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Islam and the West ( 13 Aug 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

World Media on Gaza and Israel Part - 15

 

 

 

 

 

Compiled by New Age Islam Edit Desk

14 August, 2014

Articles:

Israel Accused of Using Illegal Weapons in Gaza War

By Rasha Abou Jalal

Hope for the Palestinians

By Fr. Ray Helmick and Dr. Nazir Khaja

Gaza Solution Must Be Inclusive

By Osama Al Sharif

Gaza's Brewing Crisis: Children Struggle To Keep A Grip On Sanity

By Surabhi Vaya

How Israel Outflanks the White House on Gaza

By Adam Entous Connect

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Israel Accused of Using Illegal Weapons in Gaza War

By Rasha Abou Jalal

August 12, 2014

Doctors and human rights activists believe that they have conclusive evidence that Israel used internationally banned weapons against civilians during its military aggression on the Gaza Strip, as it did during the previous two wars against Gaza in 2008-2009 and 2012.

Since the start of the Israeli military operation, more than 1,939 Palestinians have been killed and 9,800 others injured. Hundreds of the victims arrived at hospitals as charred corpses or in pieces, or with lost limbs and wounds that were difficult to treat, Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf al-Qadra told Al-Monitor.

Controversy erupted when Norwegian Dr. Erik Fosse, who recently visited Gaza to treat the wounded, accused Israel of using internationally, prohibited weapons in its ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip.

During a press conference on July 13 at Al-Shifa Hospital, attended by Al-Monitor, Dr. Fosse said, “Many of the casualties that have arrived at the hospital confirm Israel's use of internationally banned weapons of the [Dense Inert Metal Explosive] DIME variety."

Testimony given to Al-Monitor by Palestinian nurses, doctors and human rights activists indicate that the Israeli army used DIMEs, which causes the loss of limbs and leads to wounds that do not respond to treatment.

DIME weapons "kill their victims through the amputation of limbs in a way that resembles an automated saw. As for those who are able to survive, they are vulnerable to cancer because [the weapons] contain carcinogenic tungsten," reads a July 21 report by Al Jazeera.

Al-Monitor’s two-hour stay at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza saw the arrival of 11 civilians, all with amputated limbs, eight of whom died shortly after their arrival. The amputation areas had similar disctinctive patterns. The skin was charred and the tissues extremely damaged, while the bones looked as if they had been sawed.

Mohsen Ibrahim was wounded by shrapnel from an Israeli missile that landed in a populated area of the Abed Rabbo farm in the northern Gaza Strip. "I was listening to the radio at home when rocket shrapnel penetrated the wall of my house and hit my leg, requiring that it be immediately amputated," he told Al-Monitor.

Dr. Ayman al-Sahbani, a surgeon who has dealt with dozens of similar cases at Al-Shifa Hospital, said, “The doctors are forced to amputate body parts of the wounded, as the treatment of these wounds is hard and sometimes threatens the life of the injured.”

Dr. Sahbani told Al-Monitor that the marks and wounds on the bodies of the dead and injured confirm the use of DIMEs by the Israeli army. “The Israeli army indeed used DIME weapons, as some bodies arrived at the hospital amputated with a distinct smell. We have dealt with wounds that can't be healed,” he added.

“In addition to the use of DIMEs, which we have proven, we have seen other indicators that prove the use of other lethal weapons that we have yet to identify. We received bodies with strange wounds, some of them charred while others were exposed to nail shrapnel. Some bodies even arrived at the hospital beheaded, and others have been crushed, as if a huge rock had fallen on them,” he said.

Dr. Sahbani noted that he and other surgeons had never seen such injuries, noting that most of those hospitalized suffered from serious injuries, leading either to death or to permanent disabilities.

Young Muhannad Abu Amara is bedridden at Al-Shifa Hospital awaiting his unknown fate. His hand was severely injured during an aerial attack on the Shajaiya neighborhood in eastern Gaza, and doctors are carefully monitoring him.

“The doctors told me that the wound is not responding to treatment and is gradually getting worse, which may soon require amputation. Amputation is needed to save my life,” he told Al-Monitor.

Dr. Fosse said at the press conference, "We were here during the last two wars against the Gaza Strip. We saw the same injuries, and through analysis by international laboratories we confirmed that Israel used this type of internationally banned weapon."

This assertion was confirmed by the Goldstone Report, published by a UN fact-finding mission after the 2009 war. It concluded that DIME weapons were used by Israeli forces. According to Article 907 of the report, "DIME weapons consist of a carbon-fibre casing filled with a homogenous mixture of an explosive material and small particles, basically a powder, of a heavy metal, for instance, a tungsten alloy. … The tungsten powder tears apart anything it hits. The impact of such weapons in general causes very severe wounds."

The general director of the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Medhat Abbas, concurred with Dr. Fosse's statements, saying, "There is ample evidence of Israel's use of internationally banned DIME weapons."

Abbas told Al-Monitor, “During the [2008-2009] war, we sent samples from the bodies of martyrs to international laboratories, which confirmed the use of DIME weapons. During the current war, we are finding that the marks left on the bodies of martyrs match the marks of the bodies of the [previous] war, 100%. This medically confirms that the weapons used were indeed DIME weapons.”

He added, “Among the injuries confirming the use of DIMEs were second and third-degree burns and losses of upper and lower limbs. The clinical response of the injured bodies to treatment cannot be understood. For instance, while the wound is supposed to heal with antibiotics, it expands in a dangerous way that threatens the life of the injured.”

The Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons, ratified by the UN General Assembly in October 1980, prohibits "the employment in armed conflicts of weapons, projectiles and material and methods of warfare of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering."

Imad al-Gharbawi, a volunteer medic, relayed to Al-Monitor his experience with the removal of the dead and wounded from the rubble of their homes, saying, "The bodies came apart in our hands as we removed them from the rubble, and their burns and wounds gave off a strange, unfamiliar stench."

In a report issued in February 2009 regarding DIME weapons, Amnesty International noted, "If it were determined that such weapons cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering, or if they violate the provisions of the Protocol on Non-Detectable Fragments (Protocol I to the Convention on Conventional Weapons) of Oct. 10, 1980, then their use even against combatants, not only civilians, would be prohibited."

Rami Abdo, the director of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, told Al-Monitor, “Based on doctors’ testimonies on the use of DIME weapons, the wounds found on the bodies of martyrs and injured confirm that the use of this weapon, particularly in areas teeming with civilians, contradicts Article 32 of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” noting, “Article 147 of the convention considers these acts a serious violation.”

Article 32 of the Geneva Convention prohibits "taking any measure of such a character as to cause the physical suffering or extermination of protected persons in [the hands of parties to the conflict]."

Abbas noted that efforts are being exerted to prove the usage of other weapons during the aggression on Gaza, saying, “The medical staff is currently conducting several laboratory tests on samples from the bodies of the martyrs to discover the other types of lethal weapons used against them, calling on the UN to form a fact-finding committee regarding Israel's use of these banned weapons and munitions.”

http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/08/israel-use-banned-weapons-dime-gaza-war.html#ixzz3AIkBoOIy

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Hope for the Palestinians

By Fr. Ray Helmick and Dr. Nazir Khaja

Operation Cast Lead, Operation Pillar of Defense and Iron Dome. Under this code names signifying strength and stability, Israel continues to attack the Palestinians as if they could be intimidated and buckle down to become more malleable.

The Palestinians are coming from the opposite direction of desperation due to economic deprivation and abandonment; they have chosen to resort to armed struggle with Israel, despite the inequality in strength. Thus the vicious cycle of tragic fighting on both sides has continued for the last six decades.

It is horrifying to see Gaza subjected to mass slaughter.  Israel’s latest war — called Operation "mowing the lawn "– has surpassed its previous performances not only in terms of duration, causalities, level of destruction, but also on the sheer horrendousness of targeting civilians, resulting in dozens of families being entirely wiped out.

The dominant narratives in this struggle describe the Israeli defence forces as ‘terrorists’ or as the only aggressors who deserve the rocket fires that’s raining down on them. To simply flip the sides and say that it is Israel or Hamas that is in the wrong, or in the right, wouldn’t help much in the long run. We have to see a larger picture.

Prolonged occupation and economic deprivation of land and people results in division and desperation among these people. Palestinians are no exception. Hamas' election victory in Gaza was much to the disappointment of Israel. The divisions between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have been a major reason that allows Israel to continue its repression of the Gaza people.

The recent agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to form a Unity government is a significant step forward for the Palestinian people. Palestinians can do nothing for themselves so long as they are divided. The West Bank and Gaza should stand together as Palestinians, an imprisoned nation deprived of the most basic rights of citizenship. 

The pact between Hamas and Fatah is indispensable, if any non-violent campaign were to be mounted and be successful. Hamas is not Al-Qaeda. It is not ISIS.  Islamic faith forms the wellspring of its life commitment, but it is not a movement of religious fanatics. They are genuine Muslims who follow the prescription that there must be no compulsion in religion.

In power in Gaza, it has treated the small Christian minority there with respect. Its members are angry with Israel for its years of oppression, but it does not stand for hatred of Jews.  In a personal meeting with Hamas leader Khalid Mish’al in the year of Hamas’s electoral victory in 2006, the most memorable thing we heard from him was his pride that, over the centuries in which Christians have persecuted Jews, Muslims had been their refuge and protectors.

Are they then seeking the destruction of the state of Israel?  They do not recognize it, but they seek a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.  They demand from Israel that it should recognize the Palestinian entitlement to a state of their own as a price of their recognition of Israel’s legitimacy — a matter of symmetry — and that Israel accepts it internationally recognized border without feeling that it is entitled to take anything from its people.

The Arab nations, since they made their offer to Israel in 2002, take essentially the same position, and the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization), in its PNC (Palestinian National Council) of 1988 and the Oslo Accord premised its recognition of Israel on the same expectations.

What Israel is doing to the Palestinians is unjust and intolerable. The Palestinians are entitled to resist in every lawful way. Unlawful is any attack on innocent civilians, and that includes rockets that are intended to harm civilians. The indignation we hear from he American government and media about those rockets is justified. 

Even as President Abbas is urged to take Israel to the International Court of Justice, Hamas has to oppose, because it too would be judged to have committed war crimes. Yet in judging, we have to see the massive disparity of power between them and the armed might that Israel employs in its contemptuous “mowing of the lawn” campaign and its mockery of “photogenically dead” Palestinian children. 

Hamas rockets are essentially futile.  If they land anywhere other than an open field, it is by accident. They know that Israelis have the technology to fend off any rocket that might accidentally hit anything of value. They were able to send them farther than in previous clashes, and they humiliated the Israelis by sending one close enough to the airport to close it down, but they are militarily futile still.

Their tunnels, too, have not been used “to kill Israeli civilians,” as claimed, but to capture even a single soldier, as they did in 2006.  They treated Gilad Shalit with all the guaranteed rights of a prisoner of war and eventually returned him safe, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions — not tortured, not abused.  He was not the victim of a kidnapping, as are the many thousands of Palestinians imprisoned for the simple reason that they resist the 47-year-long military occupation of their land.

What would serve the Palestinian purpose of regaining their right to have a state of their own in which they could live in dignity? Only the most rigorous non-violent resistance to occupation.

Any act of violence, in the practical order, would be used to turn the world against them and tar them as “terrorists,” even if their actions are fully lawful. Hence it will be as futile as the rockets of Hamas.

How do a people achieve their goal? By total non-cooperation with any aspect of occupation. Palestinians are prisoners in their own land.  But anyone familiar with the life of prisons knows that a prison cannot work without cooperation between the prisoners and their jailers. It dissolves into chaos that the jailers and their masters cannot manage.

Palestinians are getting no help from any quarter: none from Arab states, none from Europe, nothing but opposition from the United States. They can rely only upon themselves. But with this strategy they would win, and win in a way that would be for the good of Israel as much as for themselves.

This could not be done either by Hamas or President Abbas’s Fatah alone by themselves, divided from one another. They have formed a unity government.  The Israeli campaign against Hamas in Gaza is not about the rockets, or about the tunnels. The Netanyahu government provoked this clash deliberately after the kidnapping of the three Israeli children. That they were already dead was known to government, but they used a week-long search to foment hatred and hysteria, arresting over 400 Hamas figures in the West Bank without any evidence, until the clash was on. 

Its purpose is fundamentally to disrupt the Fatah-Hamas agreement on a Unity government.  The Palestinians cannot afford to lose that, and the Israelis will have no real representation of Palestinians to deal with for making peace without it.  Israel's objective was, precisely, to avoid that.

President Abbas, dedicated to nonviolence, has a different strategy: to win the United Nations recognition of the Palestinian state. That and the Hamas objective of resistance to occupation are not incompatible. If the Palestinians, in unity, mount a mobilized refusal of all cooperation with any aspect of occupation, they can be sure that the Israeli response will be violent, but their strength will be in their own nonviolence. 

It will win them worldwide support. It will win even the support of all Israelis who genuinely want peace, as they did in the first intifada in 1987. That President Abbas would take part in such a campaign would give him greater, rather than less, power to curb violence among his own people, and would no longer have the appearance of cooperation with the occupation. 

His effort to win full recognition of the Palestinian state from the United Nations, a decision of the General Assembly, where the United States has no veto would also have far more chance of success.

– Fr. Ray Helmick is an Instructor of conflict resolution at the Boston College. Dr. Nazir Khaja is the chairman of Islamic Information Service in Los Angeles, California

http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20140814214664

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Gaza Solution Must Be Inclusive

By Osama Al Sharif

13 August 2014

The coming few hours will be crucial in determining if a political solution will be found to end the war between Palestinian resistance forces in Gaza and Israel.

A new three-day truce has been agreed upon and the Israeli delegation is back in Cairo to deliver its response to Palestinian demands through the Egyptian intermediary.

But the gap between the two sides remains wide and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is resisting pressure to give Hamas anything that can be interpreted as victory. Instead he is pushing for acceptance of his condition that a wide-range political deal must include the demilitarization of the Strip.

Failure to achieve an agreement means that hostilities will flare up again and both sides will be drawn into a war of attrition.

The cost will be high for both. Netanyahu’s coalition is divided between those who believe the military option is no longer suitable and that Israel should engage in a political deal, and those, on the far right, who think the army should finish the job even if it means reoccupation of Gaza. Netanyahu would rather give nothing to the Palestinians and return to the status quo ante i.e. keeping the blockade and maintaining a long-term truce.

For Hamas and other resistance groups such an option is off the table. It means that Israel had won and that the heavy price paid by civilians in Gaza was all for nothing.

Furthermore, it would gravely unsettle Hamas, both politically and militarily, and take off armed resistance from the equation of Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But most of all such an option is not realistic. Gaza has been destroyed in over a month of Israeli bombardment; its infrastructure has collapsed.

There is an ongoing humanitarian crisis, which requires regular and unimpeded flow of aid and goods into Gaza from all sides. Gazans will not accept anything less than the full lifting of the economic blockade. It is hard for Israel to acknowledge that it did not win in this latest confrontation. The political price will eventually be paid by Netanyahu and the top brass in the military and intelligence.

And as a result Israel must now accept that it cannot force a humiliating settlement on Gaza. Going back to the pre-July 8 flare up is no longer tenable. Even US President Barack Obama agrees that Gaza’s isolation should end.

Allowing the war to resume will prove detrimental to both sides. Israelis are getting fed up with having to head to shelters every time a rocket is launched from Gaza.

The economy has suffered and there is limited support for an extended operation that will involve full-fledged occupation. Israelis are coming to grips with the fact that their army has lost the weapon of deterrence.

But most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that Israel’s image abroad has been tarnished as a result of using excessive violence against Palestinian civilians, including children. Israel’s month-long onslaught against Gazans has boosted support for Palestinians worldwide as demonstrated by public rallies held in many countries.

Public pressure on western governments, which had supported Israel’s operation in Gaza initially, is mounting forcing leaders to openly criticize the use of force against civilians and calling for an end to hostilities.

Continuing to pound Gaza will no longer be acceptable by the US and others and Israel’s window to carry out more bombings has already closed.

On the other hand, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others continue to enjoy the support of the majority of Gazans, despite the heavy price. But this may change if the war resumes and the humanitarian disaster expands. Meanwhile, no one really knows when the stockpiles of rockets will run out or how long can the resistance maintain its war of attrition. With the ongoing blockade it will be impossible for the resistance to replenish its stocks of rockets. But it seems to reassure its enemy that it’s in it for the long run.

Egypt’s role in bringing the two sides closer is crucial. Perhaps this role will assume more importance following the recent visit by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to Saudi Arabia where he discussed the Gaza crisis with King Abdullah. Both countries now see an opportunity to find a long-term political solution to the Gaza issue.

One immediate step would be to encourage the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Europeans to take over the border crossing of Rafah, on the Palestinian side. This would ensure the regular flow of goods and passengers and would alleviate the humanitarian crisis.

One thing that needs to be stressed by the Arabs now is the Gaza conflict cannot be separated from the entire Palestinian issue. The core challenge here is the ongoing Israeli occupation and the failure so far to find a political settlement.

Israel would loath to see international pressure gathering to force it to meet its obligations as an occupying power. But if stability and security is to be guaranteed Israel’s occupation must end.

The coming hours therefore are crucial. The Palestinians should remain united in their position and demands. The Egyptian mediator, backed by the Arabs, should push for a more comprehensive approach to the conflict.

http://www.arabnews.com/news/615346

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Gaza's Brewing Crisis: Children Struggle To Keep a Grip on Sanity

By Surabhi Vaya

 Aug 14, 2014

Over the past month, the expansion of the Israeli offensive in Gaza has compounded the healthcare crisis in the blockade-cursed narrow strip of land. But as thousands fled their homes to rush to refugee centres, the average Palestinian is faced with a new challenge —staying sane.

"There are scars you can see and scars you can’t," Christopher Gunness, spokesman for United Nations Refugee and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees told Firstpost. "The dearth is of a sense of security. Not just medication."

According to a daily report released by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), as of 10 August, at least 456 children have been killed in the conflict and at least 3, 73,000 will require "direct and specialized psychosocial support." This is not including adults who have been reeling from similar problems— from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to depression and increased anxiety.

A recent report in New York Magazine quotes Dr Akihiro Seita, the director of health for UNRWA, as saying:

Children with untreated PTSD suffer from a variety of ailments: “higher risks of developing attention deficit disorder (e.g., anxious state, hyperactivity, attention problems, phobias and impulsivity), violence, adopting extreme ideas, low school performance, addiction, criminal conduct, and other antisocial behaviour and ideas.”

Dr Seita told Firstpost on email that he had encountered several children who showed signs of psychological trauma. "Women and children are usually the most vulnerable populations in the community, including those in Gaza. So they have been seriously affected by the war. I visited three health centres in Gaza last week, and mothers I met in the health centres indicated the night wetting, anxiety in their children, and other symptoms of psychological trauma," he said.

A 2009 joint Israeli-Palestinian study which looked at the psychological well being after the second intifada showed that 37.2 percent of the Palestinian students suffered from PTSD by the time the violence had ended. This was further exacerbated by the repeated outbreak of violence in the region, including the week-long 2012 Israeli airstrikes.

"Whatever is happening in Gaza is a fallout of what happened in West Bank. In the first week, after the three Israeli boys were kidnapped, authorities searching for them and the kidnappers had left, there were about 750 incursions into houses where people were checked, beaten and intimidated. Children often witness their fathers and other elders and family members getting beaten up and taken away—it destroys the image of the protector, sense of security," Srijeeta Verma, field coordinator for Medecins Sans Frontieres’ (MSF) Mental Health Programme in Occupied Palestinian Territories told Firstpost.

MSF launched an intervention in mid-June and have done 1146 consults since. The symptoms, says Verma, among majority of their patients are the same: hopelessness, anxiety and psychosomatic manifestation of trauma. "We administered what is called ‘Psychological First Aid’ but any form of long term therapy, which many patients need, is not possible due to the nature of the conflict," Verma said.

The conflict, in some ways is setting itself up to continue, constantly producing generation after generation whose psychological well being is permanently affected. This is particularly damaging to those still recovering from PTSD or other mentally traumatic conditions.

"When something happens for the first time its terrifying. But when it happens again, it comes with a reminder of how bad it was the first time. It adds another layer to the trauma," says Gunness. "If you’re a five or six-year old in Gaza you’ve probably witnessed such an outbreak of violence at least twice times since you were born. For a child, that cannot be easy."

MSF terms the conflict as "low intensity and chronic," making long term mental well-being essential to breaking the cycle of violence. Even families in West Bank who have not been the focus of the Israeli strikes have been severely affected by the steady stream of violence. "Families in West Bank see what’s happening in Gaza. They have relatives in there. They are their people--so it’s all connected for them. For some others in West Bank, its the realisation that its not so bad, not as bad a Gaza anyway," says Verma.

Gaza, a densely populated place has a population of 1.8 million people crammed in a total area of just 360 square kilometers with a largely young population. According to the New York Magazine report, "63.8 percent of Gazans are age 24 years or younger" reeling from the destruction of war amid no future or opportunities.

"I was overwhelmed with the psychological burden of the war to the people. I attended a group session for young children (around 10 years old). There were 16 children: all of them have their houses destroyed: and 12 of them have seen bodies during the war, and eight of them have ongoing episodes of night crying. This is a clear example of impact of the war," Dr Seita told Firstpost.

"Majority of the people who approach us seeking counselling or help are children. Nearly 50 percent of the children who come to us suffer from anxiety related problems," says Verma.

The long term effects on children due to the atmosphere of insecurity and loss also hampers any semblance of normalcy that a child needs growing up. "When you lose your home, you lose your past and present. Photographs, memorabilia, inheritances, things that are special to you, that populate the world in which a child feels safe, are all taken away."

The lack of counsellors, centres, medication and lack of means to monitor patients on a long term basis has created a cycle of trauma and violence, each feeding the other, manifesting in daily life from very early ages.

"One of the games that Palestinian children play is called ‘checkpoints and searches’. They pretend to reach checkpoints, and then they frisk and search each other the way they are often searched. This is how things work here. You have to cross military checkpoints where documentation and searches are often humiliating. So much so that it’s trickled into the way they approach their childhood," says Verma.

The game, Verma says, represents the larger reality of living in a conflict zone like Gaza and West Bank, where circumstances make no allowances for any Gazan to have a normal life or support when dealing with severe trauma.

But amid the games that the international community has been playing, an entire generation of children in Gaza have been handed adult lives that are unlikely to ever be normal.

http://www.firstpost.com/world/gazas-brewing-crisis-children-struggle-to-keep-a-grip-on-sanity-1662093.html

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How Israel Outflanks the White House on Gaza

By Adam Entous Connect

Aug. 13, 2014

White House and State Department officials who were leading U.S. efforts to rein in Israel's military campaign in the Gaza Strip were caught off guard last month when they learned that the Israeli military had been quietly securing supplies of ammunition from the Pentagon without their approval.

Since then the Obama administration has tightened its control on arms transfers to Israel. But Israeli and U.S. officials say that the adroit bureaucratic maneuvering made it plain how little influence the White House and State Department have with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu —and that both sides know it.

The munitions surprise and previously unreported U.S. response added to a string of slights and arguments that have bubbled behind the scenes during the Gaza conflict, according to events related by senior American, Palestinian and Israeli officials involved.

In addition, current and former American officials say, U.S.-Israel ties have been hurt by leaks that they believe were meant to undercut the administration's standing by mischaracterizing its position and delay a cease-fire. The battles have driven U.S.-Israeli relations to the lowest point since President Barack Obama took office.

Now, as Egyptian officials shuttle between representatives of Israel and Hamas seeking a long-term deal to end the fighting, U.S. officials are bystanders instead of in their historic role as mediators. The White House finds itself largely on the outside looking in.

U.S. officials said Mr. Obama had a particularly combative phone call on Wednesday with Mr. Netanyahu, who they say has pushed the administration aside but wants it to provide Israel with security assurances in exchange for signing onto a long-term deal.

As a 72-hour pause in the fighting expired at midnight Wednesday, a senior Hamas official said negotiators agreed to another cease-fire, this one of five days. There was no immediate confirmation from Israel or Egypt.

The frayed relations raise questions about whether Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu can effectively work together. Relations between them have long been strained over other issues, including Mr. Obama's outreach to Iran and U.S.-backed peace talks with the Palestinians.

Today, many administration officials say the Gaza conflict—the third between Israel and Hamas in under six years—has persuaded them that Mr. Netanyahu and his national security team are both reckless and untrustworthy.

Israeli officials, in turn, describe the Obama administration as weak and naive, and are doing as much as they can to bypass the White House in favour of allies in Congress and elsewhere in the administration.

While Israeli officials have privately told their U.S. counterparts the poor state of relations isn't in Israel's interest long term, they also said they believed Mr. Netanyahu wasn't too worried about the tensions. The reason is that he can rely on the firmness of Israeli support in Congress, even if he doesn't have the White House's full approval for his policies. The prime minister thinks he can simply wait out the current administration, they say.

"The allegations are unfounded," said Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer. "Israel deeply appreciates the support we have received during the recent conflict in Gaza from both the Obama administration and the Congress for Israel's right to defend itself and for increased funding of Iron Dome."

A senior Obama administration official said the White House didn't intend to get into a "tit for tat" with the Israelis when the war broke out in Gaza. "We have many, many friends around the world. The United States is their strongest friend," the official said. "The notion that they are playing the United States, or that they're manipulating us publicly, completely miscalculates their place in the world."

American officials say they believe they have been able to exert at least some influence over Mr. Netanyahu during the Gaza conflict. But they admit their influence has been weakened as he has used his sway in Washington, from the Pentagon and Congress to lobby groups, to defuse U.S. diplomatic pressure on his government over the past month.

Tensions really started to flare after Israel launched Gaza ground operations July 17 and the civilian death toll started to rise sharply, prompting U.S. officials to complain that Israel wasn't showing enough restraint. Israeli officials rejected that notion, saying Hamas was using civilians as human shields.

U.S. officials say Mr. Netanyahu told them he was interested in a cease-fire from the start, but the two sides clashed over the process of achieving one and the players who would take part.

Bracing for a longer military campaign than expected, Israel approached the Defense Department within days of the start of the ground fighting to request money for more interceptors for the Iron Dome, which shoots down rockets aimed at population centres.

After consulting with the White House, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told aides to submit a proposal to Congress for $225 million.

Within the administration, the request was deemed noncontroversial because the Iron Dome was defensive and couldn't be used in Gaza ground fighting, U.S. officials said.

In meetings at the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House, Israeli officials told the Americans Israel had enough Iron Dome interceptors for the current Gaza operation, but wanted to replenish its stocks, according to U.S. officials who attended. So with Israel's consent, the administration didn't seek immediate emergency funding, Pentagon officials said, adding that they expected Congress to approve the request sometime in the fall.

Unknown to many policy makers, Israel was moving on separate tracks to replenish supplies of lethal munitions being used in Gaza and to expedite approval of the Iron Dome funds on Capitol Hill.

On July 20, Israel's defence ministry asked the U.S. military for a range of munitions, including 120-mm mortar shells and 40-mm illuminating rounds, which were already kept stored at a pre-positioned weapons stockpile in Israel.

The request was approved through military channels three days later but not made public. Under the terms of the deal, the Israelis used U.S. financing to pay for $3 million in tank rounds. No presidential approval or signoff by the secretary of state was required or sought, according to officials.

A U.S. defence official said the standard review process was properly followed.

While the military-to-military relationship between Israel and the U.S. was operating normally, ties on the diplomatic front were imploding. For the Americans, they worsened dramatically on July 25, when aides to Secretary of State John Kerry sent a draft of a confidential cease-fire paper to Mr. Netanyahu's advisers for feedback.

The Americans wanted the Israelis to propose changes. The U.S. didn't intend or expect the draft paper to be presented to the Israeli cabinet, but that was what Mr. Netanyahu did. U.S. officials say Mr. Netanyahu's office breached protocol by sending back no comments and presenting the paper to the cabinet for a vote.

The paper was also leaked to the Israeli media. U.S. officials say they believe the Israeli government publicly mischaracterized Mr. Kerry's ideas with the intent of buying more time to prosecute the fight against Hamas because Israeli officials were angry over outreach by Mr. Kerry to Qatar and Turkey.

Israel and Egypt had sought to sideline Qatar and Turkey—two countries that backed Hamas—rather than increase their influence. U.S. officials say Mr. Kerry reached out to the two because they had leverage with Hamas that would be critical to getting the group to agree to another cease-fire.

From Israel's perspective, Mr. Kerry's cease-fire draft reflected an approach "completely out of sync with Israel, not just on a governmental level but on a societal level," said Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. under Mr. Netanyahu.

"The best thing that Kerry can do is stay out... We need time to do the job, we need to inflict a painful and unequivocal blow on Hamas. Anything less would be a Hamas victory," Mr. Oren said.

The watershed moment came in the early morning in Gaza July 30. An Israeli shell struck a United Nations school in Jabaliya that sheltered about 3,000 people. Later that day, it was reported in the U.S. that the 120-mm and 40-mm rounds had been released to the Israeli military.

"We were blindsided," one U.S. diplomat said.

White House and State Department officials had already become increasingly disturbed by what they saw as heavy-handed battlefield tactics that they believed risked a humanitarian catastrophe capable of harming regional stability and Israel's interests.

They were especially concerned that Israel was using artillery, instead of more precision-guided munitions, in densely populated areas. The realization that munitions transfers had been made without their knowledge came as a shock.

"There was no intent to blindside anyone. The process for this transfer was followed precisely along the lines that it should have," another U.S. defence official said.

Then the officials learned that, in addition to asking for tank shells and other munitions, Israel had submitted a request through military-to-military channels for a large number of Hellfire missiles, according to Israeli and American officials.

The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, or DSCA, was about to release an initial batch of the Hellfires, according to Israeli and congressional officials. It was immediately put on hold by the Pentagon, and top officials at the White House instructed the DSCA, the U.S. military's European Command and other agencies to consult with policy makers at the White House and the State Department before approving any additional requests.

A senior Obama administration official said the weapons transfers shouldn't have been a routine "check-the-box approval" process, given the context. The official said the decision to scrutinize future transfers at the highest levels amounted to "the United States saying 'The buck stops here. Wait a second…It's not OK anymore.' "

White House and State Department officials were worried about public reaction.

The Palestinians, in particular, were angry, according to U.S. diplomats.

"The U.S. is a partner in this crime," Jibril Rajoub, a leader in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Western-backed Fatah party, said of the decision to provide arms to Israel during the conflict.

Even as tensions with the White House and the State Department were spilling over, Israeli officials worked to expedite the Iron Dome money on Capitol Hill.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Israeli officials told lawmakers the money was urgently needed because they were running out of interceptors and couldn't hold out for a month or more.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said Congress's goal in approving the money quickly on Aug. 1 was to send a message to the administration to stop calling Israel out about civilian casualties.

A senior Republican congressional aide said Israeli officials told senators they wanted the money sooner rather than later. He said Israel's main purpose in accelerating the vote in Congress to before legislators' August recess was to provide an overwhelming "show of support" for the military operation.

The last straw for many U.S. diplomats came on Aug. 2 when they say Israeli officials leaked to the media that Mr. Netanyahu had told the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, that the Obama administration was "not to ever second-guess me again" about how to deal with Hamas.

The White House and State Department have sought to regain greater control over U.S.-Israeli policy. They decided to require White House and State Department approval for even routine munitions requests by Israel, officials say.

Instead of being handled as a military-to-military matter, each case is now subject to review—slowing the approval process and signalling to Israel that military assistance once taken for granted is now under closer scrutiny.

A senior U.S. official said the U.S. and Israel clashed mainly because the U.S. wanted a cease-fire before Mr. Netanyahu was ready to accept one. "Now we both want one," one of the officials said.

A top Israeli official said the rift runs deeper than that. "We've been there before with a lot of tension with us and Washington. What we have now, on top of that, is mistrust and a collision of different perspectives on the Middle East," the official said. "It's become very personal."

Joshua Mitnick contributed to this article.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-sway-over-israel-on-gaza-at-a-low-1407979365

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URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-the-west/new-age-islam-edit-desk/world-media-on-gaza-and-israel-part---15/d/98564

 

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