More than 50 million people affected by conflicts outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces Humvee patrols in Hassakeh, northeast Syria, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022.Clashes between U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters and militants continued for a fourth day Sunday near the prison in northeastern Syria that houses thousands of members of IS, the Kurdish force said. (AP Photo/Baderkhan Ahmad)

UN: More than 50 million people affected by urban conflicts

A backhoe breaks and remove parts of the Al-Jawhara building, as a worker recycles metal iron rods from the rubble of the building, which was damaged by Israeli airstrikes during Israel's war with Gaza's Hamas rulers last May, in the central of al-Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City, Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. The Gaza Strip has few jobs, little electricity and almost no natural resources. But after four bruising wars with Israel in just over a decade, it has lots of rubble. Local businesses are now finding ways to cash in on the chunks of smashed concrete, bricks and debris left behind by years of conflict. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

A backhoe breaks and remove parts of the Al-Jawhara building, as a worker recycles metal iron rods from the rubble of the building, which was damaged by Israeli airstrikes during Israel’s war with Gaza’s Hamas rulers last May, in the central of al-Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City, Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. The Gaza Strip has few jobs, little electricity and almost no natural resources. But after four bruising wars with Israel in just over a decade, it has lots of rubble. Local businesses are now finding ways to cash in on the chunks of smashed concrete, bricks and debris left behind by years of conflict. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)ASSOCIATED PRESSMoreEDITH M. LEDERERTue, January 25, 2022, 4:18 PM·4 min read

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — More than 50 million people are affected by conflict in urban areas from Afghanistan to Libya, Syria, Yemen and beyond where they face a much higher risk of being killed or injured, the United Nations chief said Tuesday.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that in some cases civilians may be mistaken for combatants and be attacked. In others, he said, fighters don’t try to minimize harm and use explosive weapons in crowded areas that lead to devastating suffering for ordinary people who face life-long disabilities and grave psychological trauma.

As examples, he told a U.N. Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in urban settings during wars that during last year’s fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas militants dozens of schools and health care facilities were damaged and nearly 800,000 people were left without piped water.- ADVERTISEMENT -https://s.yimg.com/rq/darla/4-10-1/html/r-sf-flx.html

In Afghanistan, an explosive attack outside a high school in the capital, Kabul, last May killed 90 students, mainly girls, and injured an additional 240 people, he said.

Guterres said the risk of harm to civilians “rises when combatants move among them and put military facilities and equipment near civilian infrastructure.”

But he said conflict in urban areas “goes far beyond its immediate impact on civilians.”

The secretary-general said urban warfare also put civilians at risk of sieges and blockades that have led to starvation. It also forces millions of people from their homes “contributing to record numbers of refugees and internally displaced people,” and it creates millions of tons of debris that affect the environment and people’s health, he said.

“Four years after the destruction of 80% of housing in Mosul, Iraq, an estimated 300,000 people were still displaced,” he said.

“The frightening human cost of waging war in cities is not inevitable; it is a choice,” Guterres said.

He urged combatants to respect international humanitarian law that prohibits attacks on civilians or civilian infrastructure and also bars indiscriminate attacks and using civilians as human shields. He also urged combatants not to use explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas and to “gauge the impact of their operations and find ways to minimize harm.”Story continuesOur goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting

Israel is Headed for War Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

The Palestinian youth are a ticking “time bomb” with a lost generation increasingly making the Israeli occupation more challenging to sustain, says one of Israel’s highest military officers.

Israel’s former chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), has warned that the country is heading towards a one-state reality with the Palestinians, and with it, the “destruction of the Zionist dream.”

Eisenkot, who headed the military from 2015 to 2019, said the country needs to consolidate the country’s illegal settlements, which Israel thinks are legal. Still, there is a consensus under international law that all set settlers living beyond 1967 borders are illegal.

“One does not have to be a genius to understand the significance of millions of Palestinians mixed in with us along with the complex situation with Arab-Israelis,” said Eisenkot.

The former chief of staff warned that the country’s politicians have no vision for what a settlement with the Palestinians would look like resulting in an increasingly unstable political climate in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Eisenkot also warned that recent Palestinian flareups bode ill for the future occupation of Palestinian land and that Israel was “a hair’s breadth away” from a third intifada – a general revolt by Palestinians.

Increasingly young Palestinians who have known nothing by the Israeli occupation call themselves the “lost generation”, Eisenkot said. Israeli intelligence, warned the former IDF military officer, is finding it increasingly difficult to predict what this generation could do, calling it a “timebomb.”

“One day, sometime in the future, some esoteric, completely marginal event will happen, and the government will think it’s nonsense and will use some force, tackle the issue with a hammer on the head, and only after a few weeks will understand that the genie came out of the bottle and has no intention of returning,” Eisenkot said about how easily a conflict could erupt in the occupied territories.

Even as Israel sought to clamp down on the Palestinian resistance movement that controls Gaza, Hamas, according to Eisenkot, remains wildly popular in the West Bank with support in the region of “70 percent and 80 percent.”

poll released in June of last year, however, found that 53 percent of Palestinians believe Hamas is “most deserving of representing and leading the Palestinian people,” while only 14% prefer the incumbent Fatah party.

Hamas’s popularity was in part a “direct result of our policies,” said the IDF chief, who advised the country’s establishment to engineer “an alternative” that Israel could live with.

“The question is not whether there will be another outbreak, but when and how intense it will be. It is quite clear that this will happen. There’s no way that it’s not going to happen,” he said in an interview with the Israeli publication Maariv.

A divided house

Eisenkot also warned that Israeli society is increasingly polarised and divided owing to the country’s fractious politics. 

“I think that the rifts in Israeli society, and the attacks from both sides, the decline in governance, the decline in faith in state institutions, in the courts, crime — all these are the greatest threats for the country’s future,” he said.

In May of 2021, Israel declared a state of emergency in the central city of Lod after protests by Israeli Palestinians against discrimination and, in solidarity with Palestinians in the West Bank, threatened to spill over to other areas of the country.

Israel, which prides itself as being the “only democracy in the Middle East”, has long presented so-called “mixed cities” like Haifa and Lod as a model of coexistence between Jews and Palestinians.

Long-standing grievances among Palestinian citizens of Israel – over police brutality, government surveillance, and being forced to suppress their Palestinian identity – exploded, and inter-communal violence spread in several places.

It’s against this backdrop that Eisenkot warned in his interview that “people are worried, not because of the Iranian threat, but because of internal weakness, loss of cohesion, inequality, friction between different communities. Entire groups of the public are not being absorbed into society.”

“We need to understand that there is no national security without societal solidarity, and there is no societal solidarity without national security,” he added.

A declining sense of social solidarity is also resulting in reduced participation in the IDF, said the former chief. In 1978, Eisenkot said 88 percent of those eligible to join the army enrolled but by 2015 that number had dropped to 67 percent.

Increasingly he said younger recruits are afraid or unwilling to volunteer to enter combat units where they would have to kill Palestinians or face being killed themselves.

“The willingness to go to combat units, to kill or be killed, to go into danger, is in decline,” he said.

Save the oil and the wine: Revelation 6

Iraq Is Preparing For Higher Oil Demand

By Irina Slav – Jan 24, 2022, 9:30 AM CST

Iraq is already scheduling crude oil shipments for delivery in March thanks to strong demand, the deputy head of the State Organization for the Marketing of Oil, or SOMO, told media in Baghdad, as quoted by Reuters.

Ali Nizar also told media that Iraq’s oil exports were stable this month and were going to be slightly higher next month, Bloomberg reported.

For this month, the average daily rate of exports is seen at 3.2 million bpd, the SOMO deputy director-general said, adding it would likely increase to 3.3 million bpd in February. These are the figures from Iraq proper only, excluding exports of 340,000 bpd from the Kurdistan autonomous region.https://0dca5a95d49ec2fcf985dc1715e22ce0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Asked about oil prices, the SOMO official declined to give a specific projection, saying it was too early to say whether benchmark crude would reach $100 per barrel.

Separately, however, Reuters reported last week that some in OPEC believe oil could indeed reach and even top $100 per barrel. The drivers behind a continued rally would be sustained demand and tight supply resulting from the cartel’s limited spare capacity.

The last time Brent crude traded at $100 and more was eight years ago. During that cycle, Brent hit $110 per barrel before slumping to less than $50 in January 2015.https://0dca5a95d49ec2fcf985dc1715e22ce0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

There will be increasing pressure on oil prices in at least the next two months,” one OPEC source told Reuters, adding, “Under these circumstances, the price of oil may be close to $100 but it will certainly not be very stable.”

Due to constraints of various nature, OPEC has been falling short of its own production targets for months now. In December, the cartel reported an output increase of just 170,000 bpd, while its quota was for a boost of 253,000 bpd, per the OPEC+ production control agreement that stipulates a 400,000-bpd output increase for the extended cartel.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

Anti-American rally outside the temple walls: Revelation 11

Palestinian Islamic Jihad supporters lift placards as they demonstrate in Gaza city on January 22, 2022, to denounce the war in Yemen. (Mahmud HAMS / AFP)

With chants against US and Saudis, Gaza terror group stages massive pro-Iran rally

Hamas tries to distance itself from Islamic Jihad’s potentially embarrassing display of support for Yemen’s Houthi rebels; chants include ‘America is the Great Satan’

By Agencies and TOI staff23 Jan 2022, 9:29 pm

The Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers on Sunday tried to distance themselves from a protest staged by a rival pro-Iranian terror group that harshly attacked Saudi Arabia over its role in Yemen’s civil war and denounced the US as satanic.

During Saturday’s demonstration by Islamic Jihad, dozens of protesters chanted “Death to the House of Saud” and “American is the Great Satan,” according to an English translation provided by the Washington-based watchdog MEMRI.
Protesters also waved posters of the leader of Yemen’s Houthi militia.

Although Hamas did not participate in the protest, it tightly controls Gaza and authorizes all public gatherings. The protest threatened to embarrass the terror group, which already is largely isolated in the Arab world, and draw attention to its own ties to Iran.

On Sunday, Hamas tried to contain the damage. “The shouts against Arab and Gulf states from our Palestinian arena don’t represent our position and policy,” it said.

Yemen’s conflict began in 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthis took the capital, Sanaa, and much of northern Yemen, forcing the government to flee to the south, then to exile in Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi-led coalition, backed at the time by the US, entered the war months later to try restoring the government to power. The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, pushing the country to the brink of famine. Most of the Arab world has sided with Saudi Arabia and largely sees Iran as an enemy.

Hamas has long tried to play both sides of the divide, accepting millions of dollars from Iran while also seeking broad Arab support for its armed struggle against Israel. Hamas, a more powerful rival terror group to Islamic Jihad, seized control of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in 2007.

This approach has grown increasingly difficult as Gulf countries have established ties with Israel in recent years. Mixed messages from Hamas have also complicated the task. Mahmoud Zahar, a top Hamas official, said Saturday that he supports Houthi drone attacks against the United Arab Emirates.

The hashtag, “#Palestinians Support the Houthis,” was trending on social media on Sunday and Dubai’s deputy police chief, Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, announced that Zahar was now on the UAE’s most wanted list.

The Saudi-led coalition drastically escalated airstrikes on Yemen’s rebel-held provinces over the past week in response to a drone attack claimed by the Houthis that targeted an oil facility and major airport in the UAE, killing three people and wounding six.

The Emirati government has vowed to respond to the attacks, saying the strike “will not go unpunished.”

Rising Antisemitism Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

By Yoni Weissכ”א שבט תשפ”ב

Streaks of light are seen as the Iron Dome antimissile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, May 12, 2021. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo)YERUSHALAYIM – 

The coronavirus pandemic led to a rise in antisemitism around the world in 2021, according to a report by the Diaspora Ministry that will be presented to the government on Sunday, ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27.

This report points to a link between rising antisemitism and the pandemic, seeing a rise in conspiratorial rhetoric, painting Jews as profiting from vaccines and exploiting the crisis to strengthen their grip on governments and the world economy.

The report further shows that the pandemic brought about a trend of trivialization of the Holocaust, both by public figures and social media users, with repeated comparisons between health restrictions and the antisemitic discrimination and violence in Nazi Germany.

Many anti-vax protesters around the world have brandished the yellow badge to signify persecution by the authorities.

The report also shows that the past year has seen an upsurge in antisemitic incidents around the world, in part due to the escalation in the Gaza Strip last May, which saw an outburst of anti-Jewish hatred on social media.

In total, in 2021, the Diaspora Ministry’s monitoring system identified 3.5 million antisemitic posts in various languages.

In its report, the ministry says there is a correlation between violent speech on social media and violent actions in the public sphere against Jews, who are seen as collectively responsible for Israel’s actions.

The Australian Nuclear horn continues to grow Daniel 7

(Left to right) British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, and Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton [Source: Marise Payne Facebook]

British, Australian ministers strengthen military collaboration against China

In the wake of the AUKUS pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States reached last September, the British and Australian foreign and defence ministers held talks in Sydney yesterday to further strengthen military ties directed primarily against China, and also Russia.

The AUKUS agreement, which includes equipping Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, is part of the US-led military build-up throughout the Indo-Pacific as Washington intensifies its aggressive confrontation with China diplomatically, economically and strategically.

At a joint press conference, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss declared that the two countries were “modernising our partnership for a new age” to confront “the reality … that threats are rising across the world.” As well as lashing out at Russia for “threatening Ukraine” and Iran over its nuclear program, Truss accused China of “using its economic muscle against Australia and other allies like Lithuania.”

Truss told reporters that Australia and Britain were “completely united in our response. We’re standing shoulder to shoulder in defence of freedom and democracy, and we’re determined to face down these growing threats.”

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne trotted out the same propaganda line to justify the military build-up by the two countries in league with the US. Australia and Britain were natural partners, she said, to counter the influence of “malign authoritarianism” and maintain the international order.

For all the unsubstantiated allegations of Russian and Chinese “threats” and “aggression,” Australian and British imperialism have been two of the closest partners in crime of the US over the past three decades. London and Canberra have backed the illegal US-led invasions and interventions in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia to the hilt politically and militarily. These have resulted in the destruction of whole societies—in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.

Now Britain and Australia are preparing to join the US in confronting two nuclear-armed powers, China and Russia, raising the prospect of a catastrophic war. None of this is about defending democracy, which is under sustained attack in all three countries. Rather, the AUKUS pact is seeking to maintain the US global hegemony on which Australia and Britain have both relied since the end of World War II, but which is being undermined by the economic rise of China in particular.

The escalation of the British military presence in the Indo-Pacific—a region half way around the world from the United Kingdom—is especially significant. Following World War II and its declining global influence, Britain withdrew from “East of the Suez” from 1966, pulling its military out of major bases in Aden (now part of Yemen) and Singapore. It has not consistently sent warships to the Indo-Pacific since the closure of its small base in Hong Kong in 1997 when the colony was returned to China.

Last March the British government adopted a so-called Indo-Pacific Tilt, as part of its 2021 Integrated Review, and in September signed up to the AUKUS agreement. The British navy dispatched the Queen Elizabeth II aircraft carrier and its strike group of warships to the Indo-Pacific where it engaged in various exercises, including provocative joint drills in the South China Sea with Dutch and Singaporean naval vessels in October.

Speaking to the press yesterday, Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton explained that no agreement had been reached as yet on basing British warships in Australia. However, “it could be something that we discuss at an appropriate time” in the future. “I think what you will see is a greater regularity in visits, training, in people being embedded… and certainly greater cooperation in exercises.”

Britain has already dispatched two of its newest warships—the offshore patrol vessels, HMS Spey and HMS Tamar—to the Asian region on a long-term basis as part of re-establishing “a persistent Indo-Pacific presence.” While not permanently based in Australia, the two British naval vessels will rely heavily on Australian naval infrastructure for port visits, resupply and maintenance.

The two countries also agreed to strengthen military coordination and planning by embedding a liaison officer from Britain’s Permanent Joint Headquarters within Australia’s Headquarters Joint Operations Command.

Australia and Britain are part of the top-level Five Eyes intelligence sharing network, led by the US, which also includes New Zealand and Canada. The ministerial meeting yesterday strengthened collaboration on cyber security, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and undersea capabilities.

Truss used a speech to the Sydney-based think tank, the Lowy Institute, to issue strident warnings about the threat of a Russian invasion of the Ukraine and its dire consequences. In reality, the US and its allies have manufactured the present crisis over Ukraine through the military encroachment of NATO forces into Eastern Europe after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

At yesterday’s press conference, Payne joined the international anti-Russia chorus, declaring “we will work closely with Ukraine in the coming days and weeks in terms of challenges that they are dealing with.” She indicated that Australia would look favourably on any formal request from the Ukraine for assistance on cyber-security.

Asked yesterday about the talks in Sydney, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian branded the AUKUS agreement as “a typical military bloc” and the decision to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines as a breach of the international Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. He pointed to the hypocrisy of the US, Britain and Australia hyping the “China threat” while collaborating in a military build-up in the region.

The provision of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia underscores the aggressive character of the AUKUS agreement. The attack submarines have nothing to do with the defence of Australian waters but are designed to operate at great distances for lengthy periods of time. Their purpose is to operate in concert with British and American nuclear submarines off the Chinese coast, either as part of a naval blockade or a full-scale war.

Last September, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared that Australia had no intention of creating a domestic nuclear industry or arming the nuclear-powered submarines with nuclear missiles. As geo-political tensions continue to rise, such pledges are meaningless.

Australia’s deep integration into US war planning has placed the Australian population on the front-line of a US-led conflict with China that has the potential to rapidly escalate into a nuclear war.

The last chance before the explosion outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

The last chance before the explosion’

The year 2021 was a bloody one even by the usually gory standards of the long-running Israel-Palestine conflict. Data from the United Nations shows that violence in the West Bank reached a five-year peak,” with at least 79 Palestinians and three Israelis killed in a series of attacks, bombings, and confrontations. In the other Palestinian territory of Gaza, over 230 Palestinians were killed during the devastating 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in May 2021, while 12 people died in Israel – not to mention injuries and losses of property. Last year was the deadliest since 2014 and an ominous sign of what is to come.

With no formal peace process underway since talks last broke off over seven years ago, and frustration and anger building up amid zero hope on the horizon for a lasting diplomatic solution, the situation can be labeled as a tenuous tinderbox that can ignite at any moment in another bout of fighting and clashes. UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland has warned that, “if left unaddressed, the festering conflict drivers will drag us into yet another destructive and bloody round of violence.” 

In a clear recognition that matters could slip out of hand and repeat more deadly cycles of tit-for-tat attacks, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met in late December 2021 in the town of Rosh HaAyin. It was notably “the first time the Palestinian leader held talks with a senior Israeli official in Israel since 2010,” a step necessitated by what Gantz described as “deepening security coordination and preventing terror and violence – for the well-being of both Israelis and Palestinians.” Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh labeled this dialogue as “the last chance before the explosion and finding ourselves at a dead end.”

Political contradictions

But even as the Gantz-Abbas meeting triggered a wave of international optimism that it may be the first step for reviving a dialogue process and bringing the two sides back to the table to work out a formula on the world’s most intractable conflicts, a political firestorm broke out in Israel. Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin, representing the conservative New Hope party, thundered in disapproval that “I wouldn’t have invited to my home someone who pays salaries to murderers of Israelis and also wants to put senior IDF [Israel Defense Forces] officers in prison in The Hague [at the International Criminal Court].” Livid cabinet ministers were quoted as grumbling that Gantz’s initiative “doesn’t contribute to the stability of the government.”

Whose Israel and whose Palestine? Extremists are running amok as leaderships fail

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads an unwieldy and ideologically fragmented eight-party coalition government, and whose right-wing Yamina party is closely associated with hawkish Jewish settlers opposed to yielding even one inch of the biblical Judea and Samaria (corresponding to today’s West Bank), was left in a precarious position and had to admit that Gantz hosted Abbas after his approval. To cover his back, though, Bennett clarified that the purpose of the talks was limited to improving security coordination and economic interactions, not to restart the peace process.

Under pressure from within his own party, and desperate to ensure that his contradiction-filled coalition government does not collapse, Bennett had previously dissociated himself from any revival of peace negotiations with the Palestinians:

“My perception is different than that of the defense minister, although we work in harmony. I oppose a Palestinian state and I think it would be a grave mistake to import the failed Gaza model of Hamas which shoots rockets at us, and turn the entire West Bank to that. I see no logic in meeting Abbas when he’s suing our soldiers in the Hague and accuses our commanders of war crimes. In my opinion, the Palestinian Authority is a failed entity.”

At the other corner of the spectrum in the coalition government is Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, who thinks that Israel has no option but to revive the peace process with the Palestinians. Citing an “intelligence-based assessment” that campaigns for international ostracization and designation of Israel as an ‘apartheid state’ could fructify in 2022, Lapid has publicly advocated a moderate stance:

“Without diplomatic dialogue with the Palestinians, this [the threat of Israel being designated an apartheid state] will only grow more severe. We need to be cautious of a situation in which the world says the Palestinians are promoting diplomatic talks and Israel is refusing. The claim that Israel is an apartheid state is a disgusting lie. These are a group of anti-Semites, but I don’t take them lightly.”

Still, such is the shaky political environment in Israel that Lapid, who is supposed to take over by rotation from Bennett and become the next prime minister in 2023, has been forced to assure his detractors that he would keep aside his own beliefs and stay away from dialogue with the Palestinians to preserve the coalition:

“Even after a coalition rotation, I will remain with the same people and the same disagreements … I plan to stand behind the agreement I made with my partners. There is no reason for me to delude the Palestinians and open a diplomatic process that doesn’t have a coalition behind it … That would damage our credibility, which is important.”

Social polarization

When the foremost liberal politician in Israel has to hold his horses despite being cognizant of the blowback effect of the unstable status quo with the Palestinians, it shows how difficult the road ahead is for any diplomatic path forward. The obstacles come not only from the mood of the political class in Israel, where the mainstream discourse is largely ‘securitized’ and based on fear of granting any concessions to the Palestinians, but also from increasing social polarization. 

‘New generation is capable of leading a new Intifada’

An opinion poll in December 2021 suggested that a slim majority of Israelis are in favor of a direct meeting between Prime Minister Bennett and President Abbas, and that 49% of Israelis even want their government to have “direct, open talks” with Hamas – an entity designated a terrorist organization by the governments of Israel, the United States, and the European Union.

But such barometers of what Israeli people want are deceptive and not indicative of policy-making, because the country’s electoral math is divided up according to vote banks. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was ousted from power in June 2021 after failing to cobble together yet another right-wing coalition in the Israeli Knesset, remains a formidable force. There is a clear pattern of Bennett and other rightists in the current coalition wanting to outdo Netanyahu and demonstrate an even tougher approach to crushing terrorism by Palestinian jihadists and expanding illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Any concession by Lapid or Gantz that crosses the red lines set by this overarching rightist milieu could plunge Israel into more uncertainty and chaos, following four inconclusive general elections since April 2019.

Former US President Donald Trump’s remarksthat “I don’t think Bibi [Netanyahu’s nickname] ever wanted to make peace” with the Palestinians, and that “he just tapped us along. Just tap, tap, tap,” reveal the crux of the matter. Barring a few left-liberals, the Israeli body politic is invested only in managing the Palestinian problem in terms of stopping terrorist attacks or throwing a few economic sops at President Abbas’ moribund and unpopular Palestinian Authority, not in resolving the conflict per se.

Israeli military changes open-fire rules

The much-talked-about ‘two-state solution’ of an independent Palestinian state coexisting beside the state of Israel, which was put forward as the final goalpost after the 1993 Oslo Accords, has lost traction amid a steady increase in what Israeli security officials themselves admit is a surge in Jewish extremism and ultra-nationalism. 

In an August 2021 opinion poll, only 39.7% of Israelis favored the two-state solution. Most tellingly, within the group clinging to the fading dream of a two-state solution, just 33.8% were Jewish Israelis, while 68.8% were Israeli Arabs (citizens of Israel, most of whom consider themselves Palestinians and identify with their stateless kin living in the West Bank and Gaza).

The internal schism between Jews and Arabs within Israel has widened significantly, mirroring the internecine feud between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah faction in the Palestinian territories. These two trends further hamper any progress in relaunching diplomatic efforts. While there never were monolithic unanimous categories of ‘Israel’ and ‘Palestine’, the parallel processes of disaggregation of national identities and widespread public cynicism about the intentions and performance of the ruling classes on both sides have created a huge credibility vacuum.

International negotiations can only succeed when there are two willing and coherent parties, each with domestic legitimacy and social consensus behind them. Neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority has such a solid footing in their respective home bases.

‘Separate peace’ without Palestine

Another factor deterring any move by Israel for peace with the Palestinians is what can be called the ‘outside in’ approach Jerusalem has adopted to the Middle East as a whole. The Abraham Accords, facilitated by Israel’s principal international backer the US, wherein four Arab countries – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan – formally recognized Israel and established diplomatic relations with it, have given Israel a sense of vindication without having to redress Palestinian grievances.

As Prime Minister Bennett put it in December, during his historic first ever visit to the UAE after the normalization of relations, there is“great optimism that this example, of ties between the two countries, will be a cornerstone for a wide-ranging network of ties throughout the region.” The Middle East has indeed traveled a long way from the 1967 consensus among Arab nations of the ‘Three Nos’ – “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.” Israel is no longer persona non grata among many Sunni Arab countries, which have adjusted their national interests to do pragmatic quid pro quo deals with the militarily superior and economically vibrant Zionist state instead of resisting it.

Understandably, Palestinians have lambastedthe Trump administration-brokered Abraham Accords as unpardonable betrayals and treacherous stabs in the back of Palestinians by their fellow Arabs. But unlike in 1979 – when Egypt recognized Israel in return for the Sinai Peninsula without gaining any concessions on behalf of Palestinians, resulting in a torrent of Islamist anger that scalped the life of President Anwar Sadat – the chorus of outrage against the Abraham Accords has been muted in the proverbially radical ‘Arab street’. Apparently, many in the Muslim world are fatigued and tired of carrying the burdensome cross of the Israel-Palestine dispute on their shoulders and want to move on.

The international marginalization of the Palestinian cause, which once used to fire up the entire Middle East and mobilize leftist firebrands worldwide, has given Israeli elites confidence that they can have their cake and eat it too. As seen from Jerusalem, if the broader Arab-Israeli conflict is melting away, why care about the narrower Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

The Iran diversion 

An interlinked development which has pushed resolution of the Palestinian question to the backburner is the ‘Iran threat’, which has reorganized coalitions and alignments in the region. Because Iran remains the leading power in the ‘axis of resistance’ against Israel and the US – a grouping which includes Syria, the Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi and Yemeni militants – Jerusalem views Tehran as its main national security challenge and enemy number one.

The laser-like focus that Israel, the US, Saudi Arabia, and other Sunni Arab states have kept on Iran’s nuclear programme and the ‘malign activities’ of Iran’s proxies are to an extent based on actual threat assessments and security incidents. But the Iran-phobia discourse also serves a political purpose of shoving the Palestinian problem under the carpet as a far less important matter or even a bygone concern of an earlier era that deserves no fresh diplomatic push.

Mowing the grass forever?

Palestinian gunned down in Jerusalem after stabbing Orthodox Jewish man (VIDEO)

If Israel keeps kicking the can down the road and indefinitely sustaining the status quo of militarily occupying the West Bank (home to about 2.8 million Palestinians) and laying siege to Gaza (containing over 1.8 million Palestinians), even as frustration and desperation rise in these territories, is it not a recipe for wave after wave of uprisings, outbursts, and violence that could spill over into Israel itself, as was the case during the 2021 Israel-Hamas mini war? President Abbas’ repeated postponement of elections (Palestinian territories have not voted for their top leaders since 2006) and the rage that emanates from powerlessness and joblessness among Palestinians (average age of 20 years) could boomerang sharply on Israel. 

Foreign Minister Lapid, who has expressedworries about whether Israel can remain Jewish and democratic if it permanently denies Palestinians their rights, has acknowledged that Israel’s government cannot afford to neglect the Palestinian issue “forever and ever.”

However, Jewish fertility rates have overtaken those of Palestinians in recent years, relieving old fears of Jews becoming a demographic minority in Israel and the occupied territories. This shift, together with the ever-splintering socio-political identities within Israel which skew policymaking toward hardline positions, has weakened the argument that something must be done urgently to reconcile with Palestinians and try for peace.

Israel’s strategy of periodically ‘mowing the grass’, i.e. using superior military force to repel Palestinian jihadists while avoiding a final political solution, is presumably the only visible path, despite its inbuilt violence and terrible human and economic costs. Barring a grassroots generational shift in Israeli public attitudes and political culture or a wholesale capitulation by the dysfunctional Palestinian factions to accept a one-sided peace deal thrown at them, this perpetual war has only commas and no full stops. Sreeram Chaulia is a professor and dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs in Sonipat, India. His forthcoming book is ‘Crunch Time: Narendra Modi’s National Security Crises’.

Israeli forces target farmlands outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israeli forces target farmlands in Gaza Strip

GAZA, Friday, January 21, 2022 (WAFA) – Israeli forces today targeted farmlands east of the Deir al-Balah and Khan Younes cities in the besieged Gaza Strip, according to WAFA correspondent.

He said that Israeli soldiers stationed along the border opened intense machine gunfire and tear gas bombs towards farmers who attempted to access their land to inspect the damage to their winter crops following the recent stormy weather conditions east of the cities in the central and southern parts of the strip, spreading panic among them and forcing them to flee for their safety.

No injuries were reported though.

Fourteen years following the Israeli “disengagement” from Gaza, Israel has not actually disengaged from Gaza; it still maintains control of its land borders, access to the sea and airspace.

Two million Palestinians live the Gaza Strip, which has been subjected to a punishing and crippling Israeli blockade for 12 years and repeated onslaughts that have heavily damaged much of the enclave’s infrastructure.

Gaza’s 2-million population remains under “remote control” occupation and a strict siege, which has destroyed the local economy, strangled Palestinian livelihoods, plunged them into unprecedented rates of unemployment and poverty, and cut off from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories and the wider world.

Gaza remains occupied territory, having no control over its borders, territorial waters or airspace. Meanwhile, Israel upholds very few of its responsibilities as the occupying power, failing to provide for the basic needs of Palestinian civilians living in the territory.

Every two in three Palestinians in Gaza is a refugee from lands inside what is now Israel. That government forbids them from exercising their right to return as enshrined in international law because they are not Jews.

Rocket launched from outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

 IRON DOME interceptors destroy rockets launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel in the skies over Ashkelon in May. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

Rocket launched from Lebanon towards Israel – report

Rockets have been launched from both Gaza and Lebanon over the fast few months.

Unknown individuals in Lebanon launched a rocket towards Israel on Wednesday night, according to Lebanese media.

Islamic State militants attack prison in Syria’s al-Hasaka, US-backed SDF says

Army Radio reported that there was no indication that there had in fact been a rocket launch.

 Iron dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, May 19, 2021.  (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Iron dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, May 19, 2021. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Other Lebanese outlets reported that an explosion was heard in the area from which the rocket was reportedly launched but that the source was unknown.

Over the last few months, Gaza fired multiple rockets towards Israel, claiming that they were mistakes and blaming other elements such as the weather.The last time this happened was at the beginning of January when two rockets were launched by Hamas. It was claimed that they were launched by lightning strikes. The rockets fell into the coast off Israeli’s center, and no one was hurt.

Before that, two rockets were fired over within a week of each other, and Hamas once again claimed that extreme weather was the causeThe last time rockets were launched from Lebanon toward Israel was in August. Hezbollah fired 20 rockets into Israel, 10 of which were intercepted and six fell inside Lebanon.

Lebanon is currently undergoing a severe period of instability amid a massive economic crisis, a severe fuel shortage and tensions in the political sector.

Australian Horn Must Nuke Up: Daniel 7

Flag of Australia.

Australia Needs To Reconsider Acquisition Of Nuclear Weapons – Analysis

September 13, 2021

There is a risk Australia may be alone in the region

It has been fifty years since Australia made a formal decision not to acquire nuclear weapons. However, since then the regional geo-political environment has starkly changed, and is likely to become more turbulent over the next few decades, as balances are changing. 

US reliance as an alley, and the inferred nuclear protection Australia has been given is uncertain in the future. The competitive strategic positions of China and the US will change drastically over the next decade. US interests under different presidencies are also fluid. Australia is now in the frontline of a strategically changing region, where Australia’s self-perception as a middle power has vanished with some regional military forces much more potent than Australia. 

Australia’s bilateral relationship with its largest trading partner China has greatly deteriorated over recent times, with few signs of improving. Australia is alone in its trade dispute with China, ironically with the US benefitting from Chinese embargoes on Australian goods. Minister to minister communications has long been suspended, as China is decoupling Australia. 

There are a number of potential trouble spots in the region. These include Chinese intentions over Taiwan, North Korea’s acquisition of long-range nuclear weapon delivery systems, and a potentially unstable nuclear Pakistan with Taliban designs of creating a Pashtun Taliban Caliphate in Pakistan.

The nuclear equilibrium in the region is shifting. China’s rise in military force is prompting countries like India to upgrade its nuclear arsenal to much more powerful thermonuclear weapons.

Probably of greatest importance is Indonesian nuclear weapon development intentions. Former Indonesian army four-star general and minister for maritime affairs and investment has been reported as saying Indonesia is underestimated because it doesn’t have nuclear weapons. Indonesia’s development of facilities capable of manufacturing weapons grade materials are well underway. A nuclear Indonesia with a growing Wahhabi-Salafism in Indonesia may one day leave Australia with a government to the north, vastly different to what exists now. 

Australia needs to discuss strategy options in the new realities it faces in the region. There needs to be re-assessments of a post-Afghanistan US alley, very close neighbours to Australia which are adopting a placating response to China, a super-power that is bullying Australia, and the likelihood of a potential nuclear armed neighbour. 

Since the early 1970s, Australian Governments have been strongly supportive of nuclear non-proliferation under the definitions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed by the McMahon Government in 1970 and ratified by the incoming Labor Whitlam Government in 1973. Australia’s anti-nuclear position was even strengthened under Liberal-Coalition Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, as the “green/anti-nuclear” movement was quickly growing in Australia at the time. With the exception of Prime Minister John Howard, who saw a changing Asia-Pacific nuclear balance, subsequent prime ministers Hawke, Keating, Rudd, and Gillard also strongly followed the non-proliferation line.

Paradoxically, every prime minister supported to various degrees, the development of uranium mining and export as an economic driver. The Fraser and later Rudd Governments argued that uranium exports should be used as a means to strengthen non-proliferation by demanding safeguards from customers.

Uranium exports have been controversial, with strong domestic protests over the years, governments trampling over indigenous wills, and deep party rifts within the Labor movement. Yet on the issue on non-proliferation, Australia had always been at the forefront in international forums.

Prior to the 1970s, Australia took a different view towards nuclear non-proliferation. In 1944, Australia supplied uranium ore to the Manhattan Project. Australian physicist Mark Oliphant played a major role in pushing the atomic bomb program in both Britain and the US before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

However, after World War II, the US Government reneged on its agreement to share nuclear technology with its allies. Then Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies, granted Australia’s assistance to Britain in its quest for autonomous nuclear weapons, giving technical assistance and allowing nuclear tests in the Mont Bello Islands, Emu Field and Maralinga, on Australian soil between 1952 and 1963. Australia also participated in the development of the Blue Streak and bloodhound missiles, which were potential nuclear weapon delivery systems with Britain during this era.

The significance of Australian participation, which didn’t go unnoticed by Australian bureaucrats and politicians at the time, was that under section IX.3 of the proposed NPT, Australia would be able to claim nuclear status as it had participated in the production and detonation of nuclear weapons prior to 1st January 1967. Historical reports indicate that the Australian Government’s main motivation at the time, (including US pressure), was to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the local hemisphere, rather than seeking the abolishment of nuclear weapons.

Bureaucratic support from within the Australian defence and security establishment for a nuclear hedging position was strong at the. Wikileaks publication of diplomatic cables between Australia and the US on Iran’s bid to develop nuclear weapons indicated this. Notable Australian diplomat and former Director-General of the Office of National Assessments, Peter Varghese was reported as saying in his briefings to the United States that Australia didn’t see Iran as a ‘rogue state’ in its development of nuclear weapons as “Tehran’s nuclear program (was) within the paradigm of the laws of difference, noting that Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon may be enough to meet its security objectives”.

Attempts during the 1950s and 1960s were made by a number of defence personnel, high placed public servants, academics, and right-wing elements of the Liberal-Country Party to acquire nuclear weapons. Initially purchasing them from either Britain or the United States was advocated. Later developing an independent nuclear deterrent was favoured.

Most of the active proponents for nuclear weapons were defence related personnel. They developed a number of plans to acquire nuclear weapons from the British, or have the United States deploy them on Australian soil. Sir Philip Baxter, who was head of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (AAEC) at the time, operated a clandestine research program to isolate the isotope U-235 from uranium, the quality needed in the production of nuclear weapons. 

Some academics like Professor A. L. Burns of the Australian National University also advocated an Australian nuclear option which was aired by the Australian media at the time, especially in relation to the Chinese testing a nuclear bomb and the belief that Indonesia was also developing nuclear weapons. Pressure groups like the Democratic Labor Party and Returned Soldiers League which were both influential during the 1960s also strongly advocated an Australian nuclear weapon option.

The reluctance of the Australian Government to go ahead with the development of its own nuclear weapons all changed after Prime Minister Menzies retirement, when John Gorton unexpectedly became prime minister after the disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt in 1967. John Gorton, an ex-RAAF pilot strongly believed that Australia should have its own independent nuclear deterrent with the Chinese in possession of nuclear weapons in the region. Plans went underway to develop a nuclear facility at Jervis Bay on the South Coast of New South Wales that would house both a nuclear reactor, which could produce weapons grade plutonium, and bomb manufacturing facilities.

Gorton tried to develop an Australian nuclear weapon capability before the NPT was signed. However, in March 1971, he was disposed by William McMahon, who cancelled all nuclear weapon development plans. It will always remain a matter of conjecture how much influence the US had in his decision.

Moving back to more contemporary times, two recent reactions to recent events by the former Turnbull Government briefly hinted of a change in thinking about Australia’s strong non-proliferation position.

Firstly, Australia’s tradition of supporting non-proliferation in international forums was broken. Australia failed to support the recent United Nations resolution to outlaw nuclear weapons on the floor of the General Assembly in 2016, to the surprise and astonishment of many interested in this issue. Secondly, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull failed to give Melbourne based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) director Beatrice Fihn a congratulatory call after been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This seems significant in what can be considered Australia’s first Nobel Peace Prize.

In addition, former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s rhetoric about nuclear weapons soon about to spread through the region indicates a change in Canberra’s world view. The Morrison Australian government is currently opposed to signing the new intentional Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Over the last two years, there have been open public debates on the need of an Australian nuclear deterrent, something that hasn’t occurred for decades. Influential Australian National University academic Hugh White, published a book two years ago, which openly canvassed the possibility of Australia acquiring a nuclear deterrent. Given his close consulting with the Australian government on the subject of national strategic defence, this hints that the topic is being discussed at the highest levels of government. Former National Party deputy prime minister John Anderson openly advocated Australia acquiring a nuclear deterrent very recently.  

This is not yet a policy shift, but perhaps recognition that nuclear weapons for Australia may need to be an option. Today, with Australian citizen perception of China, and as more news of an Indonesian nuclear weapons program intentions surface, public support will increase. Australian society has changed since the anti-nuclear days of French testing in the Pacific, and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. 

Australia’s capability to develop nuclear weapons is better than most. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) at Lucas Heights, replacing the AAEC in 1987 is an internationally renowned centre of nuclear research. Australia has also developed some advanced indigenous uranium refining technology, the SILEX process using lasers, which is much more economical and cheaper than the traditional centrifuge technology.

Australia has large reserves of uranium and a stockpile of semi-refined uranium at Lucas heights. Australia also has a certain degree of bomb making technology that it gained from participation with Britain in the nuclear tests during the 1950s and its own endeavours back in the 1970s. Australia has the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighter, Boeing F/A-18a & B Hornet, and the F/A 18F Super Hornet as capable medium range delivery systems.  Australia also has a range of nuclear capable cruise missiles which can be launched from aircraft, ships, and submarines. Submarines are today by far the most stealthy method of delivering nuclear weapons, as they are the most difficult to detect, and delivery time from launch to target is short. 

However, this doesn’t mean developing a nuclear arsenal would be an easy project for any future government. The project would be a major one requiring special budgeting, which would mean curtailing other budget expenditure. This could be very difficult in today’s economic environment.

In the absence of some form of threat to Australia’s security, public debate would probably be one of the most heated and passionate within Australian society. This would be reflected in the finely balanced Australian Parliament. This debate would have the potential to bring down the Government.

In the absence of bi-partisanship between the major parties on the issue, a Labor Government on current policy would firmly squash any potential nuclear program. It may not even need a change of government, a change of leader within the Liberal Party maybe enough to force the cancellation of any nuclear program.

The nuclear weapon debate is an issue politicians can use to gain power, which would prevent Australia developing nuclear weapons. That’s the dynamics of a democratic system. If France or Britain had to develop nuclear weapons from scratch today, it would almost be impossible through their democratic processes.

Even if Australia decided to go ahead with a nuclear program, tacit approval would be needed from the United States. The US has for years been hedging on this. However, with the Biden view of the region, the US may support allies in the Asia-Pacific taking more responsibility for their own defence. The proposal by Australia to develop its own nuclear arsenal may bring big offers of concessions from the US. There are possibilities that the US could deploy nuclear weapons on Australian soil as a deterrent, with joint control or leasing scheme. 

The strongest argument for Australia developing a nuclear deterrent is to gain strategic respect in the region. Australia cannot afford to project itself militarily into the South China Sea in any significant manner on its own. This would need spending 4-5 percent of GDP on defence over a decade. Australia’s transactional diplomacy within the region hasn’t developed close regional military alliances that it should have by now. China is using Australia as a decoupling experiment to see how isolated they can make the country. Australia must quickly see how alone it is now, as no country has jumped to Australia’s assistance. A nuclear deterrent will make it easier for Australia to stand alone. This will now very quickly develop into a serious option.  

Murray’s blog can be accessed here