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Letter: On Israel, “Disproportionate Is A Code Word”

I am 89 years old. In 1945, after 82 days of combat on Okinawa, as an 18-year-old private with the Marine Corps’ Sixth Division, I was on Guam preparing to invade Japan the following spring. The war ended after the US dropped atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians. That “disproportionate” action by my government saved my ass.

I suppose Senator Sanders would call the 42,000 Germans who died in the bombing of Hamburg also disproportionate, ignoring the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis those same Germans had put in power,

To criticize Israel for the casualties civilians sustained in Gaza ignores reality. Hamas was firing rockets from positions in residential areas. Israel did much to protect non-combatants, even warning occupants of buildings, by a “knock on the roof” that they would be destroyed, giving them time to escape.

Disproportionate is a code word used by those who hate Israel and oppose its right to exist.

And I am no right-winger. I oppose the continuing expansion of settlements in the West Bank, a policy that makes peace more difficult to achieve.

Robert Wanderman

Turkey Sees No Normalization Of Israel Ties Without End To Gaza Blockade: Spokesman

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey sees no normalization in ties with Israel unless its conditions for ending the Gaza blockade and compensation for the deaths of 10 Turkish activists in 2010 are met, a presidential spokesman said on Monday.

Relations between Turkey and Israel soured when the activists were killed in a raid by Israeli commandos on a Turkish boat, the Mavi Marmara, which was trying to breach the blockade.

Expectations of a breakthrough were intensified after senior officials met this month to try to repair ties. The talks have raised hopes of progress in negotiations to import Israeli natural gas, particularly since Turkey’s relationship with major energy producer Russia has worsened over Syria.

But comments from Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin suggest Turkey may be trying to play tough in the negotiations.

“Turkey – Israel relations will not normalize until Israel realizes the three conditions. We have not given up on these,” Kalin said at a regular news conference.

Ankara wants an apology for the Mavi Marmara killings, and compensation for families. It also wants Israel to end the blockade of Palestinians living in Gaza, seen as a sticking point in the talks.

“Turkey will continue to play its role until a two-state solution is reached, and the Palestinian people have their own state. There cannot be permanent peace in the region until the Palestinian problem is solved,” Kalin told reporters in Ankara.

Asked to respond to the remarks from Ankara, an Israeli official declined to discuss Gaza policy, saying only: “We will not be conducting negotiations through the media.”

Israeli officials have previously described the blockade on Gaza, which is supported by neighboring Egypt, as a necessary means of preventing arms smuggling by Palestinian militants.

Israel allows commercial goods into Gaza through its land crossings and said that nearly 128,000 tons of material, or 3,750 truckloads, entered the enclave last week.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tulay Karadeniz and Dan Williams in Jerusalem; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Alison Williams)

Turkish riot police walk outside the Israeli consulate before a protest against Israel’s military action in Gaza, in Istanbul July 21, 2014. REUTERS/Osman Orsal 

Israel Intercepts Ship In Pro-Palestinian Flotilla Bound For Gaza

By Batsheva Sobelman and Rushdi Abu Alouf, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

JERUSALEM — A ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists protesting Israel’s sea blockade of the Gaza Strip was boarded by Israeli naval commandos, who took command of the vessel.

According to a statement from Israel’s military early Monday, the navy contacted the boat while it was in international waters and advised it several times to change course to avoid breaching the blockade.

The captain refused and Israel’s navy boarded the Swedish-registered Marianne of Gothenburg to search it before escorting it to the port of Ashdod. According to the military, there was no need to use force.

In Ashdod the activists will probably be deported, as Israeli officials have warned.

The incident comes five years after the fatal interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla.

The new flotilla of four boats, organized by the Freedom Flotilla III, set to sea from Greece in recent days, carrying 47 passengers from 17 countries.

It also carried a message to Israel: Lift the blockade imposed on the Palestinian enclave after the militant movement Hamas wrested control of Gaza from the more moderate Palestinian Authority in 2007.

Efforts by international activists to break the blockade began the following year. Israel let the first one reach Gaza but subsequent efforts were intercepted by the Israeli navy.

In May 2010, 10 activists were killed when naval commandos intercepting the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara encountered resistance.

On Sunday, the Marianne was 150 nautical miles away from Gaza when Basel Ghattas, an Arab Israeli lawmaker onboard, sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him to refrain from using military force to stop the ship.

“This blockade is illegal and a collective punishment contravening international humanitarian law,” he wrote. Ghattas said the 20 passengers included former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki.

Several hours later, Netanyahu’s office circulated a letter that flotilla activists would receive upon their arrival in Israel.

“Welcome to Israel!” the letter began, tongue-in-cheek, adding that perhaps participants intended to sail to Syria to protest that government’s cruelty but lost their way.

A spokesman for the flotilla, Loukas Stamellos, said the Marianne, a fishing trawler, was carrying solar panels to be donated to a hospital in Gaza. The mission also planned to donate the ship to a Gaza fishermen’s association.

Netanyahu had invited the activists to transfer any humanitarian assistance to Gaza through Israel. In a separate statement Monday, the Israeli prime minister said the flotilla was “nothing but a demonstration of hypocrisy and lies … assisting the Hamas terrorist organization” while ignoring the region’s horrors.

(Special correspondents Sobelman and Abu Alouf reported from Jerusalem and Gaza City, respectively.)

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

File photo: A sailor with the Israeli navy in 2014 patrols near the port in Ashdod, some 40 kilometres south of Tel Aviv (AFP/File / Jack Guez).

Israel’s Foreign Minister Snubs Netanyahu Coalition Invite

By Ofira Koopmans, dpa (TNS)

TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced Monday that he will not join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, dealing a blow to the incumbent’s emerging coalition in the 11th hour of negotiations.

“We are going to serve the people from the opposition,” he said of his six-seat hardline right-wing Israel Beiteinu party.

Defying predictions, Netanyahu’s right-wing, nationalist Likud won 30 seats in the March 17 election, paving the way for him to serve a fourth term in office as premier.

The incumbent must present his government by Wednesday midnight.

Lieberman’s ultra-nationalist Beiteinu has long been considered a natural ally for Netanyahu’s Likud party in coalition negotiations, but Lieberman’s rejection means Netanyahu may be reduced to a slim majority of 61 seats in Israel’s 120-seat parliament, the Knesset.

Lieberman told reporters in Jerusalem that he will also resign from his post as foreign minister.

Netanyahu’s Likud party signed its first two coalition agreements Wednesday last week, with Kulanu and United Torah Judaism (UTJ). Lieberman cited promises made in those agreements as grounds for not joining the coalition.

The coalition Netanyahu was building with two ultra Orthodox parties, another right-wing party and the center-right Kulanu party of finance minister-designate Moshe Kahlon “is not to our taste, to say the least,” Lieberman said.

“This government has no intention of uprooting Hamas,” he said of the Islamist Palestinian movement in de facto control of the Gaza Strip, mentioning one reason of his dissatisfaction.

The next Netanyahu government would not be a nationalist one, “but the personification of opportunism,” he charged.

According to recent local media reports, Lieberman holds a grudge against Netanyahu, blaming him for an ongoing police investigation into allegations of corruption by senior members of his party.

The Likud is also negotiating with another ultra-Orthodox party, Shas (seven seats) and with the pro-settler, right-wing Jewish Home (eight seats).

Netanyahu still has a good chance of presenting his fourth government by the Wednesday midnight deadline. But if he fails, President Reuven Rivlin can appoint another lawmaker to the task of forming a government. That would then likely be Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog.

As part of the agreement signed last week with UTJ, a social reform program introduced with much fanfare during the previous government, will be canceled.

The program had included criminal sanctions for ultra-Orthodox Torah students who refuse to report for compulsory military service. It had also included a cancellation of other privileges and financial benefits for the ultra-Orthodox population in Israel.

(c)2015 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress at the Capitol on March 3, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)