Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Vigil in Nelson tonight against invasion of Gaza

The most important piece of information for those attending the vigil to hear is that Hamas offered to extend the ceasefire, but wanted an end to the starvation blockade as part of the terms.

"According to the Israeli press, Yuval Diskin, the current head of the Israeli security service Shin Bet, 'told the Israeli cabinet [on 23 December] that Hamas is interested in continuing the truce, but wants to improve its terms.'...Diskin explained that Hamas was requesting two things: an end to the blockade, and an Israeli ceasefire on the West Bank. The cabinet – high with election fever and eager to appear tough – rejected these terms" (Jonathan Hari Independent Dec 29 08).
Israel *has* a partner for peace and isn't interested.

But what would inspire the Israeli government to put Gilad Shalit's life at risk if not the rain of rockets on Sderot? An article by Mark Turner links an increase in the intensity of the Israeli seige at the time (EI January 2008) with the collapse of a deal concerning approximately 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas beneath Gaza's territorial waters.

This is especially interesting because Israel-Palestine is one of the few places in that region to defy the canard "it's all about oil." (Afghanistan is another.) Known as the Gaza Marine Field, the reservoir is 90 percent owned by the British Gas Group (BG) and is worth approximately $4 billion. Production was slated for sale to Egypt--or not.

Turner notes that
"... pressure from then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair led the company to redirect its efforts toward Israel and develop plans for an underwater pipeline that would transport the gas to an Israeli refinery at Ashkelon. That deal could have eventually provided Israel with approximately 10 percent of its annual energy requirement..."
But after the Hamas election victory in 2006, BG and the Palestinian Authority were ready for another roll of the dice. This year BG closed its offices in Israel (Herzliya).

Enter Barack Obama. The Obama question goes well beyond what, if anything, the American president-elect is going to say or do about the current invasion of Gaza. We already have an answer to that. (Abunimah EI Jan 3 09) But what is the US going to do about the extremely messy Bush legacy? 1) The prospect of a freelance/proxy war by Israel against Iran; 2) the absurd "Roadmap" and Bush's illusory Annapolis contribution; 3) and above all, the "American plan to bring Democracy to the Middle East." That brings us back to democratically-elected Hamas, Iran's democracy in spite of US efforts against it, the loss of influence by both the US and the EU in democratic Turkey, the disastrous "Cedar revolution" in Lebanon, and continued democratic rattling of Mubarak's US-funded cage by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. I could go on.

In international affairs, it's always a mistake to underestimate the role of domestic politics as a determinant of foreign policy. In fact, the international arena is a kind of garbage dump, an "away" where the external costs of domestic incompetence are paid in full. An article for The Nation by Tel Aviv journalist Hillel Schenker offers this bit of local analysis:
"Now Barak's goal is to demonstrate that he can be both an effective and a responsible military leader, someone you can trust to lead the country. The fact is that he has gained the most from the action so far, nearly doubling the Labor Party prediction, to sixteen seats. As for Olmert, he would like to compensate for his image as a failed military leader stemming from the 2006 Lebanon debacle. Livni is in the weakest position, since she is not seen as leading Operation Cast Lead, as the Gaza offensive is being called, though she may regain credit when we enter the diplomatic phase, and she continues to be considered 'a different politician' with a clean, uncorrupt image" (Jan 2 09).
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