The Palestine Problem

“Israel is outraged over the legislation against it in the Dail which is indicative of hypocrisy and anti-Semitism.” That was the statement from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the lower house of the Irish parliament advanced a bill in late January that would make it illegal for anyone in Ireland to buy goods or services from Israel’s settlements in the West Bank.

No one should underestimate Israel’s genuine anger at this bill and at the widespread support it has in Ireland. Any hint of economic pressure to end its 51-year old occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip provokes a strong, visceral reaction from the Likud premier. At the same time, the Israeli government carefully orchestrates its reaction to the threat of economic action to ensure that it never has to face it.

Netanyahu understands the Irish bill will fail. The government opposes it, if for no other reason than the fact that it contravenes European Union laws requiring all member states to uphold the unitary nature of the single market. But he also understands the real meaning behind the bill and its success: the people of Ireland want to see Israel face the consequences of its disregard of international humanitarian law, and its abandonment of even the pretence of negotiating a two-state solution, in the hope that those consequences will make Israel change course. Read more at The Battleground

Black Cube Crosses Another Line

Netanyahu and Orban, brothers in anti-Semitism

The private Israeli intelligence firm, Black Cube, is back in the headlines. This time, ex-employees have spilled the beans on a program to throw shade on non-governmental organizations in Hungary to help ensure the electoral victory of nationalist president Viktor Orban.

Black Cube has been hit with several controversies in recent months. Back in November 2017, it was revealed that disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein engaged Black Cube to dig up dirt on his accusers and potential accusers. In an embarrassing turn for Israel, it turned out that former Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak had introduced Weinstein to Black Cube’s leadership.

In May, journalist Ronan Farrow reported that Black Cube had been hired to dig up dirt on two officials—Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl—in Barack Obama’s administration who were deeply involved in negotiating the nuclear deal with Iran. Agents of the firm used phony identities to contact the officials’ spouses to try to find information they could, presumably, use to discredit Rhodes and Kahl and thereby cast a shadow on the entire effort with Iran. Read more at LobeLog

EU Labeling: Carrots and Sticks Work

Last November, when the European Union announced the implementation of long-standing regulations regarding the labeling of products from Israeli settlements, the government of Prime

MoghanyahuMinister Benjamin Netanyahu played one of its biggest cards, suspending contact with the EU regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After nearly three months, which saw accusations of European anti-Semitism and Congressional condemnation of the European decision, Netanyahu backed down. The EU held to its position and refused to grant Israel any compensation for it. The episode reveals the enormous amount of untapped potential for altering the status quo with regard to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its siege on the Gaza Strip. Read more at FMEP’s blog, “Facts on the Ground”

The Facts About EU Labeling of Settlement Products

The recent decision by the European Union to label products from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank has elicited loud cries of protest from Israel and from the Netanyahu government’s supporters in Washington. Critics have claimed that Israel is being treated unfairly, that the EU is trying to pressure Israel into concessions outside of the framework of bilateral negotiations, and that these measures are a part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement whose real aim, critics claim, is to de-legitimize Israel.

Israeli settlement wine

In fact, the EU measures simply represent an effort to more faithfully implement a longstanding policy, backed by a strong international consensus, of differentiating between the State of Israel within the pre-1967 line, often referred to as the Green Line, and Israeli settlements built in the territories occupied in the 1967 war.

The effort to oppose this differentiation is often based on partial or misleading information, which we address below. It is important to recognize, however, that the unimpeded growth of settlements will eventually foreclose the option of a two-state solution, if it hasn’t already done so, as it will eliminate any possibility of contiguous and economically viable Palestinian state. It is therefore imperative that anyone hoping for a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians understand the facts about the settlements, EU labeling and the goal of differentiation. Read more at Facts on the Ground, FMEP’s blog.

Understanding EU Labeling Regulations

Recently, the European Union implemented a procedure for enforcing existing regulations requiring the labeling of some goods produced in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Israel has vociferously objected to any labeling of products from its settlements, and this has prompted concern in Congress, including a bi-partisan letter written by Senators Cruz and Gillibrand protesting the requirement.

The Obama administration has made it clear that it does not object to the EU’s decision. “We do not believe that labeling the origin of products is equivalent to a boycott,” State DepartmentIsraeli settlement winespokesman Mark Toner said in response to a question. “And as you know, we do not consider settlements to be part of Israel. We do not view labeling the origin of products as being from the settlements as a boycott of Israel.” Read more at Facts on the Ground, FMEP’s blog. 

The Syriza Effect

The big news coming out of the EU Parliamentary elections this past weekend was the gains the right wing made, and these were very real and important. But what we’re really seeing is a response to the eurozone which is not working for way too many in Europe. The right, in most countries, was the side that offered some sort of alternative. Greece demonstrated, however, that there is a real opening for a leftist party that is going to offer opposition to big European capital interests. I explore in Souciant today.

Europe Urged to Step into Breach of Failed Mideast Peace

A group of former European heads of state and foreign ministers have sent a letter to Catherine Ashton advocating some important steps in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and included a surprisingly sharp rebuke of US policy. I report here for IPS.