Ehud Barak: war criminal or savior of Middle East peace?

In an article which appeared yesterday in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, Ehud Barak, Israel's minister of defense, and condemned war criminal for his leadership in the Gaza atrocities of a year ago, announced that “peace process failures (are a) greater threat than Iran nukes,” to paraphrase the article title.

Interestingly, it was five years ago that Barak made a proposal concerning peace on the Charlie Rose Show. In this interview, he acknowledged that Israel must set its eastern border and pull tens of thousands of settlers behind it. (Aside, he also finally acknowledged the hoax of Camp David, the “generous offer.”)

It was January 25, 2005 and called: A conversation with Israel's former Prime Minister Ehud Barak about the possibility of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.

In a report by Haaretz dated yesterday, January 26, 2010, Barak publically reiterated his view concerning Israel's borders, that unresolved borders are more dangerous to Israel than Iran's nuclear program. Curiously, Hillary Clinton likewise proposed that renewed negotiations begin with the settling Israel borders, which bypassed Netanyahu continuing colonialism, something he is hardly interested in, given his public claims to considerable territory belonging to the Palestinians.

"Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday said that Israel's failure to strike a peace deal with the Palestinians was a greater threat to the country than a nuclear Iran, Army Radio reported.

"The lack of a solution to the problem of border demarcation within the historic Land of Israel - and not an Iranian bomb - is the most serious threat to Israel's future," Barak told a Tel Aviv conference.

Barak called on the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, to return to the negotiating table. Abbas has so far refused to restart talks until Israel freezes settlement building in the West bank, including in east Jerusalem. Abbas recently complained to Saudi King Abdullah over heavy pressure on him, particularly from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, to renew talks with Israel, the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported on Tuesday."

Are we being snookered again or is this a legitimate offer that Barak is peddling? At the same time, it is clear that what Netanyahu seems to be proposing is an Apartheid state for the Palestinians, lacking independent borders, Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, encirclement by Israeli forces, in short, bantustans.

What are we to believe?



Ehud Barak arrest threat; Goldstone Gaza crime report

"I've known him well. He has deep emotional and intellectual links to Israel but he also has a professional attachment to the rule of law. If he can be attacked as biased against Israel, then anyone on the planet is susceptible to that attack." -- Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, on Richard Goldstone

While a human rights group was attempting to have Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak arrested (see news below the fold), Judge Richard Goldstone, Head of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, today presented his group's final report on war crimes during the 2008-2009 Gaza conflict to the UN Human Rights Council:

Head of the fact finding mission, South African Justice Richard Goldstone, criticized Israel for not cooperating with the mission and strongly rejected accusations that the investigation was politically motivated.  

He described a number of incidents in which Israeli forces launched direct attacks against civilians with lethal consequences.  With one exception, he said there was no military objective or advantage that could justify the attacks.

"The mission found that the attack on the only remaining flour-producing factory, the destruction of a large part of the Gaza egg production, the bulldozing of huge tracts of agricultural land, and the bombing of some 200 industrial facilities, could not on any basis be justified on military grounds. Those attacks had nothing whatever to do with the firing of rockets and mortars at Israel," Goldstone said. "These attack amounted to reprisals and collective punishment and constitute war crimes." 

The mission found the repeated firing of rockets and mortars into southern Israel by Palestinian armed groups from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip constituted war crimes that may amount to crimes against humanity.

To clarify what the report recommends, Foreign Policy in Focus states:

The core of the recommendations is that Israel itself conduct an impartial inquiry into the allegations made against it, or face a Security Council referral to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Admittedly, given experience of the Israeli Defense Forces' strategic reserve supply of whitewash kept in hand for just such occasions, the mission recommends that the Council set up an international commission to monitor the Israeli inquiry. The same applies to Hamas.

Excellent commentary below by Richard Falk, professor emeritus in international law at Princeton University and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (in quotes in the passage), who now reluctantly supports international boycotts of and disinvestment from Israel:

There's more...

Is Netanyahu Sidestepping Lieberman?

When the far right Avigdor Lieberman was tapped to serve as Israel's Foreign Minister in a parliamentary coalition led by Bibi Netanyahu, the Foreign Policy blog commented that "Israel's international standing is going to take a major nosedive," and the progressive J Street simply said "Oy." But could Netanyahu be sidestepping his officially designated Foreign Minister? Reading today's Washington Post it certainly seems like it.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak began a round of meetings with top U.S. officials yesterday in a bid to head off an increasingly sharp dispute between the United States and Israel over the expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory.

Israeli officials have been stunned by the demands of top Obama administration officials that Israel halt settlement growth throughout the West Bank, and Barak was said to be carrying compromise proposals focusing mainly on dismantling unauthorized settlement outposts. He met in New York yesterday with special envoy George S. Mitchell, and will meet with Vice President Biden, national security adviser James L. Jones and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in the coming days.

This is a key time in Israel's relationship with the United States. Just two weeks have passed since Netanyahu visited the United States for contentious top level meetings at the White House. The President is indicating that he will play a significantly more active role in trying to secure peace in the Middle East than his predecessor, even if it means prodding Israel to make some tough decisions.

Who does Netanyahu send to America at this time? Not his Foreign Minister, who is viewed unfavorably by many outside of his country, but rather his Defense Minister, who had a very close relationship with the United States and the Clinton Administration, in particular, during his tenure as Prime Minister a decade ago.

Perhaps this is reading too much into these meetings. Then again, maybe Netanyahu has learned at least some lessons from his first failed stint as Prime Minister, when his poor relations with the United States led to the demise of his coalition, and has opted to put forward Israel's best face towards America rather than the face he needed to officially designate in order to form his governing coalition.

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Ehud Barak Takes Labor Over a Cliff into Political Irrevelance

Fresh off its worst electoral showing in its history garnering just 334,900 votes or 9.9% of the electorate, Israel's Labor Party Central Committee voted in favor of joining Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition. Labor Chairman and the current Defense Minister Ehud Barak drafted the deal with Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

But half of the left-leaning party's lawmakers objected to teaming up with the Likud leader due to his long-standing opposition to peace efforts. Ehud Barak made his appeal to join the Netanyahu coalition invoking slain Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin. In an impassioned speech before the vote, Ehud Barak said "we are responsible for the Labor Party, but we also have a responsibility to the state of Israel, to peace, to security. We don't have a back-up country, Yitzhak Rabin said that, and it is still true."

"Labor voters want to see us in the government, they want to see us there because we don't have a spare country," Mr. Barak added. I'm not so sure. I tend to agree with Kadima's Yohanan Plesner who said that Labor had "signed its own death warrant."

There's more...


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