is a magnificent sight to start the day off with.
Freewheeling coverage of the ongoing Iranian election fall out @ Twitter.
They were part of the peace settlements in Cambodia, Somalia and Bosnia, they negotiated with militant groups like the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka or the IRA in Northern Ireland and a few of them were also engaged in the Middle East peace process. Fourteen elder statesmen from Europe, Australia, South America, Africa and Asia are calling in an open letter for the Mideast Quartet, comprised of the European Union, United Nations, Russia and the United States, to end their diplomatic boycott against Hamas.
The signatories of the letter, which is being published exclusively by SPIEGEL ONLINE in Germany and the Times of London on Thursday, include former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami; Alvaro de Soto, who served as the UN envoy for the Middle East Quartet from 2005 to 2007; Lord Chris Patten, the former British governor of Hong Kong and European Commissioner; and Lord Paddy Ashdown, who served as the High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina and oversaw the implementation of the Dayton Accords.
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Ben-Ami told SPIEGEL ONLINE the letter was directed equally at the European Union and the United States, but also at Israel. “Israel has to start thinking outside the box. I can recall the case of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The PLO didn’t recognize Israel as a precondition, but as a result of the Olso process. The same should happen with Hamas.”
The letter (PDF format)
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said he ordered Gaza crossings opened for essential humanitarian supplies in response to numerous requests from the international community.
The deliveries could ease tensions that might have led to military action to end rocket attacks, though in the past Israel has allowed Gaza to resupply with vital goods before launching assaults.
Which, according to Haaretz, once again appears to be the case:
On Sunday, the prime minister will hold a series of consultations ahead of a possible military action in the Strip. No major move will apparently be made until these discussions have concluded.
In statements Thursday, senior security officials were unwavering. “Anyone who harms Israeli citizens and soldiers will pay the price,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said.
Israel is planning a relatively short operation that will cause maximum damage to Hamas “assets.” The defense establishment says the operation would not necessarily limit itself to stopping rocket launches and that during the operation, daily massive rocket launches can be expected. Hamas might fire rockets with a range beyond the 20 kilometers it has used so far.
The sources warned that an Israeli ground operation would result in many civilian casualties in Gaza, especially in the refugee camps.
So. Allow aid to flow, then (reluctantly) cash in a blood debt by liquidating civilians Hamas assets. A cynic might say that the lambs are being fattened before the slaughter.
Update 12.27: And so it begins:
At least 155 Palestinians have been killed in an Israeli aerial bombardment on Hamas security installations.
Israel launched air attacks across the besieged Gaza Strip on Saturday, threatening that further operations would be carried out later in the day.
Witnesses reported heavy damage as at least 30 missiles were fired on the targets.
Emergency services said that at least 200 people were also wounded.
The Israel army released a statement saying “terrorist installations” were hit and that all Israeli pilots returned unharmed.
The operation against the Hamas is “only just beginning,” Avi Benayahu, an Israeli military spokesman said.
Update 2: Laura Rozen:
I asked former Israeli peace negotiator Daniel Levy, currently in Israel, why, while recognizing the pressure on the Israeli government to do something about the rockets from Gaza hitting southern Israel the past weeks, did Israeli officials choose to strike Hamas security facilities at midday when they were full of people, with high loss of life and almost certain dramatic escalation of the conflict? “I do not fully understand why they went for such a disproportionate escalation,” Levy writes. “My guess: a combination of electioneering and misplaced wishful thinking that this will push the Arabs/world to intervene and downsize Hamas on terms favorable to Israel ….[This] won’t happen – certainly not in a sustainable way. By the way, Hamas probably thinks this will cause intervention on terms favorable to themselves – also misguided (though less so; long term, this helps Hamas is my guess).“
Also via Rozen, Haaretz: “Hamas chief vows third Intifada has come”:
Hamas Political Leader in Damascus Khaled Meshal threatened revenge attacks after a series of Israel Air Force attacks left at least 230 dead and hundreds more wounded in Gaza, saying “the time for the third Intifada has come.”
Meshal issued a call to Palestinians in the West Bank to carry out suicide attacks against Israeli targets and to attack Israel Defense Forces soldiers.
“This Intifada will be peaceful for the Palestinians but lethal for the Zionist enemy,” Meshal said, adding that this ‘new Intifada,’ will “rescue Gaza and protect the West Bank.”
A Hamas spokesman on Saturday vowed the group would not surrender in the face of IDF attacks in the Gaza Strip, and that Israel would not break its “resistance to the occupation.”
The spokesman added that Hamas would not “raise a white flag” of surrender and would respond with all means available at its disposal.
The Sunday Times (of London) reports from Gaza, where, thanks to the recent tightening by Israel of its ongoing military blockade, purportedly in response to continued rocket attacks launched from the Strip by Palestinian fighters, humanitarian conditions have grown increasingly dire:
“We had one meal today – khobbeizeh,” said Abu Amra, 43, showing the leaves of a plant that grows along the streets of Gaza. “Every day, I wake up and start looking for wood and plastic to burn for fuel and I beg. When I find nothing, we eat this grass.”
Despite the increasingly desperate situation residents of the poverty-stricken territory now face, the diplomatic impasse at the heart of Gaza’s deterioration (summed up with tragicomic succinctness by the Times: “Israel says it will open the borders again when Hamas stops launching rockets at southern Israel. Hamas says it will crack down on the rocket launchers when Israel opens the borders.”) appears unlikely to be overcome anytime soon. Which pretty much guarantees continued strife for Gazans over the coming months:
Israel controls the borders and allows in humanitarian supplies only sporadically. Families had electricity for six hours a day last week. Cooking gas was available only through the illegal tunnels that run into Egypt, and by last week had jumped in price from 80 shekels per canister (£14) to 380 shekels (£66).
The UN, which has responsibility for 1m refugees in Gaza, is in despair. “The economy has been crushed and there are no imports or exports,” said John Ging, director of its relief and works agency.
“Two weeks ago, for the first time in 60 years, we ran out of food,” he said. “We used to get 70 to 80 trucks per day, now we are getting 15 trucks a day, and only when the border opens. We’re living hand to mouth.”
He has four days of food in stock for distribution to the most desperate – and no idea whether Israel will reopen the border. The Abu Amra family may have to eat wild grass for the foreseeable future.
A little bit of unsolicited diplomatic advice from yours truly: You know it’s beyond time for Hamas and Israel to hammer out their fundamental differences post haste when the citizens of Gaza are reduced to eating grass in order to survive. Let’s just hope the incoming leader of Israel’s most generous and supportive patron recognizes the importance of helping broker an agreement sooner rather than later, both for reasons of pragmatic national interest and– most importantly–because crafting a solution is, perhaps now more than ever, morally imperative.
h/t Sylvia/M via IM
Related: In a recent op-ed published by the San Jose Mercury News, Darlene Wallach, a member of the Free Gaza movement who was recently detained by Israeli forces while attempting to enter Gaza, points out the elephant in the room:
Israel’s military occupation of Gaza did not end with the withdrawal of its soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005. Israel still controls access of people and goods into and out of the Strip. It controls Gaza’s airspace, borders and, as my capture attests, territorial waters.
Last year, Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza, hoping to turn Gazans against Hamas. In early November, it tightened the blockade and is denying an entire population access to trucks laden with humanitarian provisions, food and gas.
This collective punishment is illegal under international law. Article 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, for example, states that “to the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate.”
You’re not allowed to kill civilians.
Killing civilians is against the law. Killing civilians makes you a criminal.
Yes, but …
No buts about it. You’re not allowed to kill civilians.
And, also: You’re not allowed to kill civilians.
President Bush feted Israel on Thursday in honor of the 60th anniversary of its founding and predicted that its 120th birthday would find it alongside a Palestinian state and in an all-democratic neighborhood free of today’s oppression, restrictions on freedom and extremist Muslim movements.
Bush made no acknowledgment of the hardship Palestinians suffered when hundreds of thousands were displaced or otherwise left following the creation of the Jewish state in 1948, a counterpoint to Israel’s two weeks of jubilant celebrations. Though Bush has set a goal of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian deal before the end of his term in January, he did not mention the ongoing negotiations or how to resolve the thorniest disputes.
The president also offered no detail on how the broader Mideast would move from today’s realities to his vision.
“From Cairo and Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies, where a desire for peace is reinforced by ties of diplomacy, tourism and trade,” he said. “Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, where today’s oppression is a distant memory and people are free to speak their minds and develop their talents. And al-Qaida, Hezbollah and Hamas will be defeated, as Muslims across the region recognize the emptiness of the terrorists’ vision and the injustice of their cause.”
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Bush made such a brief mention of the Palestinians because his purpose was to sketch “broad themes and not the specifics of the process.”
Hey, who needs pesky specifics when you have cheap stock applause lines and Godwin-baiting partisan digs?
Related: Eric Martin, Man of a Thousand Blogs, on McSame’s recent contributions to the OMG-PONIES! school of U.S. foreign policy initiatives.