Al-Monitor – 2016-09-15 19:32:14
UN Chief Slams Netanyahu over ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ Remark
(September 15, 2016) — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday took a swipe at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying it was “unacceptable and outrageous” to claim that opposition to settlements was tantamount to ethnic cleansing.
Netanyahu has accused the Palestinians of seeking a state with “no Jews” and declared in a video released last week that this could be described as “ethnic cleansing.”
“I am disturbed by a recent statement by Israel’s prime minister portraying those who oppose settlement expansion as supporters of ethnic cleansing,” Ban told the Security Council during a meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “This is unacceptable and outrageous.”
Ban asserted that Israel’s policy of building housing on land earmarked for a future Palestinian state was illegal and called for an end to Israeli rule over Palestinian territories.
“Let me be absolutely clear: settlements are illegal under international law. The occupation, stifling and oppressive, must end,” he said.
More than half a million Israelis have settled in Palestinian territories under a policy that Ban said was “diametrically opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state.”
Over the past two weeks, Israel has advanced plans for another 463 housing units to be built in four settlements of the West Bank.
Ban quoted Israeli data as showing that since April, there had been the highest number of construction starts in three years, confirming the Israeli push on settlements.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, hit back at Ban, saying he should direct his criticism at the Palestinians.
“Instead of directly condemning Hamas and its building of terror tunnels, and instead of investing time and resources in ensuring that the Palestinians end their incitement, the secretary general chooses to condemn Israel on a regular basis,” he said in a statement.
The council meeting was held amid reports that Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman had ordered ministry employees and military officials to boycott UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov over his criticism of Israel’s settlement policies.
Mladenov last month told the council that Israel had launched a “surge” in settlement activity, ignoring the recommendations of the diplomatic quartet that called for a halt to settlements.
The quartet is comprised of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Murray McCully, who holds the council presidency this month, said Lieberman’s decision was “deeply counter-productive” and that Mladenov was “doing the job we all asked him to do.”
The United Nations has been struggling to find a way to re-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been comatose since a US-led diplomatic effort collapsed in April 2014.
Former Israeli PM Says
‘Reckless’ Netanyahu Harmed US Aid
(September 15, 2016) — A former Israeli prime minister on Thursday said incumbent premier Benjamin Netanyahu eroded national security and the size of US defence aid by “irresponsible” handling of relations with Washington.
“Netanyahus reckless conduct has . . . undermined Israel’s security,” Ehud Barak wrote in a Washington Post op-ed.
“Israel will receive $3.8 billion a year — an important contribution to our security but far less than what could have been obtained before the prime minister chose to blatantly interfere with US politics.”
The United States on Wednesday promised Israel $38 billion between 2019 and 2028 to buy advanced planes and weaponry and boost its missile defence shield, the biggest pledge of military aid in US history.
Barak and other critics say that an even more generous deal could have been achieved if Netanyahu had not campaigned so publicly and vociferously against a nuclear agreement with Iran backed by US President Barack Obama.
Frosty relations between the two leaders went into a deep chill last year, after Netanyahu appeared before the US Congress to lobby against the Iran deal.
The White House viewed the appearance as unpr ecedented interference by a foreign leader.
“Expressing our opposition to the Iran nuclear deal was certainly legitimate,” Barak wrote.
“But instead of holding a candid dialogue behind closed doors with President Obama, Netanyahu went behind his back.”
The previous 10-year aid package amounted to $30 billion, but did not include the $5 billion US assistance for missile defence contained in the update.
Barak served as the Labour party’s prime minister between 1999 and 2001 then as defence minister from 2009 to 2013 in a coalition government under Netanyahu.
The highly decorated former armed forces chief said the new US defence package packs less bang for the buck than it might appear to, due to erosion caused by inflation in arms prices and some of the deal’s terms.
One is the gradual phasing out of a concession which in the past allowed Israel to spend 26.3 percent of the aid outside the United States, a privilege which gave a valuable boost to the Jewish state’s own advanced defence industry.
Another condition is that Israel agrees not to lobby the US congress for extra missile defence funding, except in emergencies and only with the agreement of the US administration.
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