Muslims. They are not taught "peaceful coexistence."
"We've been outspent, outmaneuvered, and outstrategized' by Islamic extremism, said Blair. "We must spend treasure and blood" to confront it. Iran thinks we're soft. We have to show greater will. War may happen.
Asked whether he thought peace between Israelis and Palestinians were possible in a year, Blair said he did.
Asked about the "special relationship," Blair said it's essential. On 9/11, more Britons died in a single act of terrorism, than any incident involving the IRA. We showed the "special relationship" in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. We do it now. "I believe in it, said Blair. "If we give it up, it would be a big mistake."
Turkey, China Conclude Agreements on Trade and Rail
Oct. 9 (EIRNS)Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao met in Ankara, Turkey, with President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two sides decided to establish a "strategic cooperative relationship," Erdogan told reporters. Wen said that the two countries were opening "a new chapter" in their relationship. The two sides are determined to double bilateral trade within the next few years. The two leaders also witnessed the signing ceremony of eight agreements covering trade, transport, infrastructure, communications, and cultural exchanges. Most importantly, China will help Turkey develop its railway network. Turkey intends to build between 4,500 and 5,000 kilometers of new railroads, including the construction of a line connecting Ankara with Beijing.
Turkey Planning a New Bosphorus Strait
Oct. 9 (EIRNS)The Turkish English-language daily Today's Zaman leaked this week the intention of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to create a second channel, parallel to the existing Bosphorus Strait, to connect the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. The aim would be to remove tanker and large ship traffic from the Bosphorus. The project would cost up to $9 billion.
The Bosphorus, which passes through the city of Istanbul, is very narrow, and yet is the only link between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, with 50,000 ships passing through it each year. This includes 150 large commercial vessels, 25 of which are large oil tankers. Erdogan is said to be concerned about potential disasters in the case of collisions between ships or fires.
Neither Erdogan nor any other government official has confirmed the intention yet, but a lively and mostly favorable discussion has been generated in Today's Zaman over the last few days.