Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hard Rain Journal 8-15-06: From Slaughter to Stalemate? Rabin's Murder Looms Ever Larger...An Update on the Tragedy in Israel and Lebanon

I have always believed that the majority of the people want peace and are ready to take risks for peace. In coming here today, you demonstrate, together with many others who did not come, that the people truly desire peace and oppose violence. Violence erodes the basis of Israeli democracy. It must be condemned and isolated. This is not the way of the State of Israel. In a democracy there can be differences, but the final decision will be taken in democratic elections, as the 1992 elections which gave us the mandate to do what we are doing, and to continue on this course.
I want to say that I am proud of the fact that representatives of the countries with whom we are living in peace are present with us here, and will continue to be here: Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco, which opened the road to peace for us. I want to thank the President of Egypt, the King of Jordan, and the King of Morocco, represented here today, for their partnership with us in our march towards peace. But, more than anything, in the more than three years of this Government's existence, the Israeli people has proven that it is possible to make peace, that peace opens the door to a better economy and society; that peace is not just a prayer. Peace is first of all in our prayers, but it is also the aspiration of the Jewish people, a genuine aspiration for peace.
There are enemies of peace who are trying to hurt us, in order to torpedo the peace process. I want to say bluntly, that we have found a partner for peace among the Palestinians as well: the PLO, which was an enemy, and has ceased to engage in terrorism. Without partners for peace, there can be no peace. We will demand that they do their part for peace, just as we will do our part for peace, in order to solve the most complicated, prolonged, and emotionally charged aspect of the Israeli-Arab conflict: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Remarks by Prime Minister Rabin at Tel-Aviv Peace Rally, 11-4-95

Hard Rain Journal 8-15-06: From Slaughter to Stalemate? Almost 11 Years Later, Rabin's Murder Looms Ever Larger...An Update on the Tragedy in Israel and Lebanon
By Richard Power

I remember the day Yitzhak Rabin was killed (11-4-95) by a right-wing Israeli extremist (a terrorist). I had just landed in Washington, DC (it had not yet become Beltwayistan) for a conference. I stood in my hotel room, staring at the TV screen (CNN was still CNN back then). I knew it would be bad.

When Netanyahu subsequently defeated Peres, I shook my head: assassin's bullets shouldn't pre-determine the outcome of elections in democracies.

Clinton made a heroic effort to save the peace process. But all the good that he did over his eight years in office was undone in the first few months of Bush-Cheney's policy of Malign Neglect. It was not Arafat's corruption or Sharon's provocations (or even Hamas's insane doctrine of turning children into bombs to bomb other children) that crushed the hope for peace. It was the neo-cons in both the USA and Israel. Just as it was a right-wing Israeli that assassinated Israel's great peacemaker, it was the neo-cons that gutted the peace process and undermined its premises

The conflict in Lebanon is not over. But at least for now there is a pause in the Israeli bombing of Lebanese civilians and the Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.

After thirty-four days of war, at least a thousand deaths, and at least 1.5 million people displaced.

Here is an update -- composed of pieces from Haaretz, Robert Parry, and the New Yorker's Sy Hersh -- on this latest episode in the ongoing neo-con wet dream of a "new Middle East":

As the opposition demanded a state inquiry commission to probe events before and during the recent conflict, Labor MKs yesterday blasted the party's leader, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, for suggesting a commission from his ministry would do so. They said it was essential to examine all institutions and that public pressure would oblige the cabinet to set up a national inquiry commission. The MKs said they would consider voting in the Knesset to establish a parliamentary one. Senior Kadima members said yesterday that the chances for a state inquiry commission were slim, and that the opposition was not likely to muster the majority to set up a parliamentary one. However, they said that as far as Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Peretz are concerned, a parliamentary commission is the lesser of the two evils. Sources close to Olmert said a state inquiry commission was unlikely, as several former Likud ministers, like Benjamin Netanyahu and Silvan Shalom, would object to one, as would Labor ministers who served in former cabinets. Only massive public pressure in the next few weeks could compel the government to set up a national inquiry commission, political pundits said.
Mazal Mualem, Opposition, Labor MKs call for inquiry commission, Haaretz

Amid the political and diplomatic fallout from Israel’s faltering invasion of Lebanon, some Israeli officials are privately blaming President George W. Bush for egging Prime Minister Ehud Olmert into the ill-conceived military adventure against the Hezbollah militia in south Lebanon. Bush conveyed his strong personal support for the military offensive during a White House meeting with Olmert on May 23, according to sources familiar with the thinking of senior Israeli leaders. Olmert, who like Bush lacks direct wartime experience, agreed that a dose of military force against Hezbollah might damage the guerrilla group’s influence in Lebanon and intimidate its allies, Iran and Syria, countries that Bush has identified as the chief obstacles to U.S. interests in the Middle East. As part of Bush’s determination to create a “new Middle East” – one that is more amenable to U.S. policies and desires – Bush even urged Israel to attack Syria, but the Olmert government refused to go that far, according to Israeli sources. One source said some Israeli officials thought Bush’s attack-Syria idea was “nuts” since much of the world would have seen the bombing campaign as overt aggression....While balking at an expanded war into Syria, Olmert did agree on the need to show military muscle in Lebanon as a prelude to facing down Iran over its nuclear program, which Olmert has called an “existential” threat to Israel....But the month-long war has failed to achieve its goals of destroying Hezbollah forces in south Lebanon or intimidating Iran and Syria.
Robert Parry, Israeli Leaders Fault Bush on War, Consortium News, 8-13-06

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reports in this week's issue of the New Yorker that Israeli officials visited the White House earlier this summer to get a "green light" for an attack on Lebanon. The Bush administration approved, Hersh says, in part to remove Hezbollah as a deterrent to a potential US bombing of Iran.
AMY GOODMAN: Hi. Can you just start off by telling us what you know at this point of what Washington's interests in Israel's war are?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, when you say Washington, you have to talk about Dick Cheney. I can tell you pretty firmly that it's his office. I guess you could say it's sort of the home of the neoconservative thinking in Washington -- some of his aides and the people close to him in the White House: Elliott Abrams, David Wurmser, others.
What I understand is this: our military, our Air Force has been trying for a year to get plans for a major massive bombing assault on Iran pushed through the Pentagon, pushed through the process. And there's been sort of an internecine fight inside the Pentagon over just basically the idea of strategic war against Iran. They're very dug in Iran. The Persians have been digging in for -- what? -- centuries and centuries. And the Marines and the Navy and the Army have said, No way we're going to start bombing, because it will end up with troops on the ground. So there's been a stalemate. I've written a lot about it.
And in this spring, as part of the stalemate, the American Air Force approached the Israeli Air Force, which as you know is headed by General Dan Halutz, who is an Air Force -- I think the first IDF commander, the commander of the Israeli Defense Forces, to be an Air Force guy, and another believer of strategic war, and the two had a lot of interests. And so, out of these meetings in the spring became an agreement, you know, sort of we'll help you, you help us, and it got to Cheney's attention, this idea of Israel planning a major, major strategic bombing campaign against Hezbollah. And for -- I can't tell you where Bush is, but you have to assume he’s right with him. Obviously everything he's done makes that clear.
Cheney's idea was this, that we sort of -- it's like a three-for. We get three for one with this. One, here we're having this war about the value of strategic bombing, and the Israeli Air Force, whose pilots are superb, can go in and -- if they could go in and blast Hezbollah out of their foxholes or whatever they are, their underground facilities, and roll over them, as everybody in the White House and I'm sure everybody in the Israeli Air Force thought they could do, that would be a big plus for the ambitions that I think the President and Cheney have for Iran. I don't think this president, our president, is going to leave office with Iran being, as he sees it, a nuclear threat....
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, his latest piece appears in this week's issue of the New Yorker magazine. You say the Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits, quoting a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, sure. I mean, believe me, Israel thought, you know -- I guess the only other time in history where you can look back on such misguided optimism or one of the more recent times was, of course, us going into Iraq. Shades of Iraq, deja-vu or however you want to put it. Israel was convinced it would be easy. The Air Force was going to go and clean them out....I think part of the reason they did so much damage to the infrastructure was they believed -- and I think the Israelis have been very clear about it -- that the Christian population and the Sunni population -- don't forget Hezbollah is Shia -- would rise up against Hezbollah, and it would be a great feather in the cap, etc., etc., etc....
AMY GOODMAN: Seymour Hersh, you've also written about the U.S. rejecting overtures from Syria in dealing with the war on terror. Can you talk about that, as, of course, you can't talk about Lebanon or Iraq with this administration without talking about Syria and Iran?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, look, this is an administration that still refuses to deal with people it doesn't like. You know, I don't know. When my children were in pre-nursery, you know, little boys will get into a fight, and the nursery school teacher would take the two little boys who were fighting and say, “You two shake hands and go back to the sandbox,” and they would. And so we have a president that won't talk to the Iranians, although they’ve wanted to, and there’s been a lot of stories written about that. And they won't talk to the Syrians.
And I’ve obviously -- maybe not so obviously, but I’ve interviewed the President of Syria, Bashar al-Asad, a couple of times. And one of the last times, with great pain he told me -- I think he showed me, even showed me, he was -- this was in 2005. He's written letters to George Bush, saying, “Let's get together. Let's talk. We have a lot in common. We can help you. We and Iran basically both have more -- we can do more for you in Iraq than any other country. Why aren't you using us? We don't need a Somalia on our borders. We're not interested in chaos there.” And this White House doesn't believe it. And the letters weren't answered, he told me. His ambassador here in Washington, Imad Mustafa, is absolutely isolated. All this talk that the White House has made, Condoleezza Rice, about having openings to Iran, to Syria, are just, you know -- they're not worth much. There's been some low-level talk. Nobody has made any efforts.
Syria has, as I’ve written in the New Yorker years ago, was one of the biggest helpers we had after al-Qaeda struck us, because Syria is -- the old man Asad, the father of the current president, hated Jihadism. He did not like the Muslim Brotherhood. They were his opponents. And he kept the best books going on the Muslim Brotherhood, which is very closely connected to al-Qaeda. In fact, we learned more about al-Qaeda from Syria after 9/11 than from any other country. Asad, the president, gave us thousands access -- agreed to give us access to thousands of files. And I wrote a story, I think in ’02 or ’03 for the New Yorker, in which I quoted a senior intelligence official of Syria saying, “We're willing to even talk about our support for Hezbollah with you. We want to see you win the war on terror.”
So it's been an amazingly horrific performance by this White House, which is of par. You know, I don't think any of us -- I certainly won't breathe easy until we get to 2009, inauguration of a new president. But there's just no question that if we were to approach Syria right now, something else I didn't write at the time -- that's because I wasn't writing about it -- I don't think there's any question that Israel was interested in talking to Syria in ’03, even about the Golan Heights, which is a tough issue for them, and --
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, Sy --
SEYMOUR HERSH: Let me finish this. And we discouraged Israel from doing it.
SEYMOUR HERSH: I don't know. I guess we didn't want our friends to talk to our enemies.

Amy Goodman Interviews Seymour Hersh: U.S. Helped Plan Israeli Attack, Cheney "Convinced" Assault on Lebanon Could Serve as Prelude to Preemptive Attack on Iran, Democracy Now! 8-14-06

Related Posts:
Hard Rain Journal 7-28-06: Lebanon Update -- Cheney-Zawahiri Synergy, Poisonous Blossoming of Malign Neglect, & Israelis Smashing the Mirror
Hard Rain Journal 7-25-06: As the Next Bait & Switch Get Pulled, Remember Osama Bin Laden & the Child Brides of Afghanistan
Hard Rain Journal 7-19-06: Neo-Con Fingerprints on the Israeli Offensive in Lebanon, Meanwhile in Afghanistan...
Hard Rain Journal 7-17-06: Middle East Update -- Voices of Reason From Within The Whirlwind
GS3 Intelligence Special Supplement (2-4-06): Iran, Hamas, Islamic Fundamentalism, Terrorism, Geopolitical Hegemony, The Great Game & Danish Cartoons
Words of Power #8: Odom and Wilkerson Bear Witness

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and http://www.wordsofpower.net. His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: richardpower@wordsofpower.net. For more information, go to www.wordsofpower.net

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