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JERUSALEMIsraeli naval forces on Wednesday seized a ship laden with rockets allegedly bound for militants in the Gaza Strip, and officials accused Iran of orchestrating the delivery in an elaborate 5,000-mile (8,000-kilometer) journey that included covert stops across the region.
The Syrian-made M-302 rockets would have put Israel’s biggest cities well within range of Gaza, where militants already possess thousands of less powerful rockets. During eight days of fighting in 2012, armed groups fired 1,500 rockets into Israel, including several that reached the outskirts of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
The naval raid, which took place in the Red Sea hundreds of miles from Israel, came as Iran showed off powerful new ballistic missiles equipped with multiple warheads. The arms bust drew renewed Israeli calls for world powers to toughen their stand in negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program.
“Iran has been exposed for what it is. It smiles in the Geneva talks about its own nuclear ambitions, gives soothing words, and as they’re doing that, they’re shipping these deadly weapons to the world’s worst terrorists,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in California during a U.S. visit. “Such a regime must not be able to have the capacity to make nuclear weapons.”
Israel believes that Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, a charge Iran denies. Israel says a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to the existence of the Jewish state, citing Iranian calls for Israel’s destruction, its development of long-range missiles and its support for hostile militant groups.
Netanyahu has been an outspoken critic of the efforts by six world powers to negotiate a deal with Iran that would substantially scale back its nuclear program in exchange for ending international sanctions. He says a current, interim deal gives Iran too much relief while getting little in return, and fears a final agreement would leave Iran with the capability to make a bomb.
Since the global powers reached their interim deal with Iran last November, Netanyahu’s warnings about Iran have been largely ignored by world leaders.
Iran’s announcement Wednesday that it now has missiles with multiple warheads, greatly boosting their destructive power, only heightened Israeli concerns. The semiofficial Fars news agency said the new Qiam missile was specifically built to target U.S. bases in the region. Iran already possesses missiles capable of striking Israel and parts of Europe.
Israeli officials said that Wednesday’s naval raid took place in international waters about 100 miles (160 kilometers) off the coast of Sudan, and came after months of painstaking intelligence work.
They said the rockets had been flown from Syria to Iran months ago, then shipped from Iran’s Bandar Abbas port to Umm Qasr, Iraq, before being loaded onto the KLOS C civilian ship destined for Sudan. From there, Israeli officials said they were to be smuggled overland through Egypt to Gazaa route that has been used in the past.
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JERUSALEM The Israeli army said Wednesday that naval commandos intercepted a civilian vessel carrying a concealed Iranian shipment of arms to Palestinian militant groups based in the Gaza Strip.
The ship, the KLOS-C, was making its way up the Red Sea to Port Sudan when it was intercepted, Israeli officials said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the captured ship was stocked with weapons destined for terrorist groups and that the entire operation … was organized by Iran.
Sepah News, the official news agency of Irans Revolutionary Guard Corps, cited an informed but anonymous source within Irans military who denied the Israeli allegations, calling them a baseless lie.
In a dossier released to the news media, the Israeli army said that the shipment, which included Syrian-made M-302 surface-to-surface rockets, had been flown to Tehran from a weapons factory in Damascus and then transported overland to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas on the Persian Gulf. After a stop in Iraq, the shipment had been making its way to Sudans main port, the army said. From there, it said, the shipment was likely destined to be moved by land through Sudan into Egypt and then to the Gaza Strip.
Although the army could not say how the rockets would have reached the blockaded territory, it released video footage and images of weapons in the ship. All of Gazas land crossings are blocked by Egypt in the south and Israel in the east.
We dont have the full plan yet, but we do know they were headed to Gaza, said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman.
He said that Israeli military intelligence had tracked the shipment for several months after it left Damascus and that the KLOS-C, a Panamanian-flagged vessel, was transporting rockets with a longer range than those Gaza currently possesses. Such rockets could strike targets almost anywhere in Israel.
The ship, with its cargo and 17 crew members of various nationalities, is en route to the Israeli port of Eilat and is expected to arrive in three days.
During a daily briefing, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she could confirm Israels assertion of having intercepted a shipment of illicit Iranian arms.
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Jewish State Seeks To Give Christian Arabs Higher Status
One People: Christian Palestinians protest a portion of the Israeli security wall in the occupied West Bank. A new Israeli law seeks to enhance the status of Christians, with the goal of dividing them from Muslims.
Published March 03, 2014.
Few things get under the skin of supporters of Israel like the use of the term apartheid to describe the state or its policies. Less than two weeks ago, a campaign named Rethink2014 was launched by pro-Israel activists to challenge what it calls the Apartheid smear, just ahead of the global event known as Israel Apartheid Week that looms in March.
In an especially stunning blow to the campaign, Israels Knesset took a page from the apartheid policy playbook by seeking to divide and rule its Arab population just as South Africa once sought to play off parts of its black majority against one another.
Just last week, the Israeli parliament enacted a law that calls for the expansion of the Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunity in the Employment Commission. It essentially aims to distinguish between Christian and Muslim Arabs, with the goal of giving preference to the former. The law further hopes, according to its sponsor, Yariv Levin of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus Likud-Beteinu Party, to de-Arabize Christians.
A law that offers material benefits to one group over another in this case, Christian over Muslim Arabs in order to maintain the privilege of the dominant group is precisely the sort of law that served as the cornerstone for apartheid in South Africa. Apartheid was not just about enacting laws to directly maintain white domination and privilege. It was a carefully crafted system of social engineering that attempted to reinforce difference through policies and laws.
The divide-and-rule objective of the new law is underscored by Levin himself.
[The law will] grant separate representation and separate treatment to the Christian community, which will be distinguished from the Muslim Arabs, he said, according to Haaretz
Labour will go “careering off to the left” with Matt McCarten as the party’s new chief of staff, says Prime Minister John Key.
Labour leader David Cunliffe announced this afternoon Mr McCarten would take over the role, and Mr Key says Mr McCarten comes from the hard left.
“The tone for Labour will be much more aligned with what we see from the Greens,” Mr Key said.
“They’ll have a certain appeal to a small audience of New Zealanders, but most New Zealanders will know that means bad news when it comes to jobs, when it comes to economic growth, and to a competitive economy.”
Mr McCarten has been involved with Unite Union, and his appointment showed the unions getting an “even tighter grip” on the Labour Party, Mr Key said.
Mr Key said the “slightly quirky” thing was that Mr McCarten had written a column in 2012 saying Mr Cunliffe should retire from politics.
“He is hard left. David Cunliffe was put into his job by the unions and this is the unions getting an even tighter grip on the direction of the Labour Party.”
He said Labour’s management since Mr Cunliffe came into office was “pretty woeful” and the caucus was very divided.
“I really don’t think he’ll have a dog show of unifying the Labour Party.”
But Mr Cunliffe has been positive about Mr McCarten’s appointment, describing him as one of the country’s best left-wing political strategists.
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'Israeli settlements in West Bank a sad issue, seems irreversible' Israeli ex diplomat
Israel is expanding its presence in the West Bank despite the fact it's one of the main obstacles to peace talks. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, however,…
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Deaths have been reported after Kiev demonstrators were told to end their efforts to occupy government buildings. Interior ministry members stand in formation as their colleagues attempt to extinguish a fire during clashes with anti-government protesters in Independence Square
At least nine killed as Kiev clashes continue
Canada and Israel differ on settlement issue: Netanyahu
Canada and Israel differ on settlement issue: Netanyahu Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Canada and Israel differ when it comes to the building…
In recent years, settlement opponents in Israel have joined broader boycotts of products made there
Civil rights groups went to the supreme court on Sunday to challenge a law banning Israelis from calling for a boycott of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Under the 2011 law calling for a boycott is not a criminal offence, but a civil wrong, that could trigger lawsuits demanding compensation.
Israelis are thus discouraged from opposing the settlements.
An alliance of the groups told the supreme court that the law infringes their right to free speech.
The appeal comes against a backdrop of an increasingly successful international boycott campaign against Israel’s settlement policies in the occupied Palestinian territories.
In recent years, settlement opponents in Israel have joined broader boycotts of products made there.
Association for Civil Rights in Israel leader Haggai El-Ad insists that a boycott is a legitimate form of protest and that the Israeli law is clearly politically motivated since it is only applied to those targeting the settlements.
But Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin, who initiated the Bill, claims that the aim of the legislation was to prevent discrimination against people based on where they live.
The issues of settlements and the boycott threat against them have figured prominently in recently restarted US-mediated peace talks and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set boycotters in his sights.
These claims are completely fabricated, Gaza Deputy Foreign Minister Ghazi Hamad told Anadolu Agency.
By Ola Attalah
GAZA CITY – Palestinian resistance movement Hamas on Tuesday denied reports that group leader and Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had asked Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu not to launch military operations against the Gaza Strip following recent border tensions.
“These claims are completely fabricated,” Gaza Deputy Foreign Minister Ghazi Hamad told Anadolu Agency.
Earlier Tuesday, Israel’s Walla news website reported that Haniyeh had sent a “confidential message” to Netanyahu two weeks ago following a handful of rocket attacks on Israel urging him not to order military action against the Palestinian coastal enclave.
According to the website, Haniyeh had told Netanyahu that the Hamas-run Gaza government was not planning any escalations against Israel.
Hamad, however, denied that any correspondence written or verbal had taken place between the two premiers.
“Egypt remains the only mediator with the authority to transfer messages to and from Israel,” Hamad asserted.
Tensions have recently mounted along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
For weeks, Israeli aircraft have targeted Palestinian fighters in the strip in an apparent return of Israel’s policy of “targeted killing.”
News, commentary, criticism, and reaction about the Kerry-Israeli-Palestinian Peace Mission are being written in great volume from every perspective within Israel and amongst the Palestinians. Among the most important pieces in recent days are these three that I recommend you read:
1. A Jew-Free Palestine by Rabbi Donniel Hartman, Times of Israel
A superb and thoughtful analysis of the meaning of the West Bank settlements and their role in the future of the state of Israel. Rabbi Hartman says that Israel must now decide whether it wishes to be a Jewish democratic state or not. http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/a-jew-free-palestine
2. Tension Builds in Israeli Coalition at a Critical Juncture in Peace Talks, by Jodi Rudoren, NYT
Where is Prime Minister Netanyahu vis a vis a two-state solution? Though his rhetoric is clearly in favor, his taking the hard decisions necessary to effect a concrete agreement will necessarily alienate his historic political allies. If he is serious, his compromises will reveal the extent of his political courage, which most Israelis do not believe he has. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/30/world/middleeast/israel.html?src=rechp
3. Israel Needs to Learn Some Manners by Avi Shlaim, NYT
Avi Shlaim is an Iraqi-born British/Israeli historian and emeritus professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford. He is part of a group of Israeli scholars who have put forward critical interpretations of Israel and the history of Zionism (per Wikipedia). Shlaim takes Israeli right-wing government officials to task for their blatant, arrogant and dangerous treatment of Israels most important ally saying that these Israeli leaders (e.g. Defense Minister Yaalon, Likud leader Danon, and Bayit Hayehudi leader Bennett, among others) give chutzpah a bad name. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/31/opinion/israel-needs-to-learn-some-manners.html?src=rechp
Finally, I recommendMy Promised Land The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit (see review Tuesday, January 14).
Shavits in-depth consideration of key events and phenomena that have shaped the history of Zionism and the state of Israel constitutes the most important and honest book to come out of Israel in the last 25 years. This volume will inform and provoke you, inspire you and break your heart. After reading it, your understanding will be far deeper about the meaning of the Jewish democratic state of Israel in modern Jewish history. In addition, his book will challenge your identity as a Jew, whether you live in Israel as a citizen of the state or in the Diaspora.
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