Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hamas: The Israeli government's sanctions are a "declaration of war"

Ehud Olmert announced on Wednesday that his government has decided to cut off fuel and electricity to the Gaza Strip - only allowing the flow of water to continue. In response to this contravention of the Fourth Geneva Conventions that address collective punishment, a Hamas spokesman said they considered this move a "declaration of war".

The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, wasted no time in coming out and insisting that this move by the Israeli government violates international law but, considering the scores of UN resolutions that Israel has defied for decades, it's doubtful that it will suffer any consequences as a result.

Barak also said that Israel is moving closer to a large-scale military operation in Gaza. "Every day that passes brings us closer to an operation in Gaza," Barak was quoted as saying. He said an array of options would be considered before a major invasion.

The PMO statement also said that there would be restrictions on "the passage of various goods to the Gaza Strip," but stressed that all steps "will be enacted following a legal examination, while taking into account both the humanitarian aspects relevant to the Gaza Strip and the intention to avoid a humanitarian crisis."

The thing is that there is already a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. To state that you intend to look at your legal standing in imposing such crushing sanctions in order to avoid one is absolutely ludicrous.

Meanhwile, Condi Rice is in Israel for a 24-hour drive-by visit - no doubt to bring the White House's support for Olmert's actions while pretending to be concerned about the fate of the Palestinian people as the US government keeps funneling money to Abbas in the West Bank.

Israeli officials are promoting a proposal that the West Bank and Gaza be viewed as separate entities, and that Israel act more forcefully in Gaza to crack down on Hamas militants.

Senior Bush administration officials said no decision had been made. Some State Department officials argue that the administration could only support such a separation if Israel agreed to make political concessions to Mr. Abbas in the West Bank, with the goal of undermining Hamas in the eyes of Palestinians by improving life in the West Bank.

But it would be diplomatically perilous for the United States to be seen as turning its back on Gaza. Almost half of the Palestinian population lives on the teeming strip of land. A more desperate Gaza could become a breeding ground for Al Qaeda.

“Nobody wants to abandon the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in the Gaza Strip to the mercies of a terrorist organization,” said the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack. “We’re certainly not going to participate in extinguishing the hopes of a whole swath of the Palestinian population to live in a Palestinian state.”

The administration has led international efforts to isolate the Hamas-dominated government, demanding that it renounce violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist and abide by existing agreements between the Palestinians and Israel.

So, while state department spokespuppets like Sean McCormack say one thing, the Bush administration is doing the opposite by backing Olmert in this latest move. They are already actively participating in extinguishing those hopes by giving financial and military aid to the Israeli government.

Hollow words.

Needless to say, this is not the way to promote any kind of peace process, especially in the broader volatilities going on in the region with respect to Israel's relationships with Syria and Iran. Egypt also joined Syria today in calling for an IAEA resolution to have Israel's nuclear facilities inspected - a proposal, as the article states, that is brought up regularly by Arab states which has often been put off but which, this time, seems to be receiving more of push from those 2 countries. And Syria has every reason to be concerned after Israeli air strikes occurred within its borders just 2 weeks ago - a move finally confirmed by Netanyahu on Wednesday (although no reason for the strike has yet been given).

It seems Condi's cherished November "peace conference" meeting is in jeopardy as Abbas is now under pressure from Fatah not to attend if other Arab states like Syria are shut out of the meeting. The Saudis are also threatening to boycott the conference is it isn't expected to offer anything of substance. By the time November rolls around, it may just be Rice and Olmert playing footsies at the table while everyone else stays home.

They're even fighting over what to call the damn thing:

White House: Int'l Mideast meeting is not a big peace conference

By Aluf Benn, Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents and The Associated Press

The White House said Tuesday the international meeting on the Middle East proposed by U.S. President George W. Bush should not be viewed as a big peace conference and it is too early to say where or when it will be.

However, the U.S. State Department said Tuesday that the meeting would most likely be held in the United States but the participants are still to be worked out.

White House spokesman Tony Snow at first described the meeting as an international conference, but several hours later he backed away from that portrayal as being too ambitious.

And let's play spot the contradiction yet again:

"This is a meeting," Snow said. "I think a lot of people are inclined to try to treat this as a big peace conference. It's not."

Announcing the meeting in a major policy speech Monday, Bush said it would be chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and attended by envoys from Israel, the Palestinians and Arab nations. He framed the meeting in the context that the world can do more to build the conditions for peace.

Is it any wonder the Bush administration has been completely AWOL on the ME peace process? Let's face it: Bush's agenda is just to coast until he's done his term while passing this situation, along with Iraq and Afghanistan, to whoever wins the WH in '08. Neocons only know how to start wars, not end them. "Peace" is just a word in the dictionary between "paranoia" and "profits".

And it's clear that the Israeli government wants nothing to do with this talk of "peace":

On Tuesday, Israeli officials welcomed Bush's initiative for an international summit, but Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin said that "this is not the time to discuss the key issues."

Eisin said the meeting would provide an opportunity to bring together all those who are truly interested in peace in the Middle East. However, she said it is too early to talk about full-fledged peace talks as long as Palestinian violence against Israel continues. A peace settlement would require agreement on such contentious issues as borders, the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees and the status of Israel's disputed capital Jerusalem.

"Israel has been very clear. We don't think at this stage you can talk about final status issues, but such a meeting would certainly add to the capability of arriving at the core issues," she said.

Around and around it goes as tensions between the countries in the region grow as a result of the neglect of any viable path to peace.

And I haven't even mentioned Iran, which has reportedly announced retaliation against Israel should its government attack or the assassination of an anti-Syrian lawmaker in Lebanon today.

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