A minor change in the “special relationship”

A Zionist mailing list sent the following story with the headline, “What next? Yellow armbands?” Yes, the Obama administration is like the Nazis. Seriously (and here’s the yarn via Jeffrey Goldberg):

Roger L. Simon usefully posts a translation of a recent article from Ma’ariv, which reports that the U.S. is no longer regularly granting visas to Israeli scientists associated with the Dimona nuclear facility.

The  best way to judge the strength and health of the relationship between Israel and the U.S. is not by watching what the Obama Administration says about the number of apartments Israel is building in East Jerusalem, but by watching how the Administration treats the unwritten forty-year-old agreement between the two countries that allowed Israel to avoid signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In exchange for reduced American pressure, Golda Meir promised Richard Nixon that she would keep her country’s nuclear program invisible, or at least “opaque.”

It is true that Bibi Netanyahu is skipping Obama’s nuclear summit because he fears an ambush by Egypt and Turkey, which both want Israel’s nukes on the table (what they really want, of course, is nukes of their own, and who wouldn’t?), but Netanyahu wouldn’t skip this meeting, I think, if he thought Obama had his back on opacity.

If Ma’ariv has it right, though, this aspect of the “special relationship” might be coming to an end.

How the US government knew the Gitmo boys were mostly innocent all along

What was that quaint idea of trusting government officials in a time of war?

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once declared that individuals captured by the US military in the aftermath of 9/11 and shipped off to the Guantanamo Bay prison facility represented the “worst of the worst.”

During a radio interview in June 2005, Rumsfeld said the detainees at Guantanamo, “all of whom were captured on a battlefield,” are “terrorists, trainers, bomb makers, recruiters, financiers, [Osama Bin Laden’s] body guards, would-be suicide bombers, probably the 20th hijacker, 9/11 hijacker.”

“We’re learning a great deal of information about how al-Qaida operates, and able to stop other terrorist attacks,” he added.

But Rumsfeld knowingly lied, according to a former top Bush administration official.

And so did then Vice President Dick Cheney when he said, also in 2002 and in dozens of public statements thereafter, that Guantanamo prisoners “are the worst of a very bad lot” and “dangerous” and “devoted to killing millions of Americans, innocent Americans, if they can, and they are perfectly prepared to die in the effort.”

Now, in a sworn declaration obtained exclusively by Truthout, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell during George W. Bush’s first term in office, said he would be willing to state, under penalty of perjury, what top Bush officials knew and when they knew it.

He claims that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others knew the “vast majority” of prisoners captured in the so-called War on Terror were innocent and the administration refused to set them free once those facts were established because of the political repercussions that would have ensued.

One more nail in the coffin of Israel’s “image”

One of the Israeli journalists at the centre of the current censorship row – Uri Blau, temporarily living in London to avoid the oppressive arm of Israeli state security – writes in Haaretz what is truly at stake:

The telephone call I received about a month ago should not have been a surprise. “Your apartment in Tel Aviv has been broken into,” the voice on the other end of the line said. “Everything’s in a mess and it’s not clear what has been taken.”

Half an hour later, sweating in a Bangkok phone booth, mosquitoes flying around me, I spoke to the policeman who came to the apartment.

“Looks like they were looking for something,” he said.

had been told of Anat Kam’s arrest earlier, in China, where I landed with my partner at the beginning of December. When I left Israel I had no reason to believe our planned trip would suddenly turn into a spy movie whose end is not clear.

I certainly didn’t think I’d have to stay in London and wouldn’t be able to return to Tel Aviv as a journalist and a free man, only because I published reports that were not convenient to the establishment.

But the troubling information from Israel left me with no alternative.

Experiences I had read about in suspense novels have become my reality in recent months. When you’re warned “they know much more than you think,” and are told that your telephone line, e-mail and computer have been monitored for a long time and still are, then someone up there doesn’t really understand what democracy is all about, and the importance of freedom of the press in preserving it.

When you discover that anonymous complaints about you containing a lot of detailed personal information have reached various investigation authorities, it is clear you have been marked by forces bigger and stronger than yourself.

These forces won’t hesitate to take steps reserved for states I don’t think we want to resemble. So when they explained to me that if I return to Israel I could be silenced for ever, and that I would be charged for crimes related to espionage, I decided to fight. Sorry for the cliche, but this isn’t only a war for my personal freedom but for Israel’s image.

The Kafkaesque situation I found myself in forces me to return to basics. I am a journalist and my aim is to provide the reader as much information as possible and in the best way, with maximum objectivity. It’s not a personal agenda, or a matter of Left or Right. In my years of work for Haaretz my name has appeared, alone and with others, above exposes dealing with public figures and institutions of all kinds, from Avigdor Lieberman, through Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak to the Peres Center for Peace. None of those exposes could have been published without the help of sources and corroborating documents.

All the exposes in military or defense matters were vetted by military censors before publication, whether regarding the time Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi was a civilian and businessman or about the IDF’s priorities in tracing Gilad Shalit.

Or the story about how the IDF apparently violates the High Court of Justice’s instructions regarding targeted assassinations. This story showed the readers authentic documents exposing the banality of executions with no trial.

It is clear to me that these reports were not always pleasant to read – neither to their subjects nor to the reader. But it doesn’t matter, because the journalist’s job is not to please his reader, employer or leaders. It is to provide people with the best tools to judge and understand the goings-on around them. Every journalist knows that exposes cannot be released without evidence – but no Israeli journalist has known until now that such exposes could have him declared an enemy of the state and find himself in jail.

Since when has America had any interest in truly bringing peace to the Middle East?

Peace lovers in the Middle East, you’ll have to wait just a few more (decades) until Washington has the intelligence or ability to bring Israel and Palestine to a resolution (via The Cable):

Although the public fireworks between top U.S. and Israeli officials may have died down in recent days, a fully fledged debate has erupted inside the Obama administration over how to best bring Middle East peace talks to fruition, let alone a successful conclusion.

Some reports have suggested there are two camps within Obamaland — one favoring an incremental approach focused on persuading the Israelis and Palestinians to return to negotiations, and a second group pushing the president to lay his own “American plan” on the table.

But one U.S. official close to the issue told The Cable there’s a more diverse spectrum of opinion inside the administration, with different officials exhibiting a range of views on what the tactics and tone of the U.S. approach should be going forward. There is no prospect of an Obama peace plan surfacing anytime soon, however.

“That’s obviously an option we have. At some point we may exercise it,” the administration official told The Cable. “There’s been no decision to do it and there’s no plan to do it.”

National Security Advisor Jim Jones is the one most clearly advocating for a more definite American plan for how to proceed. Washington Post columnist David Ignatius and New York Times reporter Helene Cooper both described Jones as the prime mover behind a recent White House meeting in which a group of former national security advisors urged Obama to consider proposing his own peace initiative.

But Jones denied Friday that Obama has decided to take their advice.

“These are ongoing discussions, and I think that while we’ve not taken any decision to jumpstart any dramatic shift in our strategy, I think we should say, to make clear, that we don’t intend to surprise anybody at any time,” Jones told reporters.

“Some people suggested an American plan; other people had problems with it. Obama didn’t weigh in one way or the other,” the official said.

Meanwhile, Special Envoy George Mitchell, who has been shepherding the negotiations over the proximity talks that are meant to lead to direct talks, isn’t necessarily opposed to a U.S. plan, but believes even talking about it now is premature.

Mitchell is for “getting to the negotiations, somehow” and is not in favor of releasing U.S. ideas “at this time,” the official explained. That’s different than being for “incrementalism,” which in and of itself is a misleading term, in this insider’s view.

“By definition all processes are incremental until they’re not,” the official said. Mitchell’s other concern is that announcing a plan could be disastrous because the outlines of such a deal would certainly contain items that would upset each side.

“There are issues that are nonstarters on both sides, so what happens when both side reject it?,” the official wondered.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agrees with Mitchell that it’s not yet time for an American plan. But she is also saying inside the discussions that both sides need a lot of pushing to do things they don’t want to do.

That’s somewhat different than Vice President Joseph Biden, who leans more toward thinking about how to solve the logjam between the U.S. and Israel first, and then figuring out how to solve the overall issue after that. He is not thought to be in favor of announcing an American plan in the near term.

Add to that line of thinking the National Security Council’s Dennis Ross, who due to his experience and inclination is also said to be more focused on solving the dispute over Israel’s settlements. Yes, Ross argues for going a little easier on the Israelis than the other members of the team, the official said, but recent attacks on his loyalty to America from unnamed sources were way overblown.

Valerie Jarrett is another team member to watch. Two officials confirmed she is in almost all the meetings, although one official cautioned that doesn’t mean she has a foreign-policymaking decision role, per se.

“Certainly how we handle Israel has implications for the public, nongovernmental organizations, and Congress, so understanding how the public and the interest groups will react is important and you have to loop her in,” the official said.

To the extent that Jones and Jarrett seem to have increasing clout with Obama, that worries outsiders who fear they are pushing him toward a tougher stance vis-à-vis Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, who abruptly cancelled his plans to come to Washington next week for the nuclear summit.

And amid reports that Obama personally directed the harsh response to Netanyahu following the settlements dispute last month and the dressing down Netanyahu received at the Oval Office, Israel supporters worry that he is determined to make Netanyahu come to him.

That still hasn’t happened, as the White House waits for Netanyahu’s response to the list of ideas Obama gave him to prove Israel’s commitment to the process.

“We are still in consultations,” the official could only say.

The role of a journalist in a truly free state is to challenge the state

An Haaretz response to a growing Israeli and global scandal (does the Jewish state really want more attention on its clearly illegal policy of assassinating “terrorists” without a clear legal mandate?)

Over the last two years, Haaretz reporter Uri Blau has exposed a series of details that shed light on the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces and the security services in the Palestinian territories.

Every article which was published by Haaretz was submitted for vetting by the military censor, which in turn approved the contents in their entirety.

In September 2009, Blau was summoned to the offices of the Shin Bet, where he was instructed to turn over documents that were used in preparing his articles. From this time forward, Haaretz attorney Mibi Moser and Blau conducted a dialogue with the Shin Bet’s top legal advisor over the return of these documents.

These talks culminated in the signing of an agreement on September 15, 2009, whereby Blau handed over to the Shin Bet dozens of classified documents that were in his possession. In turn, the Shin Bet pledged not to investigate the writer over his sources, to refrain from questioning the writer as a suspect, and to refrain from using the documents as evidence in the trial of the individual suspected of leaking the information.

Following the arrest of Anat Kam, the Shin Bet notified Moser that his client, Blau, was wanted for further questioning. Moser replied that this demand is in contravention of the terms of the agreement reached with the Shin Bet and that he is advising his client to refuse.

From this moment, the Shin Bet refused to abide by the terms of the agreement which it signed. Haaretz regrets the sudden change in the Shin Bet’s stance and its attendant results, which are characterized by heavy pressure and threats against a journalist who is carrying out his duties.


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