“Petrol hits £3 a litre!”

Come October, don’t be surprised if you see this headline. Right now, the chances of it happening are very real indeed. Why? Because in September Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to attack Iran. This will be followed by the Iranians blocking the Straits of Hormuz, and a standoff between the US Navy and the Iranian Navy. As tensions escalate, oil prices are going to hit the roof. The price for Mr Netanyahu’s little escapade is going to be paid for by the likes of you and me in the form of higher fuel prices and an even deeper recession.

How do I know Mr Netanyahu’s intentions? Well of course I don’t, but he’s been threatening to attack Iran for nearly two years now, and those in the know are putting their money on September. Why September? Because Netanyahu wants to deliver the Obama presidential bid a fatal blow. Not only do they hate each other’s guts, Netanyahu thinks the Republicans are going to be easier to manage than the Democrats – despite the Jewish vote being traditionally Democrat.

Netanyahu already controls Congress in matters concerning Israel and US Middle East policy. Every Congressman and woman being ‘scored’ by the all powerful Israeli lobby on how well they support Netanyahu and his policies. Dare to utter a critical word or not do Netanyahu’s bidding, and thousands of re-election donations mysteriously evaporate.

Back home Mr Netanyahu’s coalition is in trouble. Kadima has decided to leave the coalition. Netanyahu’s grasp on power is looking tenuous. A convenient crisis to focus on ‘the great leader Netanyahu’ is just what the doctor ordered.

And don’t be fooled by the argument that it’s the threat of Iran with a nuclear bomb that’s motivating Mr Netanyahu. Not a bit of it. It’s all about the balance of power in the Middle East. Israel is the only ‘nuclear power’ in the region at the moment. If Iran had nuclear weapons it would change the whole dynamic in the Middle East, and that’s something Netanyahu is not prepared to accept.

So what are the Americans saying to Netanyahu? Are they just going to let him do what he wants and pour petrol on the Middle East fire? Defence Secretary Panetta says he genuinely doesn’t know what his intentions are, which is a pretty bizarre state of affairs. Maybe they know and are afraid to say anything lest they upset the Jewish vote. Who Knows?

And what of the British Government, where do they stand? William Hague has said he thinks an attack on Iran by Israel ‘would be unwise’. Good that he’s spoken up, but as September draws closer it might be wise for him to voice his disapproval in more forceful and unequivocal terms – for all our sakes.


How journalists can avenge the death of Marie Colvin

Was Marie Covin deliberately targeted by Syrian artillery? There is no way of being totally certain, but the ‘media centre’ – a house some journalists were using in Homs – must have been a good source of ‘electronic activity’ which would not have been difficult to pick up and pin point.

Yesterday’s events illustrate all too clearly that Assad will do whatever it takes to prevent journalists feeding the world’s media with reports and images of his atrocities. He is desperate to do whatever he can to prevent the true extent of what’s going on in towns like Homs getting out.

Assad is even more concerned to limit what Syrians see, particularly members of the armed forces. Why? Because he’s only able to cling to power as long as the army remains on side. He doesn’t want his soldiers to see the true effects of their actions or more of them may be tempted to defect.

Whilst there have been reports that the number of defections from the army have been increasing, it’s not yet a major problem for Assad. It needs to be. Defections are his Achilles heel.

Jonathan Rugman, reporting for Channel 4 News from inside Syria this week, reported that Syrians were actually quite well informed. Even in some of the remote villages in the north were aware  of what was going on in places like Homs and Hama and knew that the Russians and the Chinese had let them down at the UN. Aljazeera  being the main source of their information.

Whether they have recognised it yet or not, journalists have a unique opportunity to avenge Marie Colvin’s death and help bring down the Assad regime. How?  By increasing their coverage of defections and interviews of defectors.  This is exactly the sort of thing Assad does not want his army to see. It may sound a simple plan, it is.

Without deliberately manipulating the news, but by emphasising that part of the news that could most affect change in Syria – defections, journalists have the power to help bring Assad’s reign of terror to an end.  They need to help make defection in the Syrian army contagious.


The Euro crisis? It’s now become a game of chicken

Now here’s a lady who should be listened to. Conatanze Stelzenmuller of the German Marshall Fund. If you wanted a commonsense perspective on the Eurozone crisis, this is it. She’s so refreshingly direct, and talks a whole lot of common sense. What a change from the diet of virtuous political twaddle we have to endure.

What’s Germany up to? It’s a game of chicken. It’s a bit obvious really. Why would Germany not try and lock in every possible reform before agreeing to provide the funds to save the Euro? It would be absolutely mad not to do so. Countries like Italy have got to learn fiscal responsibility and work within recognisable rules. Fiscal union will be the final outcome whether some countries like it or not – and make no mistake, fiscal union would not have been on the agenda if this crisis had not happened.

And Britain? Quite rightly she points out that Britain is a fully integrated member of the Eurozone whether it uses the currency or not. To say otherwise would be ‘delusional’. She’s right. We are becoming a laughing stock, standing on the sidelines carping. Sarkozy was right to snap at Cameron – who has shown himself to be weak and unconvincing. He appears to be more concerned about the mutterings of eurosceptic Tory nutters than he is about the fate of the Eurozone – and our future, the two – in case he hasn’t noticed – are inextricably linked.

Listen to what Constanze Stelzenmuller has to say:


The mouse roared – the lion and the bear blushed

Radek Sikorski’s widely published comments asking for Germany to use its power 72 years after its invasion of Poland have caused an uproar in his home country, forcing the prime minister to step into the fray to back him. Here’s what he had to say:

“I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is,” Sikorski said in Berlin on Monday at a meeting at the German Society for Foreign Affairs. “I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity.

 “What, as Poland’s foreign minister, do I regard as the biggest threat to the security and prosperity of Poland today? It’s not terrorism, it’s not the Taliban, and it’s certainly not German tanks. It’s not even Russian missiles which President Medvedev has just threatened to deploy on the EU’s border. The biggest threat to the security and prosperity of Poland would be the collapse of the eurozone.”

“And I demand of Germany that, for your own sake and for ours, you help it survive and prosper. You know full well that nobody else can do it. As a Pole and a European, here in Berlin, I say: the time to act is now. Because of your size and your history you have a special responsibility to preserve peace and democracy on the continent.”

He went on to make a very strong appeal to Britain to support the proposed reforms recalling that the British gave the union its common language, the brilliant idea of the Single Market, but also that the British would only lose if the eurozone collapsed. Pointedly he remarked, “are you sure markets will always favour you?”

“We would prefer you in, but if you can’t join, please allow us to forge ahead. And please start explaining to your people that European decisions are not Brussels’ diktats but results of agreements in which you freely participate.”

Are you listening Mr Cameron?  Angela and Dave –  step up to the mark!



“Noam Chomsky: The Iranian Threat”

The US is not taking any practical steps to ensure a nuclear-free Middle East, says Noam Chomsky. “9/11 Was there an alternative?”  an updated version of his classic account, just being published this week with a major new essay – from which this post was adapted – considering the 10 years since the 9/11 attacks.

Over the past week various elements both in Washington DC and Tel Aviv have been promoting a renewed rhetoric of an Iranian threat. Back in July of this year, Professor Chomsky wrote the following commentary on the issue that resonates even louder today.


Cambridge, Ma – The dire threat of Iran is widely recognised to be the most serious foreign policy crisis facing the Obama administration. General Petraeus informed the Senate Committee on Armed Services in March 2010 that “the Iranian regime is the primary state-level threat to stability” in the US Central Command area of responsibility, the Middle East and Central Asia, the primary region of US global concerns. The term “stability” here has its usual technical meaning: firmly under US control. In June 2010 Congress strengthened the sanctions against Iran, with even more severe penalties against foreign companies. The Obama administration has been rapidly expanding US offensive capacity in the African island of Diego Garcia, claimed by Britain, which had expelled the population so that the US could build the massive base it uses for attacks in the Central Command area. The Navy reports sending a submarine tender to the island to service nuclear-powered guided-missile submarines with Tomahawk missiles, which can carry nuclear warheads. Each submarine is reported to have the striking power of a typical carrier battle group. According to a US Navy cargo manifest obtained by the Sunday Herald (Glasgow), the substantial military equipment Obama has dispatched includes 387 “bunker busters” used for blasting hardened underground structures. Planning for these “massive ordnance penetrators”, the most powerful bombs in the arsenal short of nuclear weapons, was initiated in the Bush administration, but languished. On taking office, Obama immediately accelerated the plans, and they are to be deployed several years ahead of schedule, aiming specifically at Iran.

“They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran,” according to Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London. “US bombers and long range missiles are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours,” he said. “The firepower of US forces has quadrupled since 2003,” accelerating under Obama.

The Arab press reports that an American fleet (with an Israeli vessel) passed through the Suez Canal on the way to the Persian Gulf, where its task is “to implement the sanctions against Iran and supervise the ships going to and from Iran”. British and Israeli media report that Saudi Arabia is providing a corridor for Israeli bombing of Iran (denied by Saudi Arabia). On his return from Afghanistan to reassure NATO allies that the US will stay the course after the replacement of General McChrystal by his superior, General Petraeus, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen visited Israel to meet IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and senior military staff along with intelligence and planning units, continuing the annual strategic dialogue between Israel and the US The meeting focused “on the preparation by both Israel and the US for the possibility of a nuclear capable Iran”, according to Haaretz, which reports further that Mullen emphasised that “I always try to see challenges from Israeli perspective”. Mullen and Ashkenazi are in regular contact on a secure line.

The increasing threats of military action against Iran are of course in violation of the UN Charter, and in specific violation of Security Council Resolution 1887 of September 2009 which reaffirmed the call to all states to resolve disputes related to nuclear issues peacefully, in accordance with the Charter, which bans the use or threat of force.

Some analysts who seem to be taken seriously describe the Iranian threat in apocalyptic terms. Amitai Etzioni warns that “the US will have to confront Iran or give up the Middle East”, no less. If Iran’s nuclear programme proceeds, he asserts, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other states will “move toward” the new Iranian “superpower”. To rephrase in less fevered rhetoric, a regional alliance might take shape independent of the US. In the US army journal Military Review, Etzioni urges a US attack that targets not only Iran’s nuclear facilities, but also its non-nuclear military assets, including infrastructure – meaning, the civilian society. “This kind of military action is akin to sanctions – causing ‘pain’ in order to change behaviour, albeit by much more powerful means.”

Iranian threat?

Such inflammatory pronouncements aside, what exactly is the Iranian threat? An authoritative answer is provided by military and intelligence reports to Congress in April 2010 [Lieutenant General Ronald L. Burgess, Director, Defence Intelligence Agency, Statement before the Committee on Armed Services, US Senate, 14 April 2010; Unclassified Report on Military Power of Iran, April 2010; John J Kruzel, American Forces Press Service, “Report to Congress Outlines Iranian Threats”, April 2010].

The brutal clerical regime is doubtless a threat to its own people, though it does not rank particularly high in that respect in comparison to US allies in the region. But that is not what concerns the military and intelligence assessments. Rather, they are concerned with the threat Iran poses to the region and the world.

The reports make it clear that the Iranian threat is not military. Iran’s military spending is “relatively low compared to the rest of the region”, and of course minuscule as compared to the US. Iranian military doctrine is strictly “defensive, designed to slow an invasion and force a diplomatic solution to hostilities”. Iran has only “a limited capability to project force beyond its borders”. With regard to the nuclear option, “Iran’s nuclear programme and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy”.

Though the Iranian threat is not military aggression, that does not mean that it might be tolerable to Washington. Iranian deterrent capacity is considered an illegitimate exercise of sovereignty that interferes with US global designs. Specifically, it threatens US control of Middle East energy resources, a high priority of planners since World War II. As one influential figure advised, expressing a common understanding, control of these resources yields “substantial control of the world” (A A Berle).

But Iran’s threat goes beyond deterrence. It is also seeking to expand its influence. Iran’s “current five-year plan seeks to expand bilateral, regional and international relations, strengthen Iran’s ties with friendly states, and enhance its defence and deterrent capabilities. Commensurate with that plan, Iran is seeking to increase its stature by countering US influence and expanding ties with regional actors while advocating Islamic solidarity”. In short, Iran is seeking to “destabilise” the region, in the technical sense of the term used by General Petraeus. US invasion and military occupation of Iran’s neighbours is “stabilisation”. Iran’s efforts to extend its influence in neighbouring countries is “destabilisation”, hence plainly illegitimate. It should be noted that such revealing usage is routine. Thus the prominent foreign policy analyst James Chace, former editor of the main establishment journal Foreign Affairs, was properly using the term “stability” in its technical sense when he explained that in order to achieve “stability” in Chile it was necessary to “destabilise” the country (by overthrowing the elected Allende government and installing the Pinochet dictatorship).


Beyond these crimes, Iran is also carrying out and supporting terrorism, the reports continue. Its Revolutionary Guards “are behind some of the deadliest terrorist attacks of the past three decades”, including attacks on US military facilities in the region and “many of the insurgent attacks on Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces in Iraq since 2003”. Furthermore, Iran backs Hezbollah and Hamas, the major political forces in Lebanon and in Palestine – if elections matter. The Hezbollah-based coalition handily won the popular vote in Lebanon’s latest (2009) election. Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian election, compelling the US and Israel to institute the harsh and brutal siege of Gaza to punish the miscreants for voting the wrong way in a free election. These have been the only relatively free elections in the Arab world. It is normal for elite opinion to fear the threat of democracy and to act to deter it, but this is a rather striking case, particularly alongside of strong US support for the regional dictatorships, emphasised by Obama with his strong praise for the brutal Egyptian dictator Mubarak on the way to his famous address to the Muslim world in Cairo.

The terrorist acts attributed to Hamas and Hezbollah pale in comparison to US-Israeli terrorism in the same region, but they are worth a look nevertheless.

On May 25, 2010 Lebanon celebrated its national holiday Liberation Day, commemorating Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon after 22 years, as a result of Hezbollah resistance – described by Israeli authorities as “Iranian aggression” against Israel in Israeli-occupied Lebanon (Ephraim Sneh). That too is normal imperial usage. Thus President John F Kennedy condemned the “the assault from the inside” in South Vietnam, “which is manipulated from the North.” This criminal assault by the South Vietnamese resistance against Kennedy’s bombers, chemical warfare, programs to drive peasants to virtual concentration camps, and other such benign measures was denounced as “internal aggression” by Kennedy’s UN Ambassador, liberal hero Adlai Stevenson. North Vietnamese support for their countrymen in the US-occupied South is aggression, intolerable interference with Washington’s righteous mission. Kennedy advisers Arthur Schlesinger and Theodore Sorenson, considered doves, also praised Washington’s intervention to reverse “aggression” in South Vietnam – by the indigenous resistance, as they knew, at least if they read US intelligence reports. In 1955 the US Joint Chiefs of Staff had defined several types of “aggression”, including “Aggression other than armed, i.e., political warfare, or subversion”. For example, an internal uprising against a US-imposed police state, or elections that come out the wrong way. The usage is also common in scholarship and political commentary, and makes sense on the prevailing assumption that We Own the World.

Hamas resists Israel’s military occupation and its illegal and violent actions in the occupied territories. It is accused of refusing to recognise Israel (political parties do not recognise states). In contrast, the US and Israel not only do not recognise Palestine, but have been acting relentlessly and decisively for decades to ensure that it can never come into existence in any meaningful form. The governing party in Israel, in its 1999 campaign platform, bars the existence of any Palestinian state – a step towards accommodation beyond the official positions of the US and Israel a decade earlier, which held that there cannot be “an additional Palestinian state” between Israel and Jordan, the latter a “Palestinian state” by US-Israeli fiat whatever its benighted inhabitants and government might believe.

Hamas is charged with rocketing Israeli settlements on the border, criminal acts no doubt, though a fraction of Israel’s violence in Gaza, let alone elsewhere. It is important to bear in mind, in this connection, that the US and Israel know exactly how to terminate the terror that they deplore with such passion. Israel officially concedes that there were no Hamas rockets as long as Israel partially observed a truce with Hamas in 2008. Israel rejected Hamas’ offer to renew the truce, preferring to launch the murderous and destructive Operation Cast Lead against Gaza in December 2008, with full US backing, an exploit of murderous aggression without the slightest credible pretext on either legal or moral grounds.


The model for democracy in the Muslim world, despite serious flaws, is Turkey, which has relatively free elections, and has also been subject to harsh criticism in the US. The most extreme case was when the government followed the position of 95 per cent of the population and refused to join in the invasion of Iraq, eliciting harsh condemnation from Washington for its failure to comprehend how a democratic government should behave: under our concept of democracy, the voice of the Master determines policy, not the near-unanimous voice of the population.

The Obama administration was once again incensed when Turkey joined with Brazil in arranging a deal with Iran to restrict its enrichment of uranium. Obama had praised the initiative in a letter to Brazil’s president Lula da Silva, apparently on the assumption that it would fail and provide a propaganda weapon against Iran. When it succeeded, the US was furious, and quickly undermined it by ramming through a Security Council resolution with new sanctions against Iran that were so meaningless that China cheerfully joined at once – recognising that at most the sanctions would impede Western interests in competing with China for Iran’s resources. Once again, Washington acted forthrightly to ensure that others would not interfere with US control of the region.

Not surprisingly, Turkey (along with Brazil) voted against the US sanctions motion in the Security Council. The other regional member, Lebanon, abstained. These actions aroused further consternation in Washington. Philip Gordon, the Obama administration’s top diplomat on European affairs, warned Turkey that its actions are not understood in the US and that it must “demonstrate its commitment to partnership with the West”, AP reported, “a rare admonishment of a crucial NATO ally”.

The political class understands as well. Steven A Cook, a scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations, observed that the critical question now is “How do we keep the Turks in their lane?” – following orders like good democrats. A New York Times headline captured the general mood: “Iran Deal Seen as Spot on Brazilian Leader’s Legacy”. In brief, do what we say, or else.

There is no indication that other countries in the region favour US sanctions any more than Turkey does. On Iran’s opposite border, for example, Pakistan and Iran, meeting in Turkey, recently signed an agreement for a new pipeline. Even more worrisome for the US is that the pipeline might extend to India. The 2008 US treaty with India supporting its nuclear programmes – and indirectly its nuclear weapons programmes – was intended to stop India from joining the pipeline, according to Moeed Yusuf, a South Asia adviser to the United States Institute of Peace, expressing a common interpretation. India and Pakistan are two of the three nuclear powers that have refused to sign the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), the third being Israel. All have developed nuclear weapons with US support, and still do.

Nuclear weapons-free zone

No sane person wants Iran to develop nuclear weapons; or anyone. One obvious way to mitigate or eliminate this threat is to establish a nuclear weapons-free zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East. The issue arose (again) at the NPT conference at United Nations headquarters in early May 2010. Egypt, as chair of the 118 nations of the Non-Aligned Movement, proposed that the conference back a plan calling for the start of negotiations in 2011 on a Middle East NWFZ, as had been agreed by the West, including the US, at the 1995 review conference on the NPT.

Washington still formally agrees, but insists that Israel be exempted – and has given no hint of allowing such provisions to apply to itself. The time is not yet ripe for creating the zone, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated at the NPT conference, while Washington insisted that no proposal can be accepted that calls for Israel’s nuclear programme to be placed under the auspices of the IAEA or that calls on signers of the NPT, specifically Washington, to release information about “Israeli nuclear facilities and activities, including information pertaining to previous nuclear transfers to Israel”. Obama’s technique of evasion is to adopt Israel’s position that any such proposal must be conditional on a comprehensive peace settlement, which the US can delay indefinitely, as it has been doing for 35 years, with rare and temporary exceptions.

At the same time, Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, asked foreign ministers of its 151 member states to share views on how to implement a resolution demanding that Israel “accede to” the NPT and throw its nuclear facilities open to IAEA oversight, AP reported.

It is rarely noted that the US and UK have a special responsibility to work to establish a Middle East NWFZ. In attempting to provide a thin legal cover for their invasion of the Iraq in 2003, they appealed to Security Council Resolution 687 (1991), which called on Iraq to terminate its development of weapons of mass destruction. The US and UK claimed that they had not done so. We need not tarry on the excuse, but that Resolution commits its signers to move to establish a NWFZ in the Middle East.

Parenthetically, we may add that US insistence on maintaining nuclear facilities in Diego Garcia undermines the NWFZ) established by the African Union, just as Washington continues to block a Pacific NWFZ by excluding its Pacific dependencies.

Obama’s rhetorical commitment to non-proliferation has received much praise, even a Nobel peace prize. One practical step in this direction is establishment of NWFZs. Another is to withdraw support for the nuclear programmes of the three non-signers of the NPT. As often, rhetoric and actions are hardly aligned, in fact are in direct contradiction in this case, facts that pass with as little attention as most of what has just been briefly reviewed.

Instead of taking practical steps towards reducing the truly dire threat of nuclear weapons proliferation, the US is taking major steps towards reinforcing US control of the vital Middle East oil-producing regions, by violence if other means do not suffice. That is understandable and even reasonable, under prevailing imperial doctrine, however grim the consequences, yet another illustration of “the savage injustice of the Europeans” that Adam Smith deplored in 1776, with the command centre since shifted to their imperial settlement across the seas.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.



Palestine: Hague bottles it. An opportunity lost

Here is the full text of William Hague’s statement to the House of Commons on Palestine’s request for UN membership. As predicted, Britain will abstain if the vote goes before the Security Council, which is very disappointing and extremely short-sighted. An opportunity has been lost.

The most bizarre thing about this statement is that the government still believes that the Israelis are prepared to negotiate. They are not. Even if they are persuaded to get round the table, the negotiations will go on as they have for the past 44 years: endless obsfucation and prevarication and absolutely nothing will happen. In the meantime settlement building in the Occupied Territory will continue apace.

Hague wants to return to negotiations through the ‘Quartet process’. This is a totally ridiculous suggestion. The Quartet has been totally discredited. It is  is an opaque,  unaccountable  organisation created to preserve a US-Israeli agenda in the region, effectively keeping the Palestinians tucked away behind a diplomatic wall. The Palestinians should – and will – have nothing to do with it.

Our lilly-livered rsponse to the Palestine initiative has done absolutely nothing to change the dynamic in the peace process.  Shame on us.

William Hague’s statement to the House of Commons:

“I repeat our calls for negotiations on a two state solution without delay and without preconditions, based on the timetable set out in the Quartet Statement of 23rd September. In our view, the parameters for a Palestinian State are those affirmed by the European Union as a whole: borders based on 1967 lines with equivalent land swaps; a just, fair and realistic solution for refugees; and agreement on Jerusalem as the future capital of both states. Israel’s announcement last week that it would accelerate the construction of 2,000 settlement housing units was wrong and deeply counterproductive. This was the eighth announcement of settlement expansion in six months. We also condemn the decision to withhold tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority which was provocative and against Israel’s own interests, since it has direct implications for the Palestinian Authority’s ability to maintain effective security in the West Bank. We call on Israel to revoke both of these decisions.

We are also concerned about the situation in Gaza and the constant risk of an escalation in violence. We believe the Israeli restrictions harm ordinary Palestinians, inhibit economic development and strengthen rather than weaken Hamas.

It will be both right and directly in Israel’s interest if she permits increased imports of building materials for UN projects and for the private sector in Gaza, allows legitimate exports to traditional markets in the West Bank and Israel, and reduces restrictions on civilian movement between Gaza and the West Bank.

On Friday the Admissions Committee of the Security Council will conclude its consideration of the Palestinian application and produce a report summarising Council members’ views on whether Palestine meets the criteria for membership under the United Nations Charter.

As this could now soon be followed by a vote in the UNSC it is appropriate to inform the House of the Government’s intentions.

The UK judges that the Palestinian Authority largely fulfils criteria for UN membership, including statehood as far as the reality of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories allows, but its ability to function effectively as a State would be impeded by that situation. A negotiated end to the occupation is the best way to allow Palestinian aspirations to be met in reality and on the ground.

We will not vote against the application because of the progress the Palestinian leadership has made towards meeting the criteria.

But nor can we vote for it while our primary objective remains a return to negotiations through the Quartet process and the success of those negotiations.

For these reasons in common with France and in consultation with our European partners, the United Kingdom will abstain on any vote on full Palestinian membership of the UN.

We reserve the right to recognise a Palestinian state bilaterally at a moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace. The United Kingdom will continue to be one of the principal supporters of Palestinian state building efforts, assisting them to tackle poverty, build institutions and boost their economy.

If their application to the UNSC fails, the Palestinian leadership have indicated that they may take the issue to a vote at the UN General Assembly, where different voting procedures and different considerations apply. We and the other countries of the EU will continue to emphasise that any proposition put to the General Assembly must make a return to negotiations more likely.

For Israel, the only means of averting unilateral applications to the UN is a return to negotiations. A demonstration of political will and leadership is needed from both sides to break the current impasse. This includes the Israeli government being prepared to make a more decisive offer than any they have been willing to make in the past.”



No poodle politics please. Britain needs to stand up and be counted over Palestine

Tomorrow William Hague will stand up in the House of Commons and declare  Britain is going to abstain in the UN vote on Palestinian statehood. Britain’s abstention is shameful, an act of betrayal and a lost opportunity.

It really doesn’t matter if the US is going to veto the application – which it will. American politics is dysfunctional: in matters concerning Israel and Palestine, Netanyahu controls Congress. Through organisations such as AIPAC he’s able to get Congress to do exactly what he wants. By abstaining we are effectively following the American / Netanyahu line – why? Why do we have to be their poodle? Don’t we have a mind of our own? Isn’t it time we stood up for the Palestinians? Isn’t this a heaven sent opportunity to stand up and be counted and to change the dynamic of future negotiations? What’s the problem? Are our politicians under the influence of the Israeli lobby too?

According to a diplomatic source, Realpolitik means it is impractical to go ahead now. A symbolic act won’t bring into being a Palestinian state if that doesn’t relate to anything on the ground,” the source said. “It can do damage by raising expectations.”  What complete and utter drivel! This is anything but a symbolic act. What’s happening on the ground is that the building of settlements is being speeded up. And anyway, isn’t it time we went out of our way to deliberately raise Palestinian expectations? To let the Palestinian people know that Britain is prepared to stand up against those who want to prolong their suffering and destroy their expectations?

The real realpolitik is that Netanyahu has absolutely no intention of ever starting the peace process again. He’s not the least interested in a two state solution – or any solution. He’s only interested in absorbing the Occupied Territories into Greater Israel. A Palestinian state is anathema to him and the fate of the Palestinian people is of little consequence. The real realpolitik is that Netanyahu is prepared to use every trick in the book to get his way and to sucker America into doing his bidding. We should have no part in that. We need to distance ourselves from the American / Netanyahu line. We have the opportunity to do so by voting ‘Yes’ and supporting the Palestinian application for statehood. We should do so.


Papandreou move over – make way for Liana!

VIDEO: Oh what a find! Liana Kanelli, bold and beautiful, a communist member of the Greek parliament says how it is – and how! There’s no messing with this lady. The referendum question? Her suggestion is probably pretty close to the truth. Let’s hope we hear more from Liana in the weeks to come!


For Palestinians not to see Europe as an enemy, it’s a ‘no’ to America’s dangerous game


The number of UN member states extending diplomatic recognition to the State of Palestine has now risen to 131, leaving only 62 UN member states on the wrong side of history and humanity.

If one ignores small island states in the Caribbean and the Pacific, almost all of the non-recognisers are Western states, including all five of the settler-colonial states founded on the ethnic cleansing or genocide of indigenous populations and all eight of the former European colonial powers.

It appears that the current American strategy to defeat the State of Palestine’s UN membership application is to try to deprive Palestine of the required nine affirmative votes in the Security Council by convincing all five European members (including Bosnia & Herzegovina, which has recognised the State of Palestine) and Colombia (the only South American state which has not recognised the State of Palestine) to abstain, leaving only eight affirmative votes and thus making America’s lone negative vote not technically a “veto”.

Even though everyone knows that the Security Council would approve Palestinian membership unanimously if the United States announced its support, the explanation and expectation behind this strategy is, apparently, that, in the absence of a “veto”, no one would notice America’s fingerprints all over this result, no one (notably in the Arab and Muslim worlds) would be outraged by America’s blocking of Palestine’s membership application and Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues would crawl back into the hamster cage from which they have so recently and dramatically escaped, duly chastened and docile, and resume running mindlessly on the Israeli-American exercise wheel.

This is not simply a breathtakingly naïve strategy but an extraordinarily dangerous one – and not only because the Ramallah leadership, having experienced enlightenment and a spine transplant, has also recovered its self-respect and human dignity and will not be crawling back into its cage.

An American veto would be neither a big deal nor a bad thing. It would unequivocally confirm the sad and humiliating reality, now almost universally recognised, that the United States of America is enslaved to Israel, paying tribute and taking orders. By doing so, an American veto would definitively disqualify the United States from playing any significant role in any genuine Middle East “peace process” which would replace the fraudulent one which the United States has been controlling and manipulating on Israel’s behalf for the past 20 years and, thereby, would finally give peace a chance.

Indeed, since state observer status would confer on the State of Palestine virtually all the same benefits as member state status (most importantly, right of access to the International Criminal Court, where it could sue Israelis for war crimes, including settlement building, and crimes against humanity), an American veto in the Security Council followed by an upgrade to state observer status by the General Assembly might actually be the most constructive possible result for Palestine – even better than full UN membership with American acquiescence but with the United States maintaining its monopoly stranglehold on any “peace process”.

One might then realistically hope that the new emerging international force, the “BRICS” countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – all current members of the Security Council which have recognised the State of Palestine and are on record as planning to vote for Palestinian membership), and the European Union could jointly mobilise the true international community behind a genuine and urgent effort to actually achieve peace with some measure of justice.

On the other hand, America’s unanimous European abstention strategy, if successful, would have catastrophic consequences. While the Arab and Muslim worlds have learned to expect the worst from the United States, they have, at least until now, maintained some hope that Europe is not their enemy. If Palestine’s membership application were to be defeated by a united Western front, the world would be confronted by a fundamental clash of the “West against the Rest”, resurrecting memories of the most arrogant and contemptuous periods of Western imperialism and colonialism and confirming the belief, already widespread in the Arab and Muslim worlds, that the Judeo-Christian world is at war with the Muslim world.

Of course, it is within the power of one man to prevent this ugly scenario from playing out. Are the prospects of a few more votes for himself and less campaign money for his eventual Republican opponent really more important to America’s multi-racial president than preventing a long-running clash of civilisations, cultures, races and religions and permitting – indeed, promoting – progress toward a more peaceful, just and harmonious world?

The world should find out in the coming weeks.

John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel.



The two state solution is dead – the funeral is today


Voting on full membership for the PLO in the UN marks the end of the Oslo accords

This week should be the end of the so-called peace process – and the ‘two state solution’. Whatever happens at the United Nations, the game is finished, and a transition to something else altogether is already underway.

This month marks 18 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords, and the declaration from the Palestinian side that they recognised Israel’s right to exist. In return, Israel recognised – the legitimacy of the PLO to represent the Palestinians. That was the exchange, and this asymmetry has shaped the ‘peace process’ ever since.

Another anniversary – this year is 20 years since the Madrid Conference that gave birth to Oslo. Two decades of negotiations and ‘temporary autonomy’; two decades of Israeli colonisation, Wall-building, and fact-making. But to best understand why this is, as Ali Abunimah put it, the funeral of the two state solution, recall a short phrase used by Israeli PM Netanyahu last week that echoed the words of former-PM Yitzhak Rabin.

Discussing the Palestinians’ UN initiative, Netanyahu said: “as long as it is less than a state, I’m ready to talk about it”. Here is Israel’s approach to decades of negotiations and ‘compromises’ in a nutshell.

Going back to 1995, and just a month before he was assassinated, the then-Israeli PM Rabin told the Knesset that “we would like this to be an entity which is less than a state”. Rabin, canonised by the high priests of ‘coexistence’, then went on to outline his understanding of a “permanent solution”: Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the “establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria”.

Then, like the surprise converts to the cause (Sharon, Olmert, etc.) that would come after him, Rabin’s talk of a Palestinian “state” was shaped by one, main motivation:  the desire to preserve “a Jewish state” and avoid “a bi-national state”.

Thus while for many in the West it was assumed that the peace process was about geography, in fact for Israel it has always been about demography. Maximum land, minimum Arabs – and through their willing partners in the Palestinian Authority, “maximum power, minimum accountability”.

Recently, a discussion was held in London on Palestinian statehood featuring several prominent Israeli commentators and diplomats. The overwhelming consensus was that ‘demography’ made a two state solution imperative in order to save Israel as a Jewish state. As Fox News regular Alon Pinkas pithily put it: “Our homeland has a lot of Arabs, tough luck”.

David Landau, former-Ha’aretz journalist and now with The Economist, was the most angst-ridden of them all. We should be rejoicing, he said, that the Palestinians under Mahmoud Abbas still want a two state solution and are not asking for ‘one man, one vote’.

To a certain extent, he’s right; it is not the current Palestinian leadership that will reframe the struggle. But that time is coming. While Palestinians and their supporters increasingly and intelligently place ‘rights’ at the centre of their campaigning, soon the recognition that Jews and Palestinians must share one country as equals will mean that the only ones left talking about a Palestinian state will be those trying to preserve a regime of Jewish ethno-religious exclusivity.

Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer, specialising in Palestine and Israel. His first book, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, was published by Pluto Press in 2009, receiving praise from the likes of Desmond Tutu, Nur Masalha and Ghada Karmi.