Israeli Business As Usual
By Stephen Lendman
Hardline extremists run Israel. Netanyahu's the worst. He's lawless. He's unprincipled. He's duplicitous.
So are other coalition partner members. They say one thing. They do another. Same old, same old is policy.
Netanyahu's incorrigibly hardline. He exceeds the worst of previous Israeli leaders. On August 12, Haaretz said he takes "(o)ne step forward, three steps back."
If he "wants the Americans, Palestinians and most of all the Israelis to take him seriously, he must leave his old tactics behind." He shows no signs of doing so.
On August 14, peace talks resume. At the same time, 26 Palestinian political prisoners will be released. They've been held longterm.
They've been held lawlessly. They were convicted on bogus charges. They include Hamas, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Islamic Jihad members.
They're freedom fighters. They're not terrorists. Fifteen are from Gaza. They'll be returned there. Four are from Nablus, another four from Jenin, and one from Hebron.
On Monday, Israel's Prison Service posted their names online. It did so to allow possible court appeals. Tuesday night release is scheduled.
It's a fig leaf. It's a meaningless gesture. They'll be hounded. They'll be harassed. They'll be closely monitored. Their movements are severely restricted. They'll feel like they're still imprisoned.
What good's freedom without rights? They're greatly compromised. Many likely will be rearrested. It's standard Israeli practice.
Supporting Palestinian liberation is criminalized. Israel's special ministerial committee said so. It called doing it "resum(ing) terrorist activity."
According to committee members Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and Science and Technology Minister/former Shin Bet head Yaakov Peri:
"If one of those released returns to hostile activities against Israel, he will be returned to complete his prison sentence."
In other words, supporting right over wrong won't be tolerated. Human rights defenders are ruthlessly targeted. Military order 101 criminalizes:
participating in them;
doing so in assembles and vigils;
displaying Palestinian flags and other symbols;
printing and distributing Palestinian political material; and
influencing public opinion by "political incitement."
Supporting so-called "hostile organizations" are prohibited. Demonstrations sympathetic to Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Palestine, and similar groups are strictly forbidden.
Human rights defenders and others doing so face "security offense" charges. Guilt by accusation is policy. Coerced confessions are extracted.
Due process and judicial fairness are denied. Prosecutions and imprisonment follow. Police states operate that way. Israel's one of the worst.
It agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners. Implementation's in four stages. After an initial 26, a second group will follow. So will others after six and eight months.
Doing so's at Israel's discretion. It depends on how peace talks go. It depends on if PA negotiators unconditionally surrender.
It depends on whether Israel keeps its promise. It never did before. It won't now. This time's no different.
Palestinians shouldn't have been imprisoned in the first place. Their announced release ignores thousands of others wrongfully held.
Reports suggest future prisoners released won't be allowed to go home. Israel claims security threats. It does so spuriously. Some West Bank residents will be sent to Gaza.
Others will be deported. They'll be exiled. They'll be denied their fundamental right of return.
According to Haaretz, Abbas and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told John Kerry and US special envoy Martin Indyk that Israel violated peace talk conditions.
It did so by settlement construction announcements. It did it by changing prisoner release terms.
"Senior Israeli and Palestinian officials said that Abbas and Erekat told senior US officials they would not agree to the deportation of any prisoner released," said Haaretz.
Major settlement construction plans were also condemned. Why begs the question. Abbas and Erekat knew about them in advance.
They said nothing. Why object now? Why not when it mattered? Both men are longtime Israeli collaborators. Disapproving now is disingenuous.
It's red meat for constituents. It belies longtime complicity with occupation harshness. PA officials are Israeli enforcers.
They have no say over what Palestinians want most. They never did. They don't now. They don't care. They pretend otherwise.
"The Palestinians are now threatening not to show up to the first meeting between the negotiation teams scheduled for Wednesday," said Haaretz.
"Abbas' office is seriously considering skipping out on the session, due to the continued settlement drive" and prisoner release terms.
"A final decision will be reached in a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the next 48 hours, according to a Palestinian sources in the negotiations."
An unnamed senior Fatah official said:
"Ever since the announcement that negotiations would resume, the Israeli government has announced the construction of hundreds of housing units in the settlements, and has not voiced any commitment 1967 borders."
"This is reflected in meetings with the Europeans. Concerning the prisoner issue as well, we are already hearing conditions and Israeli demands to deport some of the prisoners, and this too, is in complete violation of the agreements with Kerry."
"This means that the Palestinians have nothing to gain from such a process."
Expect reality to replace bluster. Expect talks to go ahead as planned. On Friday, Martin Indyk flew to Israel. He did so for resumed talks. He didn't do it to head home.
At the same time, families of Palestinian prisoners expressed outrage. They reject release terms. They do so justifiably.
They want their loved ones sent home. They want them there soon as possible. They want no conditions imposed. They reject Israeli terms.
Karim Younis is Israel's longest held prisoner. He's an Israeli citizen. He rejects being a bargaining chip. He wrote PA leaders, saying:
"We believed the position that you presented for years, according to which any renewal of the talks would necessitate the release of all veteran prisoners who were convicted before the Oslo Accords, without any division or postponement, and that the release would be in one stage."
"Unfortunately, today, after 20 years of fruitless negotiations that led to no practical results, we are sinking back into a labyrinth of Israeli evasiveness and geographical distinction."
He added that making future releases conditional of negotiation progress assures denying them altogether.
He urged no talks under present conditions. Previous ones failed. They were exercises in futility. They were a waste of time. Pursuing them now betrays Palestinian trust.
Palestinian Prisoner Society president Kadoura Pharis read Younis' letter. It represents other prisoners' views, he said. He expressed support. He "agree(s) with every word."
Israeli officials are duplicitous. They can't be trusted. Their agreements aren't worth the paper they're written on. Promises are hollow. Terms are made to be broken. It happens every time.
The so-called Almagor Terror Victims Association calls Palestinian political prisoners terrorists. It ignores decades of Israeli crimes.
Its director Meir Indor promised to keep contesting prisoner releases. Monday demonstrations are planned. They'll be held at the Ministry of Defense.
According to Indor, "it has to be stated directly that the terrorist organizations have defeated Netanyahu and his government."
Almagor will "turn over heaven and earth to fight terrorism and ensure that terrorists are punished," he said.
On Sunday, High Court president Asher Grunis headed a three justice panel. It heard Israeli family complaints. Proceedings were highly charged.
They ended surprisingly. One family alone got to speak. It did so for others. It expressed opposition to prisoner releases.
Others were cut off trying to express their views. They did so emotionally. Justices interrupted them. They heard enough. They ended the session. They walked out.
Families shouted dissent. "This must not happen," they said. "Where is the rule of law?" "Listen to us." Listen to our hearts." They have no time for us." Proceedings ended surprisingly quickly. Justices decided in advance.
Israel's High Court tilts right. In February 2012, Dorit Beinisch retired. Grunis replaced her as president. He's ideologically hardline. He defers to executive and legislative decisions. Extremist Israeli politicians and bureaucrats love him.
Smoothing his way to become court president, Israel's Knesset abolished the rule requiring justices to have at least three years left to serve before mandatory age 70 retirement.
Asher reaches it in 2015. Doing so leaves him five weeks short of eligibility. Knesset hardliners enacted the so-called "Grunis bill." Netanyahu wanted him appointed.
In January 2012, Noam Sohlberg became Israel's first settler High Court justice. Controversy surrounds him. His appointment ignored conflicts of interest. Living on stolen land should have disqualified him.
He'll rule on international law issues. His record is anti-liberal. At age 50, he'll likely become next court president. Seniority is the main qualification.
Israel's High Court routinely spurns Palestinian rights. It's longstanding practice. Refusing to block prisoner releases supports Netanyahu. Go along is policy.
Earlier, Gunis fined human rights groups. He did so unjustifiably. He accused them of filing unnecessary petitions. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) was fined NIS 45,000 (about $12,000). It petitioned against Ashdod medical center's unfair treatment.
If peace talks continue, further sessions may be held. How Grunis and other court extremists react remains to be seen.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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