Archive | January 24th, 2014

I$raHell to destroy another Haifa neighborhood, evict Palestinian residents


Many of the historic homes in Haifa’s al-Mahatta neighborhood have already been demolished.


An Israeli municipality plans to demolish al-Mahatta, a historic Palestinian neighborhood inHaifa.

It will be replaced by the expansion of an existing railway, new housing units, nightclubs and restaurants, among other venues designed to bring in increased tourist revenues.

“Since I was five years old, I’ve been hearing that al-Mahatta is going to be completely destroyed … but today, I can’t imagine that we have more than two or three years left in our homes,” George Eskandar, chairman of al-Mahatta’s neighborhood committee, told The Electronic Intifada.

Around 160 people from more than 30 families are facing eviction. All of them carry Israeli citizenship.

Eskandar, 34, lives with his wife and four-year-old son in his family’s home. He and his wife also work as actors. “This is where I was born and where I’ve spent my whole life,” he said.

The program to demolish al-Mahatta is part of an already approved national plan to develop coastal areas up and down present-day Israel. Haifa’s municipality has until the end of 2014 to decide the local details of the plan for al-Mahatta, and another five years to fully implement it.

Only two of the remaining structures — one of which is a local church — will be left standing once Israel’s plans for al-Mahatta are carried out.

Until now, the plan has only been implemented in the form of individual housing demolitionsand evictions on a home-to-home basis.

Already destroyed

Since Israel’s establishment in 1948, the state has sought ways to gentrify al-Mahatta and the surrounding area. “But the policy has only been implemented in recent years,” Eskandar said.

During the period of the British Mandate of Palestine (1920-1948), there were more than 600 families in al-Mahatta. As recently as the early 1990s, around 1,500 persons lived in the neighborhood.

Yet several decades of pressure and systematic neglect from the local municipality and the state forced most of the indigenous Palestinian residents to move elsewhere.

Today, only 33 homes are still standing; the rest have all been demolished. Nearly half of them belong to Amidar, a state-owned housing company. “Every time a family gives up and leaves, the policy is that their home is demolished,” Eskandar said.

In the majority of cases, Amidar denies tenants the home repairs that they request until they are able to declare the structure too dangerous to live in and kick out the residents.


Today, al-Mahatta only has one entrance and is caged by a large fence surrounding the neighboring port, the railway, and Highway 2, which connects Tel Aviv to the northern coastal region in present-day Israel.

In the case of al-Mahatta, the homes all have recognized building permits. The residents are also subject to local and national taxes.

Yet like in Wadi al-Siyah and other Palestinian neighborhoods slated for demolition in Haifa, residents have been denied basic municipal services for years. Al-Mahatta has suffered from restrictions on building, development, expansion and land purchasing.

“Other than electricity and water, they do not receive any of the services that the municipality is supposed to provide them,” said Jumana Eghbariyya, a lawyer at the Social Development Committee—Haifa, an advocacy group that works for the civil and collective rights of Palestinian residents of the city.

Since 1948, there have been no clinics, schools or street lights provided to the neighborhood. Furthermore, every 15 minutes a train roars past the neighborhood, which doesn’t have the same acoustic walls present in Jewish areas next to the railway and are designed to mitigate the immensely loud noise.

“The right to object”

Haifa’s historic al-Mahatta neighborhood faces destruction.


“Frankly, this is not about the municipality destroying our neighborhood,” Eskandar lamented. “The neighborhood has already been destroyed.”

Furthermore, Israel plans to install an electrification system on the railway tracks that pass through al-Mahatta — potentially a serious health risk for locals due to radiation, according to Israel’s own Environmental Protection Ministry (“Israeli train electrification plan may be scrapped due to radiation,” Haaretz, 12 December 2012).

Despite numerous requests for information and clarity, al-Mahatta’s residents have been given only vague answers regarding the neighborhood’s future. The government has not bothered to inform locals or ask for their input. Eskandar remarked, “Why is the municipality doing this behind our backs? We have the right to object to this plan.”

Haifa’s mayor, Yona Yahav, has refused to work with the neighborhood committee to seek an alternative plan that would allow residents to stay in their homes.

In Jewish Israeli neighborhoods in Haifa, the local municipality encourages public participation before embarking on development projects. Yet in Palestinian neighborhoods there are little or no efforts to accommodate the needs and wants of the residents.

“In Jewish neighborhoods, there are public forums and meetings to discuss the future of the area,” Eghbariyya said. “In Arab neighborhoods, the plans are simply announced without talking to anyone. The Palestinian neighborhoods should be treated just like Jewish areas in the city… unfortunately this is the policy not just in Haifa, but across the state.”

Eghbariyya pointed out that Haifa is often promoted by Israel as a city of coexistence between Palestinian residents and Jewish Israelis. “But before there is this coexistence, we want [Israel] to stop deciding the terms of our existence for us.”

In 2013, Orwa Switat, a local urban planner and activist, established a neighborhood committee along with others. Its goal is to raise awareness about al-Mahatta’s plight. “We are planning to reach out to human rights groups and political parties to spread the word,” Switat said.

“Ethnic gentrification”

“This is ethnic gentrification because it only pushes out poorer Arab citizens … This is colonialism turning the ruins of the Nakba into an economic pearl for the state to bring in profit,” Switat added. The Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic) is the forced displacement of Palestinians before and after Israel’s foundation in 1948.

“We want to be part of the decision-making process,” he added. “We are not just a poor neighborhood on the edge of Haifa, we are the origins of the city. Any plans for development should empower us and preserve our Palestinian heritage.”

Nonetheless, he added that there was little hope among residents because “our presence threatens the Zionist narrative of this country’s history.”

Similar gentrification projects are taking place in historically Palestinian cities across present-day Israel.

In Jaffa, indigenous Palestinian residents, generally from the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder, have suffered in recent years as Israeli investors buy and renovate property, causing prices to skyrocket.

In Acre (Akka), Israel plans to demolish a historical mosque, Khan al-Umdan, and put a luxury hotel in its place.

“Erasing history”

Christian Zionists from the United States and Israel are working closely to establish an international university campus in Nazareth, designed to bring in Jewish Israeli and international students and further fragment Palestinian contiguity in the Galilee region.

Palestinians citizens of Israel make up some 1.5 million people, or 20 percent of Israel’s citizenry. Despite their nominal citizenship, this minority faces severe restrictions on their political and cultural rights, and regularly suffers from land theft and housing demolitions.

In occupied East Jerusalem and the broader West Bank, Israeli policies also aim to expel Palestinians and make space for Jewish-only settlements or expand existing ones.

“There is a policy of erasing the entire history of the Palestinian people in this state. Unfortunately, our neighborhood is just another example of the policy of expulsion,” said Eskandar.

“We’re here, we’re present on the map. We are doing everything we can to stay in our homes. Our history is here, our roots are here, and our memories are here. I’m from here.”

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I$raHelli soldiers get “addicted to power” over Palestinians, says new book


Submitted by Adri Nieuwhof

The Israeli military teaches its soldiers not to think about the consequences of their violent behavior against Palestinians, a new book states.

In Soldiering Under Occupation (Berghahn), Erella Grassiani analyzes confessions collected by Breaking the Silence, a group which exposes the conduct of Israeli troops, as well as interviews that she conducted herself.

Grassiani, who lectures in the University of Amsterdam, finds that in most cases soldiers realize that their activities in the occupied West Bank and Gaza cause harm to the Palestinians. However, the majority of the soldiers do not act on this knowledge and do not try to change the situation.


Israeli youth are brought up in an environment that idealizes combat service. Guarding checkpoint is difficult to reconcile with a soldier’s training to be a combatant, who defends the state.

The policing task at a checkpoint is often described by soldiers as boring and with terms like “black” or “dirty” work. Soldiers describe the long hours and the monotonous nature of the work. Because the work tries their patience, it negatively affects the morale and motivation of soldiers and influences their behavior towards Palestinians.

Soldiers often get bored by patrolling, too.  To pass the time they can undertake random searches of people, who pose no threat.

Even though there is more action involved, night-time arrests also become a routine, a paratrooper commander observes. This routine contributes to a numbing process, which normalizes harassment and aggression in the soldier’s mind.

It is disturbing to read how soldiers get excited when military operations break the routine. One military commander recalls that “everyone is excited, crazy” as soon as a call to action is made.

During the numerous incursions into Palestinian cities in the occupied West Bank during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, soldiers also felt like “real” combatants who needed to defend their country with their weapons. Many soldiers failed to distinguish between emotions linked to suicide attacks by “the Palestinians” and performing their job, says a commander who served in Jenin. As a result, many took out their feelings of revenge on Palestinian civilians.

“I can do everything”

At checkpoints, the military holds direct power over Palestinians, which is reflected in soldiers’ weapons, dress and behavior. Soldiers operate in a system with a high degree of structural power where superiors hand out orders and punishments. Young soldiers internalize the feelings of dominance and power.

When a Palestinian questions this power by starting an argument or not listening, it can easily lead to abuse of power and trigger a harsh reaction.  “Corrective punishment” is often used to show who is in charge. Contrary to military orders but condoned by their superiors, soldiers keep Palestinians waiting for hours to “dry up” — sometimes blindfolded, handcuffed — in the burning sun.

A soldier guarding a checkpoint tells how — to his shame — he enjoyed the feeling of power and finds he got “addicted to controlling people.” People do what you tell them. You know it is because you carry a weapon, he realizes.

“God, I can do everything. It’s terrible, I told you I really, really tried for it not to happen…..this power, soldiers feel it,” says an officer with the Israeli paratroopers.

Indifferent to suffering

In general, soldiers have negative feelings towards Palestinians as they are seen as a hostile group. Physical distance can increase the soldier’s indifference towards “the other.”

Checkpoints like Qalandiya — between Jerusalem and Ramallah — increase the distance because the thick bulletproof glass which separates the soldier from the Palestinians makes a conversation impossible and blocks eye contact. Through the megaphone or intercom, soldiers repeat their monotonous orders and questions such as “ID,” “permit,” “where are you going?” and “where did you come from?”

The situation leads to a further depersonalization of Palestinians. They are perceived as a mass of “Arabs” or “Palestinians” or as categories like “the old man” or “the pregnant woman.”

The moral numbing adds to the soldier’s indifference to the suffering of the Palestinians or to the way they are treated. Soldiers do not recognize that the situation in front of them is morally problematic.

The failure to feel empathy can easily lead to aggressive and immoral behavior towards Palestinians and their possessions. For example, soldiers who got bored while being stationed in armored vehicles in the Gaza Strip for days started to shoot down solar water heaters. It is disturbing that the commander said he could understand why his soldiers “take it out” on such equipment.

Stop thinking

Soldiers and commanders detach themselves from their experience and consciously stop thinking about it. They refer to this non-thinking mode as getting into rosh katan (small head.)

In this state of mind, soldiers ask few questions about what they are doing. They only do what they are told, without taking into account the bigger picture of their actions. It is a way to evade responsibility.

It seems that the Israeli military is also interested in soldiers following the orders they receive without asking further questions. Soldiers who think about their actions and who form their own opinions will be less inclined to just follow orders. They can cause operational difficulties.

“Yes is yes, no is no. It’s the military, the only one who can think is the commander. Soldiers don’t get space to think and that prevents the entire ‘if’ and ‘maybe.’ It secures us in that way,” says one soldier.

“In the military they teach you not to think, whatever they tell you, you do,” says another soldier.

When soldiers block their thinking, it increases the chances of misbehavior and will limit reflection on the consequences. If the thinking stops, one cannot act in a moral way.

Rotten apples?

The immoral and illegal behavior of the Israeli forces is a “direct product of Israeli political and military policies of the occupation,” argues Grassiani.

“There is a clear and powerful connection between how much time you serve in the [occupied] territories and how fucked in the head you get,” says one soldier. In the first half year serving in the occupied West Bank, soldiers have to do guard-duty and they become “more and more bitter, angry.”

When the violence and harassment of soldiers against Palestinians is exposed in the media, the Israeli military and the political establishment blame the soldiers, referring to them as the “rotten apples.” However, the discourse of “rotten apples” is used to help the Israeli forces to keep up its moral image and to save the image of the state.

Grassiani warns that the refusal of the Israeli military commanders and politicians to take responsibility for their role in the violations of rights of Palestinians paves the way for even more serious violations.


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Syria ‘Torture’ Report Warrants Careful Read


Christian Science Monitor

The government of Syria has long used torture, collective punishment, and horrific detention conditions as a response to domestic threats to its power.

When times are bad, like now or during the Sunni Islamist insurgency that challenged Hafez al-Assad’s government in 1982, the number of victims goes up. That’s what happened with the sacking of Hama in 1982 that left at least 10,000 civilians dead. And there’s been little doubt that the government of Hafez’s son, Bashar al-Assad, has tortured thousands to death in detention since the country’s civil war broke out in 2011 – never mind the far more devastating shelling of civilian neighborhoods.

When times are good, torture has been a sort of background radiation to the country’s repressive politics. It’s going on, but not so in your face that it gets in the way of doing business with the country. That’s one of the reasons it was possible for the US during the Bush administration to outsource torture and interrogation to Mr. Assad without expecting much of an outcry.

Which leaves me feeling kind of awkward about a report released Monday that alleges 11,000 prisoners have been tortured, starved, or otherwise beaten to death in Syrian government custody since 2011. It’s a believable assertion based on what is known about Syrian government practice and the conduct of the war. But the report itself is nowhere near as credible as it makes out and should be viewed for what it is: A well-timed propaganda exercise funded by Qatar, a regime opponent who has funded rebels fighting Assad who have committed war crimes of their own.

The report was given to The Guardian and CNN yesterday and released in full on the web. It was paid for by Qatar and organized through Carter-Ruck, a London-based law-firm hired by the tiny Gulf monarchy. Three former prosecutors, Desmond de Silva and David M. Crane, who participated in the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and Geoffrey Nice, who prosecuted Slobodan Milosevic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, were retained, along with forensic experts, to review pictures from a man presented as a former Syrian military policeman identified only as “Caesar.”

Caesar is said to have been a photographer for the military assigned to documenting deaths in detention. It is not unsurprising that someone would have this job. But the report by itself shouldn’t be treated anything like the slam dunk it has been in the press, for a variety of reasons.

This is a single source report, from an unidentified man, who is related by marriage (according to a footnote on page 15 of the report) to a similarly unidentified member of the “Syrian National Movement” who “left Syria five days after the civil war against the current Syrian regime had begun and established contact with international human rights groups.” The Syrian National Movement has been funded by Qatar and is devoted to Assad’s downfall and the source has been working with this unidentified Assad opponent since “around September 2011.”

And yet the report was rushed into publication due to unspecified “time constraints” that made it impossible to “produce a detailed report regarding the exact injuries present in each image for each individual.”

The document says “Caesar” was interviewed on Jan. 12, 13 and 18 of this year. The report was provided to reporters yesterday, Jan. 20. That’s just two days after the final interview and only 8 after the first. That short a time frame simply does not allow for the great care and consideration the report’s authors repeatedly assert went into their effort (as they write on page eight, “the members of the inquiry team subjected all evidence heard and viewed to rigorous scrutiny.”)

Why the rush for evidence that a source had been providing since September 2011?  It’s pretty clear that the “time constraint” was set by the government of Qatar, who paid for the document (rather than, say, a neutral party with professional credentials in this kind of investigating like Human Rights Watch). It’s a safe assumption that Qatar wanted this released ahead of UN-sponsored peace talks scheduled for Geneva this week. Anything that further demonizes Assad is a good thing from the perspective of Qatar and many of his opponents.

What of the assertion of “11,000 dead detainees?” Well, the report’s executive summary is a little different from the more detailed interior.

Compare this from the executive summary on page four:

In all, approximately fifty-five thousand (55,000) images have, to date, been made available outside Syria by these processes. As there were some four or five photographs taken of each body this approximates to there being images of about eleven thousand (11,000) dead detainees.

To this from page 17 (italics mine):

Some five thousand five hundred (5,500) images were examined in total by the forensics team. It was apparent that most deceased persons had between four or five images taken of them allowing an estimate of images of one thousand three hundred (1,300) individual corpses being considered by the forensics team…

Within these five thousand five hundred (5,500) images, images of a total of eight hundred and thirty five (835) deceased persons were evaluated in detail. Of these 20% showed evidence of inflicted trauma, 30% were equivocal, 42% showed emaciation.

So in fact only images of 835 people were “evaluated in detail” by a team that asserted in its executive summary (the vast majority of people never read beyond the executive summary of any document) that 11,000 people had been systematically killed in detention.

In other words, they simply extrapolated from a sample of 10 percent of the pictures (with no evidence or claims presented as to how a randomized sample would have been taken) to the whole.

Association with war crime prosecutions is no guarantor of credibility – far from it. Just consider Luis Moreno Ocampo’s absurd claims about Viagra and mass rape in Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya in 2011. War crimes prosecutors have, unsurprisingly, a bias towards wanting to bolster cases against people they consider war criminals (like Assad or Qaddafi) and so should be treated with caution. They also frequently favor, as a class, humanitarian interventions.

This piece is not an attempt to defend Assad from the charge of war crimes carried out against his government. There has been much stronger and more credible evidence of this than the Qatar report going back years. Just as there is strong and credible evidence of torture, summary executions, and associated war crimes being carried out by various rebel factions (a fact completely ignored in today’s report).

But after the lies gobbled up the US people and Congress from anonymous sources from the first Gulf War (remember Hill & Knowlton’s fabrication of Iraqi soldiers tossing Kuwaiti babies out of incubators) to the second (the fabricated intelligence of weapon’s of mass destruction peddled by Curveball and the like) to the ongoing reassessment of the strength of the public evidence presented by the US about the certainty that the Assad government used sarin last year, this kind of report has to be treated with kid gloves.

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Qatar’s Questionable Syrian Torture Allegations


The leader of the world’s richest nation has just handed power over to his son 18 years after he stripped his own father of the title in a successful coup d’état


Stephen Gowans

A report sponsored by one of the Syrian insurgency’s major weapons suppliers claims to provide (as the New York Times puts it) “new visual corroboration that Mr. Assad’s government is guilty of mass war crimes against its own citizens.” Based on photos of dead detainees said to be taken by a defector from the Syrian military, the report alleges that Syrian forces engaged in widespread torture.

While the allegations may be true, there is considerable room for skepticism.

* First, and foremost, the photographs on which the report is based have not been independently verified.

* Second, the driving force behind the report is Qatar, which has been energetically engaged in efforts to bring down the Syrian government. Part of that effort has been to supply Syrian and foreign jihadists– themselves the target of torture accusations–with arms.

* Third, there are three reasons the Qatari emirate might have an interest in traducing the Syrian government with phony allegations.

1• To strengthen assertions that Assad must step down, preventing any deal at the Geneva II conference that might leave him in place.

2• To provide a pretext for direct intervention by Western military forces into the Syrian conflict.

3• To divert attention from the brutal war crimes (including mass executions, beheadings and eviscerations) carried out by the insurgents, now under investigation by Navi Pillay, the United Nations human rights chief.

Of course, we can’t be sure that the financing of the torture allegations report is a stratagem to gain the upper hand in the Syrian conflict, but as The New York Times acknowledges in an understatement, the funding of the project by one of the insurgents’ principal backers is “likely to raise questions.”


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‘Stopping terrorism is our priority’ says Syria’s presidential adviser


Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem, Sr


Syria’s warring parties are beginning formal peace talks in Geneva for the first time since the conflict began three years ago, but they will not be face-to-face.

The government and rebel delegations will sit in separate rooms, and conduct negotiations through the UN mediator.

Diplomats have said a main concern will be ensuring neither side walks out.

Syrian presidential adviser Dr Bouthaina Shaaban told the BBC’s Lina Sinjab that the Syrian government’s priority is to ”stop terrorism”.

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White House reportedly losing patience with I$raHell’s stooges in Congress


For decades successive United States administrations have tolerated the fact that Congress is riddled with traitors who routinely put Israel’s interests above those of their own country. However, ominous clouds are hovering over the heads of Israel’s settlers on Capitol Hill.

According to an unnamed American official quoted by Israel Radio on 23 January, the White House, in particular President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, are losing patience with “Jewish activity” on behalf of Israel in Congress.

Obama and Kerry, the official said, have had enough of the Israel stooges’ constant criticism of the US government and their attempts at enabling Israel to set US policy.

As is known, Israeli Trojan horses in Congress, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Zionist Organization, have been trying to sabotage US policy towards Iran by sponsoring a bill that would impose a new round of sanctions on Iran.

The Iranian government has made it clear that if new sanctions are imposed, it would abrogate the interim nuclear deal reached with Western powers last November.

The sanctions bill is sponsored by senators Mark Kirk (Republican, Illinois) and Robert Menendez (Democrat, New Jersey) and has so far won support from 59 senators, 16 of which are from the Democratic party. It is currently only eight senators short of the votes needed in order to assure that the president cannot veto the legislation.

In the meantime, it remains to be seen whether White House displeasure with Israel’s interference, through the Zionist stooges, in US domestic affairs will translate into concrete actions.

What is clear is that Obama and Kerry don’t have much time left before the fifth columnists in Congress pull the rug from underneath their feet.

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White House reportedly uneasy with Jewish lobbying in Congress



Top Obama administration official tells I$raHell Radio  president,  secretary  of state ‘unsettled’ by I$raHell-backed activities on Capitol Hill

Times of Israel

The lobbying efforts of Jewish groups in the United States Congress are causing a general uneasiness in the White House, specifically with US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, an official in the Obama administration reportedly said Thursday.

The unnamed official, quoted by Israel Radio, said that “Jewish activity” in Congress, which was perceived by Kerry and Obama to be backed by the Israeli government, was unsettling the two American leaders.

Obama and Kerry, the official continued, were also disappointed by several US Jewish groups’ repeated criticism of the government.

In recent weeks, pro-Israel lobbying groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Zionist Organization of America have been applying heavy pressure on members of Congress to support a bill which would impose a new round of sanctions on Iran.

The sanctions bill is strongly opposed by the Obama administration, which fears that the piece of legislation would dampen the possibility of achieving a sustainable diplomatic solution for the Iranian nuclear issue.

The bill, which was sponsored by Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), has so far garnered support from 59 Senators, 16 of which hail from the Democratic party.

The bill is currently eight Senators short of the votes needed in order to assure that the president cannot veto the legislation.

“Our top priority is stopping Iran’s nuclear program, and consequently we are very engaged in building support for the Menendez-Kirk bill which now has the bi-partisan co-sponsorship of 59 senators,” AIPAC’s spokesman, Marshall Wittman, wrote in an email to JTA.

“AIPAC’s relationship with the White House has never been kissy-kissy,” Morris Amitay, a former AIPAC executive director told JTA.

“And if you look at where Congress is today on Israel issues, the peace process, Iran, AIPAC is doing a terrific job.”

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Naziyahu: We can’t have a ‘Palestine’ run by Iran



Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday laid out two major foreign policy challenges facing his administration — avoiding a binational state encompassing Israel and the Palestinians, and preventing a future Palestinian state from becoming an Iranian proxy.

“Half of Palestinian society is dominated by Iran’s proxy,” he said in an apparent reference to the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu made the statements during an address at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

During a question-and-answer session after his speech, the prime minister portrayed the Iranian nuclear program as a shared concern for both Israel and Arab states, along with the spread of Islamist movements.

“Central Arab governments are preoccupied with the Iranian nuclear weapons and the Muslim brotherhood,” he said. “The nations do not see Israel as an enemy but as a potential ally to combat these threats. They are not assured by the words spoke earlier by the president of Iran. They get it. We all wish there was a real change in Iran.”

Earlier in the day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appealed for improved relations with the world, telling the Davos forum that his country had never sought to develop a nuclear weapon.

But Netanyahu averred that only Iran’s words had changed, not its actions, and that the Islamic Republic remained aggressive and continued to develop materials for nuclear weapons, despite a deal with Western powers that curbs its enrichment activity.

Rouhani’s speech had “no connection to what’s going on on the ground,” he contended.

Netanyahu argued that peace with the Palestinians would be advanced if Iran truly changed its policies.

“There would be a great boom for peace…The removal of that threat [Iran] would help advance peace,” he said.

Netanyahu reiterated his long-held assertion that economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians would advance the peace process, and insisted he was ready for “real secure genuine peace.”.

“I hope [Mahmoud] Abbas is too,” he added, referring to the Palestinian Authority president.

“Investment in economic peace assists the development of political peace — especially with the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said. “We’ve had some cooperation between Israeli entrepreneurs and Palestinian entrepreneurs.”

Netanyahu also pushed back against recent European moves to punish Israel for its presence in the West Bank.

“If Europe is seen as pressuring Israel,” he said, “it hardens the Palestinian position.”

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Rouhani bids for better ties with all, except I$raHell



Times of Israel

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reached out for improved relations with the world Thursday, telling the World Economic Forum in Davos that his country had never sought to develop a nuclear weapon.

“Nuclear weapons have no place in our society” or “our security strategy,” the Iranian leader said. “Iran has no motivation to move in that direction.” He also claimed that Iran had never launched “any aggression” over past centuries and that it would always “respond positively” to reductions in animosity to it.

He said, however, that Iran would not back down from its nuclear program. and insisted on its right “to access peaceful nuclear technology… We will not give up our right to develop our peaceful nuclear reactors,” he vowed.

Rouhani called for increased economic cooperation among countries across the globe, and said his country was ready to engage in diplomatic relations with all countries it had officially recognized.

“We’ve had disputes with certain countries, but we would want to see a better future, and achieve peace with everyone,” he said, when asked by WEF founder Klaus Schwab, in a brief question and answer session after his speech, whether he sought relations with all Middle East countries. ”There are no exceptions; we wish for a better future and to have beneficial relations with all that we recognize.”

Rouhani’s statements apparently excluded Israel, which is not recognized by the Islamic Republic.

In an immediate response, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also in Davos, said that the Iranian president was continuing “Iran’s deception show” and that the international community “mustn’t be fooled and must prevent Iran’s capability to produce nukes.”

“While Rouhani condemns the killing of innocents, dozens of innocent people were executed in Iran in the last few days,” Netanyahu said. “While Rouhani talks about no foreign involvement in Syria, Iran arms Assad and orders Hezbollah to massacre innocent people there. While Rouhani talks about peace in the Middle East, he refuses, even today, to recognize Israel, and his regime calls for its destruction. Therefore, the international community must not fall for this deception; rather it must prevent Iran from acquiring the capacity to create nuclear weapons.”

In his remarks, Rouhani claimed that, under the terms of the recently signed nuclear deal with six world powers, the world recognized Iran’s right to develop a peaceful nuclear program. He added that his country was willing to allow certain international oversight to assure that no weapons were being developed.

“We are carrying out all international laws and regulations with regard to our peaceful program. Forty countries have such capabilities, and we will not accept discrimination on that matter,” he said.

“What we have achieved is a prelude to future agreements. What we agreed on was not temporary but rather the beginning of a long-term process.” Rouhani remarked.

The Iranian president also discussed his country’s emerging economy and said excluding nations from the world market would result in regional instability.

“Security in the Middle East cannot be achieved by ignoring people; we must spark hope among young people in the Middle East,” he said.

“If we want everyone to contribute to security, everyone must feel safe. If certain countries are ostracized from the international community for no clear reason, everyone will suffer. It is important for all countries to be involved.”

The appearance in Davos was the first for a sitting Iranian president since Mohammad Khatami’s in 2004, and marked Tehran’s new drive for greater detente with the West.

Rouhani made no mention of Israel, but called on the world to recognize the Palestinian people’s rights.

He also said the world must act in order to resolve the ongoing conflict in Syria.

“We must dismantle all terrorist activity in the region. They are a threat to world security,” he said.

He also invited “all distinguished participants” in the Davos event to come to Iran, “make contact with Iran’s private and public sector,” learn about Iranian culture and “experience first-hand Iran’s hospitality.”

Israel has charged that Rouhani’s overtures to the West are part of a duplicitous “charm offensive” design to obscure its ongoing progress towards nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu, who was set to speak later Thursday, earlier this week dismissed the notion of a meeting with Rouhani. “Would you meet with somebody who calls for your annihilation?” Netanyahu told Canadian television station CTV. “If Rouhani said that, OK, we recognize the Jewish state; we, Iran, are prepared to have peace with Israel [and that] Israel will be here forever — that would pique my interest, in Davos or anywhere else. But so far, they say the opposite.”

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Zoabi Says Syria Official Delegation Concerned with Geneva Conference Success

Syria Information Minister Omran al-Zoabi said Friday we are in Geneva because we want to defend our country and people, it is important to move the wheel of a serious discussion.Zoabi

The Minister added in a statement to journalists, “We are insisting on the success of the political track and we have no intentions to complicate it”, affirming : ” We have clear directives from President Bashar al-Assad to work for the success of this track.”

Minister al-Zoabi said, “We came to Geneva with an open mind and a free, sovereign and independent national will and no one, neither major countries and institutions, nor regional states, can dictate its language and conditions on us at all”, adding “There is no meaning for any political process or step as long as guns and swords are still put on the necks of the citizens.”

The Information Minister stressed, “The dialogue in Damascus is going on and we will work to deepen it with all opposition parties which weren’t invited to Geneva conference.”

He said, “The Syrian Arab Republic official delegation agreed to come to Geneva2 for a discussion with the opposition forces but it is obvious that the opposition is not represented entirely in Geneva, there is a partial, very narrow and simple representation,” affirming that Syrian state’s political will of conducting dialogue with the national opposition forces will remain.

Al-Zoabi pointed the existence of a large-scale mass media campaign, by modern communication devices, waged against the Syrian official delegation and the reports and footages broadcasted by Qatar in addition to some statements about stepping down, saying that all this fall under what may be called ” the black political comedy”.

The information minister said that this reflects the tremendous confusion of the other side, whether the part of coalition which came to Geneva or others who did not come, or the opposition forces which U.S. State Department and Robert Ford refused to be present at the conference.

About media leaks on differences of the coalition delegation the so-called the opposition to regarding who will represent them, al-Zoabi said: “It is not important who will be present or who will head their delegation, adding, “Our human, national and political opinion towards some its figures is known,” inquiring whether they have real political and national will, this is a suspicious matter.”

Al-Zoabi expressed astonishment over statements of those who call themselves opposition, whether those present in Geneva or outside it, saying that they are living in another world of dreams and illusions.

“Some of them, until now, say the Syrian delegation to Geneva will sign with us on stepping down and handing over the power” this is a fabulous speech and reflects political childhood, delirium and adolescence,” he added.

The Minister went on to say that, certainly, the dialogue process will not succeed in this way whether in Geneva or any other place in the world as long as the two sides haven’t enjoyed a true political reality.

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