JFP 8/26: Palestinian UN bid deterred major Israeli attack on Gaza
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August 26, 2011
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1) Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem, Daniel Rubinstein, threatened that the U.S. would cut off aid to the Palestinians if they sought to upgrade their status to observer state in the U.N. General Assembly, DPA reports. Rubinstein also said the U.S. would veto a Palestinian bid for recognition in the Security Council. [According to the Washington Post, the U.S. disputed the accuracy of Erekat's account of the meeting, but did not provide an alternative account - JFP.]
2) The presidents of Communications Workers of America and United Steelworkers are asking the House Select Intelligence Committee to look into press reports that allege that U.S. aid, equipment and training was used by Colombian officials who put labor leaders and activists in danger, The Hill reports. [The reference is to an article that appeared in the Washington Post - JFP.] "If U.S. assistance fueled Colombia's actions in this area, it not only highlights the unacceptable track record of the Colombian government, but undermines any conceivable legitimacy of an FTA with Colombia," Steelworkers President Leo Gerard said. The two labor leaders asked Congress to investigate the allegations before taking up the trade deal with Colombia.
3) Israeli officials were deterred from launching a major military assault on Gaza in response to a terrorist attack by the crisis in relations with Egypt, the fact that Hamas was not involved in the attack, and the worry that a major military assault would hurt Israel in the September U.N. debate over Palestinian independence, the New York Times reports. "We are witnessing a paradigm shift in front of our eyes," said a top Israeli official, describing the new constraints on Israeli action as a result of the Arab Spring. But some Israeli officials noted that Egyptian policy has changed less than advertized.
4) El Salvador on Thursday recognized Palestine as an independent state in the midst of a drive by the Arab League to upgrade it to full membership status in the United Nations, Reuters reports. About 120 countries have recognized the state of Palestine to date.
5) The U.S. and its allies have "all but ruled out" military action against Syria despite their success in Libya because Syria's opposition is less organized and faces a much stronger regime, AFP reports. One analyst said that unlike in Libya, the allies would also face Arab opposition to military strikes in Syria, and warned that intervention carried the risk of triggering a broader regional conflict.
Radwan Ziadeh, a U.S.-based Syrian dissident who has met U.S. Secretary of State Clinton, said rebel successes in Libya will spur more calls within Syria for arming the opposition, but warned such a move risked sparking a civil war pitting Syria's majority Sunni Muslims and other sects and ethnic groups against Assad's minority Alawite sect.
"I think the situation in Syria and Libya is different because in Syria you have different ethnic and religious groups and if the uprising turns violent, (this) will lead Syria to a civil war," he said. He said he believes the U.S. government understands the risk and "we share the same opinion on this issue." He added that Syria's neighbors also fear the risk of a civil war that could spread beyond Syria's borders.
1) U.S. envoy: We will stop aid to Palestinians if UN bid proceeds
U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem, Daniel Rubinstein, tells chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat U.S. 'will take punitive measures' against Palestinian Authority if it seeks to upgrade position at UN General Assembly.
DPA, 16:52 26.08.11
The United States will stop all financial aid to the Palestinian Authority if they proceed with plans to ask the United Nations for recognition of an independent state in September, a U.S. official warned Friday.
U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem, Daniel Rubinstein, told chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in the name of the Obama administration, that the U.S. would veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for recognition of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip within the June 4, 1967 borders and for UN membership.
"If the Palestinian Authority insists on going to the Security Council, the U.S. will use the veto," he told Erekat during a meeting in the West Bank city of Jericho, according to a statement issued by Erekat's office.
"And in case the Palestinian Authority seeks to upgrade its position at the UN through the General Assembly, the U.S. Congress will take punitive measures against it, including a cut in U.S. aid," he said.
2) Union leaders question Colombia's use of aid received from US
Vicki Needham, The Hill, 08/24/11 06:23 PM ET
Two union leaders are asking a House panel to investigate whether the Colombian government misused U.S. aid that they say endangered labor activists.
Larry Cohen and Leo Gerard, respective presidents of Communications Workers of America and United Steelworkers, are asking the House Select Intelligence Committee to look into press reports that allege that U.S. aid, equipment and training was used by Colombian officials who put labor leaders and activists in danger.
"Colombia has the worst record of any country in the world when it comes to violence against union leaders and activists," Cohen said. "The Select Intelligence Committee must take these allegations seriously, and aggressively investigate abuse of U.S. government support and assistance [to] Colombia."
Congress could take up the Colombia, South Korea and Panama free-trade deals within the next couple of months.
Unions and many House Democratic lawmakers oppose the Colombian deal because it doesn't include a labor action plan crafted by the White House and the Colombian government that requires improved protections of workers and labor activists as well as stronger punishments for violence.
"If U.S. assistance fueled Colombia's actions in this area, it not only highlights the unacceptable track record of the Colombian government, but undermines any conceivable legitimacy of an FTA with Colombia," Gerard said.
The two labor leaders asked Congress to investigate the allegations before taking up any of the trade deals.
"Colombia has not done enough to address the flaws in its laws to protect workers' rights," Gerard and Cohen said in a joint statement to the committee. "Colombia should not be rewarded with an FTA until the workers in that country have the rights they deserve and the confidence that in exercising those internationally recognized rights, they will not be subject to violence."
3) Unsettled Neighbors Leave Israel With Difficult Policy Choices
Ethan Bronner, New York Times, August 26, 2011
Jerusalem - Eight days after Israel suffered a terrorist attack from Egyptian Sinai and weeks before it faces a Palestinian statehood resolution at the United Nations, its officials say they are struggling with a painful set of strategic and diplomatic challenges produced by the region's popular uprisings.
As angry rallies by Egyptians outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo this week have shown, Israel's relationship with Egypt is fraying. A deadly exchange of rockets fired at southern Israel and Israeli airstrikes on Hamas-controlled Gaza this week showed the risk of escalation there. Damaged ties with Turkey are not improving. Cooperation with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank seems headed for trouble.
"We are witnessing a paradigm shift in front of our eyes," said a top Israeli official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Egypt was a major stabilizer in the region and that may be over. Coordination with the Palestinian security officials could be lost. We are concerned about Turkey."
Israeli officials say they are certain from detailed intelligence that the Aug. 18 infiltration that killed eight Israelis was planned and carried out from Gaza by Palestinians associated with a small radical group. But in its pursuit of the killers into Sinai and its assassinations of the group's leaders in Gaza, Israel found itself with less room to maneuver than in the past.
Last weekend, officials were contemplating a major military assault on Gaza. But that plan was shelved by the crisis that emerged with Egypt, by the realization that Hamas itself was uninvolved in the terrorist attack and by the worry about how such an assault would affect other countries' views during the United Nations debate of a Palestinian resolution in September.
Instead, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his most senior ministers decided over the course of several late-night meetings this week to promote cooperation with Egypt and restrict military action in Gaza to more limited strikes. Scores of rockets have hit Israel; dozens of Gazans have been killed and injured.
All officials interviewed said that popular sentiment, as expressed through the uprising that started in Tahrir Square, plays a greater role in Egyptian policy than it did under President Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown in February. Mr. Mubarak showed no affection for Israel and came here only once, for a few hours, for the 1995 funeral of Yitzhak Rabin. But his rule is associated with cooperative relations.
In spite of the concerns, Israeli officials noted that publicly, Egypt's leaders promised big changes, but they have not carried them out.
"When the new government came to power in Egypt it vowed to change its policies toward Iran, the United States, the peace treaty with Israel and Gaza," noted Shlomo Brom, a retired general at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. "So far it hasn't done any of it."
Some officials say the concerns over Israel's diplomatic difficulties are overstated, that Israel is stable and reliable and still has plenty of friends. For example, as relations with Turkey have soured, its friendship with Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria have flowered. And with Arab countries focused on inner turmoil and President Bashar al-Assad of Syria fighting for the survival of his government, Israel's strategic position may be better than believed, since those countries cannot now expand their militaries or contemplate a war.
"Our biggest concern is Iran, and Iran's biggest ally is Assad, so his fall would be good for Israel," one official said. "Stepping back, diplomatically and culturally, things are worrying. But strategically we are not on the edge of a cliff."
Others disagree. "They don't understand how fragile the calm now is," another Israeli official said of the optimists. "We are losing support and legitimacy. I am not panicked. But I am worried."
4) El Salvador recognizes Palestine as independent state
San Salvador - El Salvador on Thursday recognized Palestine as an independent state in the midst of a drive by the Arab League to upgrade it to full membership status in the United Nations.
"This decision was made in the context of the profound respect El Salvador has for sovereign decisions by members of the United Nations, the majority of whom have recognized the Palestinian state," El Salvador's President Mauricio Funes told a news conference.
Funes, who belongs to the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, said he hoped his decision would help foster peace in Israel, adding that he supported the country's right to maintain secure borders.
About 120 countries have recognized the state of Palestine to date.
5) U.S., Allies All But Rule Out Syria Military Intervention
Lachlan Carmichael, Agence France-Presse, 24 Aug 2011 12:27
Washington - The United States and its allies have all but ruled out military action against Damascus despite their success in Libya because Syria's opposition is less organized and faces a much stronger regime.
Analysts said the situation is far less conducive to foreign intervention in Syria, despite the success of the NATO air campaign that weakened Moammar Gadhafi's defenses and helped Libyan rebels to reach the heart of Tripoli.
One analyst said that unlike in Libya, the allies would also face Arab opposition to military strikes in Syria, and warned that intervention carried the risk of triggering a broader regional conflict.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland all but ruled out allied military intervention in Syria if sanctions and diplomatic pressure fail to stop President Bashar al-Assad from using deadly force to crush protests.
The Syrian people "have chosen peaceful means to make their views known to their own government," Nuland told reporters last week, adding they were following the paths of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
"So military action is not the preferred course of anyone, not the Syrian people, not the Arab or European or American members of the international community," she said.
Nuland reiterated the U.S. stance when asked whether rebel successes in Libya since the weekend would increase the pressure for intervention in Syria.
In France, which led the charge for military action in Libya, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said there would be no such intervention in Syria even if the rebel advances had what he called "significant consequences" for Damascus.
Anthony Cordesman, a security analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, said the United States and its allies did not have much of a military option in Syria.
"There's no overt uprising to back, there's no momentum behind the uprising. Your are talking about a country (Syria) with a real military machine, with a serious military capability, unlike Libya which is largely a facade," he said.
"Until you see a real opposition develop in Syria, some kind of movement that has some credible reason to be backed, you can't simply out of context attack Assad's regime because it's repressive," Cordesman said.
"The scale of military operations that would be required (would be much higher than in Libya) and present far more risks of civilian casualties and collateral damage," he said.
Radwan Ziadeh, a U.S.-based Syrian dissident who has met U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said the rebel successes in Libya will spur more calls within Syria for arming the opposition against Assad.
However, he warned that such a move risked sparking a civil war pitting Syria's majority Sunni Muslims and other sects and ethnic groups against Assad's minority Alawite sect.
"I think the situation in Syria and Libya is different because in Syria you have different ethnic and religious groups and if the uprising turns violent, (this) will lead Syria to a civil war," he said.
He said he believes the U.S. government understands the risk and "we share the same opinion on this issue." He added that Syria's neighbors also fear the risk of a civil war that could spread beyond Syria's borders.
Shibley Telhami, a Middle East specialist at the University of Maryland, said the United States and its allies are reluctant to intervene in Syria because, unlike in Libya, there is no Arab support for it.
He warned that the Assad regime could try to portray intervention as an extension of the Arab-Israeli conflict, saying it could trigger unforeseen consequences.
"If there is an international western-led intervention in Syria, akin to what we have seen in Libya, there is no one that can guarantee you that this will not evolve into a Syrian-Israeli conflict," Telhami said.
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