NAIROBI: The word went out at 9am. The pipeline had burst, again, and petrol was splashing freely down by the river.The whole slum seemed to spring into action, with men, women and children grabbing buckets, oil tins, battered yellow jerry cans – anything to carry the leaking fuel. Even minibuses raced in from kilometres away, looking for free petrol, a small godsend in a place where most people are unemployed and live in rusty metal shacks that rent for $US25 ($24) a month.
But then the wind shifted, witnesses said, and embers from the garbage fires that routinely burn by the river wafted towards the area where the fuel was gushing out. There was no time to escape. The fuel exploded, sending a giant fireball shooting up over the slum, engulfing scores of people and scattering bodies that were left in various poses of anguish, burnt to the bone.
”All I can say is ‘pole sana’,” said Kalonzo Musyoka, the Vice-President of Kenya, using the Swahili words reserved for condolences. ”These people died like goats.”
Officials estimated that more than 100 people may have perished in the fire on Monday morning. This is not the first time scores of poor Kenyans have died in a fire while scooping up spilled fuel. In 2009, at least 113 people were burnt to death after a huge crowd descended on an overturned petrol tanker, which then blew up.
Several other spills have resulted in infernos and a few weeks ago the Kenyan police were criticised for firing into the air and wounding a woman in an attempt to drive people away from a fuel spill.
Residents of the Sinai slum, where the fire broke out, said fuel spills happened all the time.
”People started saying this morning, ‘There’s a spill, in the usual place; let’s get over there’,” Zackiyo Mwangi, a vendor of pirated CDs said. ”Yeah, I know, it’s dangerous, but that’s how life is here.”
Sinai is a warren of iron-sheeted shacks and muddy footpaths tucked behind Nairobi’s industrial area, not far from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. A main pipeline, that carries petrol, diesel and jet fuel from the port of Mombasa right across Kenya, slices through this tightly packed slum.
In 2008, the pipeline company tried to evict residents, saying it was illegal – and very dangerous – to live right above a high-pressure pipeline, but the people refused to budge.
The blast tore apart kiosks and homes and left a preschool blackened and smoking. It was unclear how many, if any, of the children had been killed
”Maybe the teacher got them all out,” said Grace Waithira, who lives nearby. But her tears seemed to suggest otherwise.
Red Cross volunteers pulled zippers over bodies in white plastic bags, scribbling in blue felt-tip marker ”male, adult,” ”male, child”, or other simple indicators on the plastic.
The air was heavy with the stench of garbage, petrol and charred flesh. While the burning garbage may have lighted this fire, poverty seemed to be the real fuse. ”This just shows you how these people will do anything to generate a coin,” said MP Johnson Muthama. ”Just look at them.” He gestured towards a crowd of thousands of onlookers, mostly young men in grubby clothes, staring gape-mouthed at all the bodies.
”They are ready to risk their lives for anything.”
The Taliban launched a major attack in the center of Kabul on Tuesday, hitting NATO’s coalition force headquarters next to the U.S. embassy in the Afghan capital.
The insurgent group said the ongoing assault began with a suicide attack targeting local and foreign intelligence buildings at a roundabout in the city.
Agence France Presse reporters heard a string of loud blasts while police confirmed one explosion and a gunfight close to the heavily-guarded embassy compound.
An AFP reporter close to the scene saw a string of mortar rounds fired and small arms fire, and heard explosions that seemed to hit multiple targets.
He said that police and Afghan military were attempting to approach the roundabout but were retreating under fire.
“Today at one o’clock at Kabul’s Abdul Haq roundabout a massive suicide attack on local and foreign intelligence facilities is ongoing,” said a spokesman for the insurgent group, Zabiullah Mujahid, in a text message to AFP.
A Western military source confirmed NATO’s International Security Assistance Force headquarters was one of the targets under attack.
“ISAF HQ is under attack at the moment,” the source said.
An ISAF spokesman would not confirm the headquarters was a target but said:
“There is an ongoing attack in the center of Kabul.”
One eyewitness reported that attackers had taken up position in a tall building under construction and were exchanging fire with security forces. An Afghan National Army installation is nearby, as is a Marriott hotel building site, the witness said.
The U.S. Embassy did not immediately have further information.
The Taliban are leading a bloody 10-year insurgency in Afghanistan. There are around 140,000 foreign troops in the country.
Kabul city is under the control of Afghan security forces, along with most of the wider Kabul province and six other parts of the country that were handed over by NATO-led troops in July.
In recent months Kabul has been hit by several high-profile suicide and gun attacks including a deadly assault on the British Council building two weeks ago.
The insurgency, which largely relies on roadside bombs and suicide attacks, has reached its deadliest phase over the past two years.
Last week an American civilian engineer was found murdered in mysterious circumstances in Kabul, a few days before the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that triggered the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
|[Turkey is taking concrete steps, preparing for a military confrontation with Israel.)|
|A Turkish Air Force F-16 jet fighter prepares to take off from an air base in the central anatolian city of Konya in this April 28, 2010 file photo. (Photo: Reuters)|
|Turkey’s Military Electronics Industry (ASELSAN) has produced a new identification friend or foe (IFF) system for Turkish jet fighters, warships and submarines and the new software, contrary to the older, US-made version, does not automatically identify Israeli planes and ships as friends, a news report said on Tuesday.|
|The new IFF has already been installed in Turkish F-16s and is expected to be installed in all Navy ships and submarines, the report, published in Turkish daily Star, said. It will be fully operational when it is installed in all military planes, warships and submarines.
The F-16 jet fighters, purchased from the US, came with pre-installed IFF software that automatically identifies Israeli fighters and warships as friends, disabling Turkish F-16s from targeting Israeli planes or ships. ASELSAN-made IFF will allow Turkish military commanders to identify friends and foes on the basis of national considerations.
Turkey was unable to make modifications to the friend or foe identification codes in US-made F-16s, while Israel was given a different version of the software allowing Israeli authorities to make modifications. Israel was also authorized to view the version given to Turkey, according to Star.
The report comes amid a severe crisis in ties with former ally Israel. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan set the stage for a possible naval confrontation with Israel in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying last week that Turkish military ships will escort civilian ships carrying aid to Gaza, under an Israeli blockade since 2007.
A news report on Monday said three frigates were to be sent to the Eastern Mediterranean to protect aid ships from a possible interception by Israeli warships. The frigates, according to the report, will get as close as 100 meter to any Israeli military ship if those ships are outside of Israeli territorial waters.
Star also suggested that the new IFF system could be linked to a series of suspicious suicides in ASELSAN. Three ASELSAN engineers committed suicide in 2006 and 2007, but the media speculated that the engineers might have been murdered given the families’ testimonies that the suicides seem to come out of the blue with no warning signs. The report added that all three engineers had worked on the new IFF system to be used for F-16 fighters.
These are the most challenging times the Middle East has seen in decades, yet one couldn’t imagine a more inept government for Israel than the one that sits in Jerusalem
Last month, Israel rejected a compromise over the flotilla incident that Israeli and Turkish negotiators reached. The American administration has been applying pressure on Jerusalem and Ankara to reach an understanding prior to the publishing of the Palmer Report. According to recent reports in the local media, both sides to the talks in Geneva had agreed that Israel would apologize for “a military failure” that led to the death of eight Turkish citizens and one American during the attack on the Mavi Marmara, but the legality of the blockade on Gaza will not be questioned. Israel also agreed to compensate the families of the deceased.
Such an understanding would have served Jerusalem’s interests, and allowed for relations with Turkey to be mended (I say that even thought I oppose the blockade and believe it should end immediately). Yet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu rejected the deal, fearing a backlash from the right and political gains by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the only political rival that could hurt him at his base. The result was a rapid deterioration of the diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey.
Following the political failure, the government moved to propaganda, claiming that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has decided to secure his role in the Arab world by going after Israel. Yet the facts don’t add up: If there was no hope in resolving the crisis with Ankara, why send representatives to Geneva and negotiate a deal? And if that wasn’t enough, while the full effect of the rift with Turkey was being revealed, Lieberman decided to start another fire by speculating on giving military aid to the PKK (the anti-Turkish Kurd resistance group) – something similar to a possible Turkish declaration of sending weapons to Hamas. This was too much even for Netanyahu, who rushed to issue a denial, long after the damage was done.
On the very same day of Lieberman’s provocation, troubles started in Cairo, and while military escalation remains unlikely, it seems that the peace treaty with Egypt – Israel’s greatest diplomatic achievement – is about to collapse. The Israeli embassy in Giza was stormed by protesters on Friday night, and the Egyptian commando had to rescue the security team which was at the building. Later at night, the ambassador, most of the diplomats and their families were flown back to Tel Aviv in a military plane.
It looks as if the anti-Israeli mood in Egypt has a lot to do with the frustration many feel due to the tightening of the military control over the country and the failure to make good on many of the promises the revolution made. Israel is perceived as an ally of the army and the old regime; relying on Egypt’s help in placing the blockade on Gaza has come back to haunt Israel. Once again, it’s clear that Jerusalem has failed to understand the local mood in Cairo. This was revealed in Israel’s dealing with the diplomatic fallout following the Eilat attack and the death of five Egyptian soldiers, and with the inflammatory statements that followed the escalation in the South.
At the heart of the diplomatic failure lies Netanyahu and Lieberman’s policy on the Palestinian issue, one that has replaced diplomatic initiative with public relations. Netanyahu sees existential threats everywhere, from Iran to the BDS campaign and from Ankara to Cairo, yet he is unwilling to do the single thing that could get most of the pressure off Israel: Ending the 44 years old occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. By using his skillful manipulation of American politics – perhaps his best and only talent – the Israeli prime minister is dragging Washington’s foreign policy with him down a very dangerous path. Netanyahu’s policy plays a big part in making the United States less and less relevant in the Arab world, and ironically, strengthens the forces which do not recognize the legitimacy of any Jewish existence in the Middle East.
When the Netanyahu-Barak-Lieberman trio took control over Israel’s foreign policy, there was a debate over the potential damage this cabinet could do. Some even argued that an extreme right government such as this could actually lead the Israeli public to accept concessions it wouldn’t normally, certainly not under the left. Nobody dares present these theories again. As it turned out, the right-wing government didn’t “adjust” itself to the left, but rather the other way around: With its provocative rhetoric and hard-line positions it helped bring about the geopolitical reality in which it could prosper, one of hate and anger.
As the situation around the country deteriorates, Netanyahu and Lieberman thrive, playing on the very real existential fears of Israelis, declaring that “now is not the time for concessions,” behaving as if Israeli actions play no role in the regional dynamics, and preparing the public for nightmare scenarios. With no immediate political threat to their government, it seems that the worse is yet to come.
[As predicted by many of us, the shitty little Zionist state in the Middle East has reached "critical mass" in world popular opinion--the world will no longer tolerate aggression against the relatively helpless Palestinian people, especially those living in Gaza. The "Perfect Storm" of public outrage we are witnessing (SEE: The U.S. Abandons Israel), has been building for a long time, at least since Israel instituted a virtual state of siege on Gaza after the election of the Hamas govt. in 2006. In addition to the building humanitarian outrage, we now see the completely new factor of concerted resistance being offered by Middle Eastern governments to Israeli bullying and aggression. As D-day (decision day) arrives in the UN, it is obvious that it is rapidly coming to a head in Israel/Palestine. The coming UN vote on statehood has been compounded by the Turkish Naval challenge to Israeli attacks on aid convoys and attempts to seize control of the Mediterranean gas fields, pressure from the Arab revolutions, anti-Israeli acts of violence in Egypt, and the fundamentalist colonizers who are seizing more of Palestinian territory by the hour. We may see the entire world gather together (except for the Western Imperialists) against Israel in the next couple of weeks.
This is the only real "existentialist threat" now confronting Israel. It will be their undoing. When it comes, will it be enough to fulfill Zionist threats that, " Next time we’ll take all of you with us"? (SEE: The Samson Option).]
Saudi dailies criticize Israel for strained ties with Turkey, Egypt and PA; ‘Any measure taken against Israel is consdiered either anti-Semitic or act of terror,’ one daily says.
Prominent Saudi newspapers slammed Israel Monday for its “aggressive” policies in light of the Jewish state’s straining ties with Turkey and Egypt and the impending Palestinian bid for UN recognition.
“Israel has convinced the world that any measure taken against it is either anti-Semitic or an act of Arab or Islamic terror,” the newspaper Alriyadh said in an editorial. “The Arab revolutions have renewed the popular belief that Israel has remained the epitome of aggressive behavior, being an entity propagated by an international plot backed by Europe and the US.”
The editorial addressed Israel’s crisis with Turkey, claiming that Ankara rejected the “contempt that Israel showed towards it.”
The Almadina daily tackled the issue as well, declaring that the Jewish state “is more isolated than ever,” as indicated by the expulsion of its ambassador from Ankara, the attack on its embassy in Cairo and the Palestinians’ insistence on turning to the UN for the recognition of a state within the 1967 lines.
Jerusalem refused to respond to the Saudi reports, but addressed the recent remarks made by King Abdullah the II of Jordan, who claimed that his nation and “the future Palestine are stronger than Israel is today.” Political sources said that the “king’s statements should be monitored due to the internal sensitivities within the kingdom. The situation in Jordan is very delicate.”
A government official said that King Abdullah’s remarks should be taken with a grain of salt. “The king has strong ties with the US, and has strong interests with Israel,” he said. “We should keep that front calm, and follow the developments.”
Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report
NEW YORK: An advertisement by Pakistan in America’s leading daily the Wall Street Journalon the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has not gone down well with readers here with some calling the ad a “joke” and questioning how a country where Osama bin Laden was hiding safely for years can “claim to be a victim of terrorism”.
Readers posted their reaction to the half-page advertisement in ‘The Threat Matrix,’ a blog of the Long War Journal, which is a publication focused on providing reporting and analysis on the global war on terror.
“This is quite humorous. They could do a hell of a lot for world peace by destroying their plethora of militant groups. Does any other nation have such an inflated sense of self worth (sic),” reads one of the over a dozen comments posted on the blog.
Another reader comments, “It would be nice if you would purge the ISI of Taliban/al Qaeda sympathisers, then launch assault into the FATA supported by heavy weapons and armour”.
In the advertisement, which has a picture of assassinated former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan asks, “Which country can do more for your peace”.
It goes on to give statistics of bomb blasts, assassination plots against Pakistani leaders and civilian and military casualties that a “nation of 180 million” suffered while “fighting for the future of world’s seven billion”.
“Which country can do more for your peace,” asks the advertisement in the Wall Street Journal.
“Since 2001, a nation of 180 million has been fighting for the future of the world’s 7 billion.”
The advertisement says that since Sep 11, 2001, 21,672 Pakistani civilians have lost their lives or have been seriously injured in the war against terror.
The Pakistani Army also has lost 2,795 soldiers while 8,671 soldiers have been wounded. More than 3.5 million have been displaced while the country has lost $68 billion due to terrorism, the media report said.
The advertisement noted that despite sacrifices the country was still engaged in “the war for world peace”.
“Can any other country do so? Only Pakistan,” it maintained.
One reader comments, “Still no explanation how Osama bin Laden happened to live comfortably for a decade in a garrison town. Or the Haqqani network or the Quetta Shura, or their fertiliser factory providing the fuel for IEDs in Afghanistan“.
Another says, “a country, which is the epicentre of global terrorism, on record of running terrorist training camps since the 1980s, protecting the Afghan Taliban that kills NATO soldiers, claims to be a victim of terrorism??!!”
“The sheer audacity of this advert comes from the fact that the Pakistani government and military leaders cannot or do not show any inclination to properly protect(ing) their own citizens let alone the worlds, as they continue to clandestinely support radical and extremist groups at the cost of their civilians lives”.
One reader called the ad a “joke” and “downright offensive,” saying if there was one day when Pakistan should stop with the “pretence of being our ally, it was yesterday”.
He said a newspaper of the stature of the Wall Street Journal should not have published such an ad.
“Is this an ad or acceptance of a failed state. If one is not able to contain terrorism it is your own problem not of others. Pakistan has made a mockery of itself by broadcasting such an ad,” read another comment.
Gunmen ambush school bus in Matani area. Driver killed, five children also injured. PHOTO: AFP
Gunmen ambushed a school bus on the outskirts of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing four children and a driver in a hail of bullets, police said. PHOTO: AFP/FILE
PESHAWAR: Gunmen ambushed a school bus on the outskirts of Peshawar on Tuesday, killing four children and a driver in a hail of bullets, police said.
“Gunmen opened fire on a school van and also lobbed a rocket in Peshawar’s suburb of Matani,” senior police official Ejaz Khan told AFP.
“We are checking why the bus was targeted,” he said. The vehicle belonged to the private Khyber School, he added.
Bombings blamed on Taliban and al Qaeda-linked networks have killed more than 4,630 people since 2007.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s attack.
“The driver and four children have been killed,” Kalam Khan, a senior police official, told AFP from the scene.
“The children are aged nine to 14. Five children are injured,” he added.
[Lieberman plans some nasty retaliation to Turkey's insolence--increasing military aid to Kurds, supporting Armenian genocide resolution, mud-slinging campaign. This just keeps getting better and better. Supporting Armenia would go along with partnering with Russia, since Russia maintains a large military presence in Armenia.]
Jerusalem fights back: Foreign Minister Lieberman formulates series of tough moves in response to Turkish steps; Israel to cooperate with Armenian lobby in US, may offer military aid to Kurdish rebels
Jerusalem to punish Erdogan: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has decided to adopt a series of harsh measures in response to Turkey’s latest anti-Israeli moves, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Friday.
Senior Foreign Ministry officials convened Thursday to prepare for a meeting to be held Saturday with Lieberman on the matter. Saturday’s session will be dedicated to discussing Israel’s response to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent threats and his decision to downgrade Ankara’s diplomatic ties with Jerusalem.
Following Thursday’s meeting, officials assessed that Turkey is not interested in an Israeli apology at this time and prefers to exploit the dispute with Jerusalem in order to promote Ankara’s status in the Muslim world. Lieberman therefore decided there was no point in seeking creative formulas for apologizing, instead choosing to focus Israel’s efforts on punishing Turkey.
The Foreign Ministry has now decided to proceed with the formulation of a diplomatic and security “toolbox” to be used against the Turks. The first move would be to issue a travel warning urging all Israeli military veterans to refrain from traveling to Turkey. The advisory will be especially harsh as it will also urge Israelis to refrain from boarding connections in Turkey.
Another planned Israeli move is the facilitation of cooperation with Turkey’s historic rivals, the Armenians. During Lieberman’s visit to the United States this month, the foreign minister is expected to meet with leaders of the Armenian lobby and propose anti-Turkish cooperation in Congress.
The implication of this move could be Israeli assistance in promoting international recognition of the Armenian holocaust, a measure that would gravely harm Turkey. Israel may also back Armenia in its dispute vis-à-vis Turkey over control of Mount Ararat.
‘Turkey better show respect’
Lieberman is also planning to set meetings with the heads of Kurdish rebel group PKK in Europe in order to “cooperate with them and boost them in every possible area.” In these meetings, the Kurds may ask Israel for military aid in the form of training and arms supplies, a move that would constitute a major anti-Turkish position should it materialize.
However, the violent clashes between Turkey and the Kurds only constitute one reason prompting accusations that Ankara is violating human rights. Hence, another means in Lieberman’s “toolbox” vis-à-vis Erdogan is a diplomatic campaign where Israeli missions worldwide will be instructed to join the fight and report illegal Turkish moves against minorities.
The tough response formulated by Lieberman stems, among other things, from the foreign minister’s desire to make it clear to Erdogan that his anti-Israeli moves are not a “one-way street.”
Officials in Jerusalem also noted that Turkey’s global status at this time is not promising as it is, adding that Ankara is embroiled in tensions vis-à-vis NATO and Greece, while Erdogan’s relations with Syria and Iran are also not favorable.
“We’ll exact a price from Erdogan that will prove to him that messing with Israel doesn’t pay off,” Lieberman said. “Turkey better treat us with respect and common decency.”
Tony Hayward (L), the former chief executive of BP who currently leads Vallares, and Genel Energy chief executive Mehmet Sepil are seen at a press conference yesterday. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIK
A new Anglo-Turkish partnership that emerged with the merger of U.K. company Vallares and Turkish businessman Mehmet Emin Karamehmet’s Genel Energy has revealed its plans to dominate the vast reserves of oil in the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq. The partnership, led by ex-BP CEO Tony Hayward, also plans to invest elsewhere in the Middle East, once the dust of the Arab Spring settles.
Responding to questions from the Hürriyet Daily News on the sidelines of a press meeting in Istanbul, Hayward said Vallares would deal with the regional Kurdish administration, not Baghdad. Eventually, the Kurdish region will have “a significant say” in what is going to be finally approved in Iraq’s expected hydrocarbons law, he said. Mehmet Sepil, the CEO of Genel Energy International, said the firm expected the law to be approved in Baghdad by the start of next year.
The complex partnership will be completed through an all-share reverse-takeover in which Vallares will issue new shares worth $2.1 billion to acquire 100 percent of Genel, giving Vallares and Genel’s current owners equal stakes in the combined business.
“The only approval we need is from the Kurdistan Regional Government, and we expect that approval to come before the end of September,” Hayward told the Daily News on Thursday. “All of the indications in Kurdistan show that things are only going to get better. I think this is a good time to invest in the region.”
Sepil said the new company would be listed on the London Stock Exchange in around four weeks and that it would offer 50 percent of its shares to the public. “In the end, the company will rank among the top 100 companies in the U.K.,” Sepil said.
Sepil said he would have a stake of 14 percent in the new company, down from his current 29 percent, while Karamehmet’s stake will fall from 56 percent to 28.
Pragmatic realism in region
Commenting on possible risks regarding stability in northern Iraq, Hayward spoke of a “pragmatic realism” that has emerged between the regional government and Baghdad. “This means [one] can invest,” he said. “[The two governments] have agreed to revenue-sharing mechanisms. Payments are being received and I think all indicators show that things are only going to get better. There will be some bumps in the road, but the train and its direction are clear.”
He also said when the oil law dispute is resolved, the Kurdish administration “will have a significant say in what is finally approved.”
“[Kurds] have a significant standing both in the Iraqi Cabinet and in parliament,” he told the Daily News. “This law is important for all foreign investors in Iraq, not only for those who are investing in the region.”
Northern Iraq has attracted more than $10 billion in energy investments from more than 40 companies from 17 countries. Sepil said he expected similar consolidations in northern Iraq, adding that Genel, whose headquarters will be Ankara, aims to be among the few companies left in northern Iraq at the end of the next wave of consolidations.
Noting the seismic political shift in the Middle East, Sepil said Genel would like to invest in other locations, especially in North Africa, including Libya, after stability is established.
After the press meeting in Istanbul, Hayward and Sepil headed to Arbil in northern Iraq.
By TURKI AL-FAISAL
Jidda, Saudi Arabia
The United States must support the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations this month or risk losing the little credibility it has in the Arab world. If it does not, American influence will decline further, Israeli security will be undermined and Iran will be empowered, increasing the chances of another war in the region.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia would no longer be able to cooperate with America in the same way it historically has. With most of the Arab world in upheaval, the “special relationship” between Saudi Arabia and the United States would increasingly be seen as toxic by the vast majority of Arabs and Muslims, who demand justice for the Palestinian people.
Saudi leaders would be forced by domestic and regional pressures to adopt a far more independent and assertive foreign policy. Like our recent military support for Bahrain’s monarchy, which America opposed, Saudi Arabia would pursue other policies at odds with those of the United States, including opposing the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Iraq and refusing to open an embassy there despite American pressure to do so. The Saudi government might part ways with Washington in Afghanistan and Yemen as well.
The Palestinian people deserve statehood and all that it entails: official recognition, endorsement by international organizations, the ability to deal with Israel on more equal footing and the opportunity to live in peace and security.
Israel should see the Palestinian bid for statehood not as a threat, but as a chance to return to the negotiating table and prevent further conflict. Recent polls show that up to 70 percent of Palestinians say they believe there will be a new intifada if the deadlock is not broken shortly; this should encourage Israel to seek peace with the moderate Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
The Obama administration has had ample opportunities to lead Israelis and Palestinians into bilateral peace talks, but American policy makers have unfortunately been more preoccupied with a deteriorating domestic economy and a paralyzed political scene than with finding a workable solution to this epic injustice. Because Washington has offered no viable new proposals, the least it can do is step aside and not hinder Saudi, European and moderate Arab efforts to advance Palestinian rights at the United Nations.
Even Israeli officials have recently admitted privately to their European counterparts that only Saudi Arabia will be able to give the Palestinians the required religious, political and financial legitimacy they need to complete a deal with Israel. Saudi Arabia had earmarked over $2.5 billion in aid to the Palestinian Authority since June 2009, making it by far the largest single supporter of the Palestinian cause. But this money will not do much good until Palestinians are granted their fundamental rights.
The 2002 Arab Peace Plan must be the starting point for negotiations; a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders is the only realistic foundation on which to restart talks, seeing as how the Oslo Peace Process has proved fruitless.
The Palestinian statehood initiative is a chance to replace Oslo with a new paradigm based on state-to-state negotiations — a win-win proposition that makes the conflict more manageable and lays the groundwork for a lasting solution.
The only losers in this scenario would be Syria and Iran, pariah states that have worked tirelessly — through their support of Hamas and Hezbollah — to undermine the peace process. Saudi Arabia recently played a leading role in isolating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal government by demanding an end to the killing of protesters and recalling the Saudi ambassador from Damascus. The impending fall of Mr. Assad’s barbarous regime provides a rare strategic opportunity to weaken Iran. Without this vital ally, Tehran will find it more difficult to foment discord in the Arab world.
Today, there is a chance for the United States and Saudi Arabia to contain Iran and prevent it from destabilizing the region. But this opportunity will be squandered if the Obama administration’s actions at the United Nations force a deepening split between our two countries.
Although Saudi Arabia is willing and able to chart a new and divergent course if America fails to act justly with regard to Palestine, the Middle East would be far better served by continuing cooperation and good will between these longstanding allies.
American support for Palestinian statehood is therefore crucial, and a veto will have profound negative consequences. In addition to causing substantial damage to American-Saudi relations and provoking uproar among Muslims worldwide, the United States would further undermine its relations with the Muslim world, empower Iran and threaten regional stability. Let us hope that the United States chooses the path of justice and peace.
Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former director of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services and a former Saudi ambassador to the United States, is chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies.