Olmert brags about Israeli veto over US policies.

In a speech Mr Olmert gave in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, he recounted how he had “shamed” the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by forcing her to abstain from the UN Security Council Resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, a resolution that she had helped steer towards a vote.

Israel’s Arab political parties banned from upcoming election

At a cabinet meeting on Sunday, the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said: “Israel is nearing its goal [of changing] the security situation in the south so that our citizens can experience security and stability in the long term. We must not, at the last minute, squander what has been achieved in this unprecedented national effort that has restored a spirit of unity to our nation.”

Absent from that spirit are Israel’s Arab political parties and as a consequence they have been banned from Israel’s upcoming elections, The Associated Press reported.

After the 27-member Central Elections Committee reached its decision, Member of the Knesset, Ahmad Tibi, from the United Arab List-Ta’al told MK David Tal (Kadima), “You went to war as an elections campaign strategy. Every vote for Kadima is a bullet in the chest of a Palestinian child.” The Balad chairman, Jamal Zahalka, told the Kadima member: “You drink Palestinian blood. You are a racist.”

Mr Tibi later told the press in response to the decision that “this is a racist country. We are accustomed to these types of struggles and we will win,” Ynet said.

In a speech Mr Olmert gave in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, he recounted how he had “shamed” the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by forcing her to abstain from the UN Security Council Resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, a resolution that she had helped steer towards a vote.

Mr Olmert made it clear that Israel would find it completely unacceptable for the United States to vote in favour of a resolution that Israel opposed.

“In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the secretary of state wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favour,” Olmert said.

“I said ‘get me President Bush on the phone’. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in Philadelphia. I said I didn’t care. ‘I need to talk to him now’. He got off the podium and spoke to me.

“I told him the United States could not vote in favour. It cannot vote in favour of such a resolution. He immediately called the secretary of state and told her not to vote in favour,” AFP reported.

Whether it was Mr Olmert’s intention to indicate that the government of Israel dictates US policy, or whether he was reminiscing about the special relationship he has enjoyed with Mr Bush, or whether he was signalling to the president-elect Obama Israel’s expectations for the future, was unclear.

An editorial in The Jerusalem Post with the headline “Israel goes it alone,” clearly expressed Israel’s current disdain for international opinion.

“The world must be wondering, 17 days into Operation Cast Lead, why it is taking so long for Jerusalem to cave into pressure for a ceasefire in Gaza. From the UN Security Council, that renowned bastion of international probity, and the constellation of Muslim, Arab and non-aligned states to our unwavering European allies, the international community – and much of the media – wants Israel to stop fighting.

“We Israelis can hear these erstwhile friends in Europe and the media saying: ‘Everybody is wrong, and you alone are right?‘ ”

And that indeed was the editorial’s conclusion: the rest of the world is wrong; Israel is right.

“Israel would have preferred to act with the support of those who claim to back our right to self-defense. In a cynical world, Israel must press ahead without it.”

In the International Herald Tribune, Ethan Bronner reported: “Israel, which is often a fractured, bickering society, has turned in the past couple of weeks into a paradigm of unity and mutual support, and people are feeling unusually good about one another. Flags are flying high. Celebrities are visiting schoolchildren in at-risk areas, soldiers are praising the equipment and camaraderie of their army units, neighbours are worried about families whose fathers are in reserve duty. Ask people anywhere how they feel about the army’s ban on journalists going into Gaza and the response is, ‘Let the army do its job’.

“It is true that with more than 900 reported dead in Gaza, many of them civilians, there are voices of concern that the war may be outliving its value. Worry over the risk to Israeli troops and even steeper civilian casualties as the ground war escalates have produced calls to declare victory and pull out.

“But that is still a distinctly minority view. Polls show nearly 90 per cent support for the war thus far, and street interviews confirm that Israelis not only favour it but do so strongly. The country’s leaders, while seeking an arrangement to stop Hamas’s ability to rearm, do not want a face-saving agreement. They want one that works or they want to continue the war until Hamas has either lost its rockets or its will to fire them.”

Meanwhile, reporting for The Independent from Gaza City, Fares Akram described the anguish of those, including himself and Alaa his wife who is nine months pregnant, as they are now forced to flee their homes.

“I used to say we would never leave our home, but when you see everyone else on the move, how can you stay? Barely a week since my father was killed by an Israeli air strike on our small northern Gaza farm as the ground invasion began, we were facing another terrible dilemma. I thought of the Samouni family, killed last week while sheltering in a house together, and decided we had to go.

“I took Alaa’s jewellery, my laptop and phone, my notes and papers, and some clothes. My mother, sisters and their children drove away to take shelter at my sister’s house. I walked with the people in the street.

“Leaving your home like this is pitiful; you feel almost ashamed. But there’s no mercy with the Israelis in this operation. Previously, they weren’t so harsh on civilians. But now, although they say they target Hamas, it seems they target anyone.”

The Israeli historian, Illan Pappe wrote: “The Palestinians in Israel have shown their solidarity with the people of Gaza and are now branded as a fifth column in the Jewish state; their right to remain in their homeland cast as doubtful given their lack of support for the Israeli aggression. Those among them who agree – wrongly, in my opinion – to appear in the local media are interrogated, and not interviewed, as if they were inmates in the Shin Bet’s prison. Their appearance is prefaced and followed by humiliating racist remarks and they are met with accusations of being a fifth column, an irrational and fanatical people. And yet this is not the basest practice. There are a few Palestinian children from the occupied territories treated for cancer in Israeli hospitals. God knows what price their families have paid for them to be admitted there. The Israel Radio daily goes to the hospital to demand the poor parents tell the Israeli audience how right Israel is in its attack and how evil is Hamas in its defence.

“There are no boundaries to the hypocrisy that a righteous fury produces. The discourse of the generals and the politicians is moving erratically between self-compliments of the humanity the army displays in its ‘surgical’ operations on the one hand, and the need to destroy Gaza for once and for all, in a humane way of course, on the other.

“This righteous fury is a constant phenomenon in the Israeli, and before that Zionist, dispossession of Palestine. Every act whether it was ethnic cleansing, occupation, massacre or destruction was always portrayed as morally just and as a pure act of self-defence reluctantly perpetrated by Israel in its war against the worst kind of human beings. In his excellent volume The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics and Scholarship in Israel, Gabi Piterberg explores the ideological origins and historical progression of this righteous fury. Today in Israel, from Left to Right, from Likud to Kadima, from the academia to the media, one can hear this righteous fury of a state that is more busy than any other state in the world in destroying and dispossessing an indigenous population.”

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