Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Updates From The Epicenter

Minister: If Hezbollah Fires Rockets At Israel, Lebanon Will Be Raised

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz warned Tuesday that Israel was prepared to completely eviscerate Lebanon in response to any cross-border missile attack by Hezbollah.

Katz (Likud) was responding to a fiery speech by the Shiite group’s head Hassan Nasrallah earlier in the day in which the extremist leader claimed that his organization’s rockets can hit anywhere in Israel and threatened to target the country’s sea ports and main airport in the next conflict.

“In order to avoid any doubt on the matter, Nasrallah the cowardly braggart should know this: that option does not exist for us!,” Katz wrote on his official Facebook page (Hebrew).

“If such a scenario does materialize, we will raze Lebanon to the ground! We will return it to the Stone Age and bury [Nasrallah] under the rocks.”

In his Tuesday speech, Nasrallah said Hezbollah “is fully ready in southern Lebanon.”

Israel knows that fighting Hezbollah “will be very costly because we are more determined, stronger, more experienced … and we are capable of achieving such accomplishments,” he continued.

After Jeffrey Goldberg’s infamous “chickenshit” article, it is hard to deny that ties between the Israeli government and the current US administration have reached a nadir. Even Yaacov Amidror, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former national security adviser, admitted this week that “relations between Israel and the US have deteriorated to an all-time low.”

Worse than the bad language and backroom bickering, though, is the fear that the frosty relationship may mean Israel can no longer rely on Washington’s veto in the Security Council, which has been a rock-solid given in defense of Israel for decades.

It’s no secret that Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama have little love lost for each other, between disputes over an Iranian nuclear deal and building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Less discussed publicly is the fear that the administration will abandon Israel on the Palestinian question at the UN. The Palestinians are planning to go the United Nations Security Council with a draft resolution calling for an Israel withdrawal by November 2016 from all areas captured in 1967. They originally wanted to submit it by October but will probably wait for January, when the Security Council membership will be more favorable to their cause.

A few years ago, there would have been no question that the US would have vetoed any such resolution.

But since then, ties between the Jerusalem and Washington have gone drastically downhill, and the American veto can apparently no longer be taken for granted.
“Without US support in the international arena, and especially in the UN Security Council, Israel would be in a very difficult position today, to the point of diplomatic and economic isolation,” Amidror wrote Monday in a paper for the BESA Center for Strategic Studies.

Netanyahu is indeed worried that the US will “abandon” Israel at the UN, Israeli journalist Ariel Kahane reported Sunday on the NRG website [Hebrew link], quoting senior ministers. “The prime minister told colleagues in recent days … that his office’s understanding of the issue and the government’s take on it is that the Americans will not cast a veto against a resolution that reaches the Security Council,” Kahane later elaborated in a newspaper interview.

The European Union’s new foreign policy chief called for the creation of a Palestinian state within the five years of her term, and announced that the EU intends to play a more influential role in the Middle East than it has in the past.

“What’s important for me is not whether other countries, be they European or not, recognize Palestine,” Federica Mogherini told the European press in comments published Tuesday, referring to Sweden’s recent recognition of a Palestinian state. “I’d be happy if, during my mandate, the Palestinian state existed.”

On November 1, Mogherini succeeded Catherine Ashton as the union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy.

Europe cannot eternally be a payer without playing a political role, Mogherini said. Therefore, the EU intends to adopt a broad regional approach to the Middle East, seeing a possible solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a wider reconciliation of the Arab world with the Jewish state, she said.
“It will, in fact, be difficult to guarantee the security for this country [Israel] without a broader framework involving Arab countries. And an overall agreement of this kind would facilitate the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue,” she said.

French Socialist lawmakers are preparing to submit a motion to parliament asking the government to recognize Palestine as a state, sources said Tuesday, weeks after British MPs passed a similar vote.

The planned move follows the collapse of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and this year’s conflict in Gaza in which more than 2,000 Palestinians and dozens of Israelis were killed.

“The (lower house National) Assembly asks the French government to use recognition of the state of Palestine as an instrument to obtain a final settlement of the conflict,” reads the provisional motion seen by AFP.

Fabius himself acknowledged last month that Paris would eventually have to recognize Palestine as a state, but wanted to choose the best moment to do so for the move to have a real impact.
The lower house vote could take place within weeks, and while it is unlikely to change government policy immediately, it would be highly symbolic after a similar move by British MPs last month.

The United States does not recognize Sunday's elections in eastern Ukraine and believes that Russia's support of the independence push there will only serve to isolate it further, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said at a briefing.
"The United States deplores and does notrecognize yesterday's so-called separatist elections in eastern Ukraine, nor do we recognize any of the leaders chosen in this illegal vote," Psaki said late on Monday.
"We also welcome statements from the European Union, the United Nations, France, Germany, and others rejecting these illegal and illegitimate actions," she added.
"If Russia were to recognize the so-called elections, it would only serve to isolate it further," the spokeswoman emphasized.

She threatened the governments of the self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk people's republics (LPR and DPR) with "a range of tools" and stressed Washington would not be working with the newly elected leaders in the east Ukrainian territories.
"We're going to continue to work with the central Government of Ukraine… We're going to continue to press for the implementation of the Minsk Agreement and all of the specific steps that are included in there," Psaki noted.
On November 2, the regions voted in the presidential and parliamentary elections that Kiev said it would never recognize.
Russia said it would recognize the results of the elections in eastern Ukraine since it meant the regions would have their own legitimate representatives at the negotiations with Kiev. In return, the White House warned Moscow of additional costs following its support of what it called as "sham" elections.

The US government loves to “promote democracy” overseas, often at the barrel of a gun. Strangely enough, however, it often “deplores” actual elections being held in such places. Take Ukraine, for example. An election held last week by a group that forcibly seized power from a legitimately-elected government was hailed by the US administration as a great democratic achievement.
Said John Kerry about last week’s parliamentary election held by the post-coup government in Kiev:

We applaud Ukraine’s commitment to an inclusive and transparent political process that strengthens national unity. … The people of Ukraine have spoken, and they have again chosen to chart the course of democracy, reform, and European integration.

In this US-approved vote, the parties disapproved by the US were harassed and even essentially banned. But that’s OK.
However in eastern Ukraine, which refused to recognize February’s US-backed coup in the western part of the country, parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for tomorrow are scorned and even “deplored” by the US administration.
The White House condemned tomorrow’s elections in eastern Ukraine in no uncertain terms:

We deplore the intent of separatists in parts of eastern Ukraine to hold illegitimate so-called local ‘elections’ on Sunday, November 2. If held, these ‘elections’ would contravene Ukraine’s constitution and laws and the September 5 Minsk Protocol.

So here is the real message from the US government:elections overseas are only legitimate if we have pre-approved the parties allowed to stand and if we have pre-approved the outcome. The election must result in exactly the kind of “pro-West” government that we desire or we will begin destabilization and regime change, if completely ignoring the results does not do the trick.
Is that what John Kerry meant when he said, “you just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion”?

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