Last weekend a bill was passed giving a 35% tax break to organizations“strengthening Zionism and encouraging Zionist settlement.” Though the legislation does not state the specifics of what constitutes a Zionist settlement, Haaretz’s Jonathan Lis finds, “in practice it most likely means giving assistance to organizations that promote settlement beyond the Green Line.”
The sponsor’s of the bill state:
‘In these days of constantly eroding values in general, particularly the values of Zionism and settlement, it is appropriate to return to these values their precedence and restore them to their proper place.’
Individual settlers already receive a number of government subsidies through the states “Investment Incentives and Benefits”[PDF] program. Listed as National Priorities Areas, these incentives include:
[I]n housing, by enabling settlers to purchase quality, inexpensive apartments, with an automatic grant of a subsidized mortgage; wide-ranging benefits in education, such as free education from age three, extended school days, free transportation to schools, and higher teachers’ salaries; for industry and agriculture, by grants and subsidies, and indemnification for the taxes imposed on their produce by the European Union; in taxation, by imposing taxes significantly lower than in communities inside the Green Line, and by providing larger balancing grants to the settlements, to aid in covering deficits.
The new legislation differs from the existing benefits by offering tax breaks to organizations, or settlement community associations, rather than individuals; it’s a small kick to help speed up and funnel Israelis into settlements.
(mondoweiss.net / 17.02.2012)
The *FREE ARAB VOICE* July 22, 2000
In 1982 the Hebrew-language magazine Kivunim (Directions), the official organ of the World Zionist Organization published an important article entitled, "A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties". The Editor of Kivunim is Yoram Beck, Head of Publications, Department of Information, of the World Zionist Organization. Also on the Editorial Committee of Kivunim is Amnon Hadary, a member of the Palmach during the 1948 atrocities. Israel Shahak, professor of organic chemistry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and chairman of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights translated the article into English and wrote the following foreword to it. It was published in 1982 as a pamphlet by the Association of Arab-American University graduates. Professor Shahak states: The following essay represents, in my opinion, the accurate and detailed plan of the present Zionist regime for the Middle East which is based on the division of the whole area into small states, and the dissolution of all the existing Arab states. I will comment on the military aspect of this plan in a concluding note. Here I want to draw the attention of the readers to several important points: 1 . The idea that all the Arab states should be broken down, by Israel, into small units, occurs again and again in Israeli strategic thinking. For example, Ze'ev Schiff, the military correspondent of Ha'aretz (and probably the most knowledgeable in Israel, on this topic) writes about the best that can happen for Israeli interests in Iraq : "The dissolution of Iraq into a Shi'ite state, a Sunni state and the separation of the Kurdish part" (Ha'aretz, 2/6/1982). Actually this aspect of the plan is very old. 2. The strong connection with neo-Conservative thought in the USA is very prominent, especially in the author's notes. But, while lip service is paid to the idea of the defense of the West from Soviet power, the real aim of the author, and of the present Israeli establishment is clear: To make an imperial Israel into a world power. In other words, the aim of Sharon is to deceive the Americans after be has deceived all the rest. 3. It is obvious that much of the relevant data, both in the notes and in the text, is garbled or omitted, such as the financial help of the US to Israel. Much of it is pure fantasy. But, the plan is not to be regarded as not influential or as not capable of realization for a short time. The plan follows faithfully the geopolitical ideas current in Germany of 1890-1933, which were swallowed whole by Hitler and the Nazi movement, and determined their aims for East Europe. Those aims, especially the division of the existing states, were carried out in 1939-1941, and only an alliance on the global scale prevented their consolidation for a period of time. Israel Shahak Kivunim's plan states that all the Arab states are fragmented as follows: "The Arab Muslim world, therefore, is not the major strategic problem which we shall face in the Eighties, despite the fact that it carries the main threat against Israel, due to its growing military might. This world, with its ethnic minorities, its factions and internal crises, which is astonishingly self-destructive, as we can see in Lebanon, in non-Arab Iran and now also in Syria, is unable to deal successfully with its fundamental problems and does not therefore constitute a real threat against the State of Israel in the long run, but only in the short run where its immediate military power has great import. In the long run, this world will be unable to exist within its present framework in the areas around us without having to go through genuine revolutionary changes. The Moslem Arab World is built like a temporary house of cards put together by foreigners (France and Britain in the Nineteen Twenties), without the wishes and desires of the inhabitants having been taken into account. It was arbitrarily divided into 19 states, all made of combinations of minorities and ethnic groups which are hostile to one another, so that every Arab Moslem state nowadays faces ethnic social destruction from within, and in some a civil war is already raging. Most of the Arabs, ll8 million out of 170 million, live in Africa, mostly in Egypt (45 million today). Maghreb States: Apart from Egypt, all the Maghreb states are made up of a mixture of Arabs and non-Arab Berbers. In Algeria there is already a civil war raging in the Kabile mountains between the two nations in the country. Morocco and Algeria are at war with each other over Spanish Sahara, in addition to the internal struggle in each of them. Militant Islam endangers the integrity of Tunisia and Qaddafi organizes wars which are destructive from the Arab point of view, from a country which is sparsely populated and which cannot become a powerful nation. That is why he has been attempting unifications in the past with states that are more genuine, like Egypt and Syria. Sudan: Sudan, the most torn apart state in the Arab Moslem world today is built upon four groups hostile to each other, an Arab Muslim Sunni minority which rules over majority of non-Arab Africans, Pagans and Christians. Egypt: In Egypt there is a Sunni Muslim majority facing a large minority of Christians which is dominant in upper Egypt: some 7 million of them, so that even Sadat, in his speech on May 8, expressed the fear that they will want a state of their own. something like a second Christian Lebanon in Egypt. Syria: All the Arab States east of Israel are torn apart, broken up and riddled with inner conflict even more than those of the Maghreb. Syria is fundamentally no different from Lebanon except in the strong military regime which rules it. But the real civil war taking place nowadays between the Sunni majority and the Shi'ite Alawi ruling minority (a mere 12 % of the population) testifies to the severity of the domestic trouble. Iraq: Iraq is, once again, no different in essence from its neighbors, although its majority is Shi'ite and the ruling minority Sunni. Sixty-five percent of the population has no say in politics, in which an elite of 20 percent holds the power. In addition there is a large Kurdish minority in the north, and if it weren't for the strength of the ruling regime, the army and the oil revenues, Iraq's future state would be no different than that of Lebanon in the past or of Syria today. The seeds of inner conflict and civil war are apparent today already, especially after the rise of Khomeini to power in Iran, a leader whom the Shi'ites in Iraq view as their natural leader. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and North Yemen: All the Gulf principalities and Saudi Arabia are built upon a delicate house of sand in which there is only oil. In Kuwait, the Kuwaitis constitute only a quarter of the population. In Bahrain, the Shi'ites are the majority but are deprived of power. In the United Arab Emirates, Shi'ites are once again the majority but the Sunnis are in power. The same is true of Oman and North Yemen. Even in the Marxist South Yemen there is a sizable Shi'ite minority. In Saudi Arabia half the population is foreign, Egyptian and Yemenite, but a Saudi minority holds power. Jordan: Jordan is in reality Palestinian, ruled by a TransJordanian Bedouin minority, but most of the army and certainly the bureaucracy is now Palestinian. As a matter of fact Amman is as Palestinian as Nablus. All of these countries have powerful armies, relatively speaking. But there is a problem there too. The Syrian army today is mostly Sunni with an Alawi officer corps, the Iraqi army Shi'ite with Sunni commanders. This has great significance in the long run, and that is why it will not be possible to retain the loyalty of the army for a long time except where it comes to the only common denominator: the hostility towards Israel, and today even that is insufficient." Israel's plan by Kivunim: OPPORTUNITIES FOR ISRAEL TO IMPLEMENT ITS PLAN "A sad and very stormy situation surrounds Israel and creates challenges for it, problems, risks but also far-reaching opportunities for the first time since 1967. Chances are that opportunities missed at that time will become achievable in the Eighties to an extent and along dimensions which we cannot even imagine today. The peace policy and the return of territories, through a dependence upon the US, precludes the realization of the new option created for us. Since 1967, all the governments of Israel have tied our national aims down to narrow political needs, on the one hand, and on the other to destructive opinions at home which neutralized our capacities both at home and abroad. Failing to take steps towards the Arab population in the new territories, acquired in the course of a war forced upon us, is the major strategic error committed by Israel on the morning after the Six Day War. We could have saved ourselves all the bitter and dangerous conflict since then if we had given Jordan to the Palestinians who live west of the Jordan river. By doing that we would have neutralized the Palestinian problem which we nowadays face, and to which we have found solutions that are really no solutions at all, such as territorial compromise or autonomy which amount, in fact, to the same thing. Today we suddenly face immense opportunities for transforming the situation thoroughly and this we must do in the coming decade otherwise we shall not survive as a state." PLAN TO RECONQUER SINAI PENINSULA 0F EGYPT "Regaining the Sinai peninsula with its present and potential resources is therefore a political priority which is obstructed by the Camp David and the peace agreements. The fault for that lies of course with the present Israeli government and the governments which paved the road to the policy of territorial compromise, the Alignment governments since 1967. The Egyptians will not need to keep the peace treaty after the return of the Sinai and they will do all they can to return to the fold of the Arab world and to the USSR in order to gain support and military assistance. American aid is guaranteed only for a short while, for the terms of the peace and the weakening of the US both at home and abroad will bring about a reduction in aid. Without oil and the income from it, with the present enormous expenditure, we will not be able to get through 1982 under the present conditions and we will have to act in order to return the situation to the status quo which existed in Sinai prior to Sadat's visit and the mistaken peace agreement signed with him in March 1979. Israel will not unilaterally break the treaty, neither today, nor in 1982, unless it is very hard pressed economically and politically and Egypt provides Israel with the excuse to take the Sinai back into our hands for the fourth time in our short history. What is left, therefore, is the indirect option. The economic situation in Egypt, the nature of the regime and its pan-Arab policy, will bring about a situation after April 1982 in which Israel will be forced to act directly or indirectly in order to regain control over Sinai as a strategic, economic and energy reserve for the long run. Egypt does not constitute a military strategic problem due to its internal conflicts and it could be driven back to the post 1967 war situation in no more than one day." Israel's plans to fragment the Arab States are outlined "Egypt: Egypt, in its present domestic political picture, is already a corpse, all the more so if we take into account the growing Muslim-Christian rift. Breaking Egypt down territorially into distinct geographical regions is the political aim of Israel in the Nineteen Eighties on its Western front. Egypt is divided and torn apart into many foci of authority. If Egypt falls apart, countries like Libya, Sudan or even the more distant states will not continue to exist in their present form and will join the downfall and dissolution of Egypt. The vision of a Christian Coptic State in upper Egypt alongside a number of weak states with very localized power and without a centralized movement as to date, is the key to a historical development which was only set back by the peace agreement but which seems inevitable in the long run. Lebanon: Lebanon's total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precedent for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian peninsula and is already following that track. The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel's primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target. Syria: Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon so that there will be a Shi'ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the Aleppo area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor, and the Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan, and certainly in the Hauran and in northern Jordan. This state of affairs will be the guarantee for peace and security in the area in the long run, and that aim is already within our reach today. Iraq: Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel's targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against us. Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi'ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north. It is possible that the present Iranian-Iraqi confrontation will deepen this polarization. Saudi Arabia: The entire Arabian peninsula is a natural candidate for dissolution due to internal and external pressures, and the matter is inevitable especially in Saudi Arabia. Regardless of whether its economic might based on oil remains intact or whether it is diminished in the long run, the internal rifts and breakdowns are a clear and natural development in light of the present political structure. Jordan: Jordan constitutes an immediate strategic target in the short run but not in the long run, for it does not constitute a real threat in the long run after its dissolution, the termination of the lengthy rule of King Hussein and the transfer of power to the Palestinians in the short run. There is no chance that Jordan will continue to exist in its present structure for a long time, and Israel´s policy, both in war and in peace, ought to be directed at the liquidation of Jordan under the present regime and the transfer of power to the Palestinian majority. Changing the regime east of the river will also cause the termination of the problem of the territories densely populated with Arabs west of the Jordan. Whether in war or under conditions of peace, emigration from the territories and economic demographic freeze in them, are the guarantees for the coming change on both banks of the river, and we ought to be active in order to accelerate this process in the nearest future. The autonomy plan ought also to be rejected, as well as any compromise or division of the territories for, given the plans of the PLO and those of the Israeli Arabs themselves, the Shefa'amr plan of September 1980, it is not possible to go on living in this country in the present situation without separating the two nations, the Arabs to Jordan and the Jews to the areas west of the river. Genuine co-existence and peace will reign over the land only when the Arabs understand that without Jewish rule between the Jordan and the sea they will have neither existence nor security. A nation of their own and security will be theirs only in Jordan. Within Israel the distinction between the areas of '67 and the territories beyond them, those of ´48, has always been meaningless for Arabs and nowadays no longer has any significance for us. The problem should be seen in its entirety without any divisions as of '67. It should be clear, under any future political situation or military constellation, that the solution of the problem of the indigenous Arabs will come only when they recognize the existence of Israel in secure borders up to the Jordan river and beyond it, as our existential need in this difficult epoch, the nuclear epoch which we shall soon enter. It is no longer possible to live with three-fourths of the Jewish population on the dense shoreline which is so dangerous in a nuclear epoch. Dispersal of the population is therefore a domestic strategic aim of the highest order; otherwise, we shall cease to exist within any borders. Judea, Samaria and the Galilee are our sole guarantee for national existence, and if we do not become the majority in the mountain areas, we shall not rule in the country and we shall be like the Crusaders, who lost this country which was not theirs anyhow, and in which they were foreigners to begin with. Rebalancing the country demographically, strategically and economically is the highest and most central aim today. Taking hold of the mountain watershed from Beersheba to the Upper Galilee is the national aim generated by the major strategic consideration which is settling the mountainous part of the country that is empty of Jews today." (www.freearabvoice.org / 17.02.2012)
17 February 2012
Are you a young Palestinian refugee? Do you have an idea for a short film? We are now accepting submissions for our 3rd annual film competition. This year’s theme is: My Spring is Coming.
One year on, where has the “Arab Spring” left Palestine refugees?
- 2 – 5 minute film
- Film must reflect on this year’s theme in an original and creative way
- Filmmaker must be younger than 25 years
- Closing date for submissions is 18 May 2012
- 1st prize: USD 1,200
- 2nd prize: USD 800
- 3rd prize: USD 400
- 4th prize: USD 150
All prize-winning films will be screened at an event to mark World Refugee Day, along with the honourable mentions.
Submission of entries
- Complete the online entry form.
- Send a CD of your film in an avi or mpeg format to the closestUNRWA public information office.
- Include a playable DVD region 2 (not video file) of your film with your submission.
Submissions to UNRWA field offices should be placed in an envelope marked “Public Information Office: Film Competition”.
All films must reach UNRWA by Monday 18 May 2012. All materials submitted must be original and produced for the purpose of this competition and not screened elsewhere.
If you have any questions, please email email@example.com
Online entry form
All fields are mandatory.
|Name(s) of filmmaker(s)||
Date of birth
Length of film
Year of production
Independent Training workshop Film school or college
This film competition is made possible through a generous contribution from the European Union.
(unrwa.org/filmcompetition / 17.02.2012)
JERUSALEM (Reuters) — Thousands of Palestinians in Israel demonstrated against Syrian President Bashar Assad on Friday, calling for him to step down and end his violent suppression of a nationwide revolt.
Chanting “Bashar Assad leave” and “Let the people live”, protesters in the northern town of Kafr Kanna set fire to posters of the Syrian president.
Assad has shown no sign of easing his campaign to stamp out an 11-month uprising against his rule. His forces on Friday resumed attacks on opposition strongholds in the city of Homs, which has now been under fire for two weeks.
The United Nations says more than 5,400 civilians have been killed in the uprising and the UN General Assembly on Thursday told Assad to stop the violence and surrender power.
Syrian authorities say they are fighting foreign-backed “terrorists”.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday he expected Assad to fall “within weeks”.
Last month Israel’s army chief Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz said the country was preparing to take refugees from Assad’s minority Alawite sect into the Golan Heights, in the event of the president’s downfall.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. Despite the fact that the two countries have never made peace, the Golan frontier has largely been quiet.
(www.maannews.net / 17.02.2012)
A sustainable energy program in ‘Area C’ of rural West Bank is being threatened by Israeli authorities. The program, which recently installed solar panels and wind turbines in 16 communities, is providing 1,500 Palestinians with electricity — who were formerly without reliable energy.
The foreign aid program, thus far successful, has become a new target for Israel as it threatens to demolish the structures that supposedly lie within Israeli ‘administration’.
* * *
Der Spiegel reports:
The best part is when the lights in the tents go on, one by one, says Elad Orian. Electricity here, in the hills south of Hebron, was long unreliable. Either it was not available or it was too expensive, produced for just a few hours each day by a noisy, diesel-guzzling generator. That changed when Elad Orian and Noam Dotan, two Israeli physicians who had tired of conflict, came along three years ago and installed solar panels and erected wind turbines. Since then, such facilities have been installed in 16 communities, providing 1,500 Palestinians with electricity. [...]
The success, though, could soon be a thing of the past. Israel has threatened to tear them down with five municipalities in recent weeks having received “stop work” orders — the first step on the road to demolition. The problem is that the facilities are in the so-called Area C, which covers 60 percent of the West Bank and is administered by Israel. Permission from the Israelis is a requirement before construction projects can move ahead — and permits are almost never given to Palestinians. [...]
European diplomats in Ramallah and Tel Aviv suspect that the demolition orders are a reaction to a recently drafted, unusually critical EU report on the situation in Area C. It states: “The window for a two-state solution is closing rapidly with the continued expansion of Israeli settlements.” The conclusion: The EU needs to target investment in economic development and improved living conditions of Palestinians in Area C. [...]
“What can you do if there are impediments to development, such as an undefined de-development policy?” says Tsafrir Cohen, Middle East coordinator of Medico International, which supported two of the systems.
A few months ago, a similar project co-financed by the Spanish government was scheduled for demolition, something which has been prevented thus far through massive diplomatic pressure.
Projects funded by foreign aid organizations or the EU have often been destroyed in the past, the best known example being the Gaza airport, financed with $38 million from the EU only to be destroyed by Israeli bombs a short time after its construction. Generally, though, the demolitions have been the result of security concerns. The fact that harmless solar cells — installations which are funded by allied countries to provide basic humanitarian needs — are at risk of demolition is a new development. [...]
Hundreds of people live in the village, and they are the poorest of the poor. A community of shepherds, they moved freely through the area until Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967. Since then, they have settled, collecting rain water during the winter and buying expensive drinking water brought in by a truck along a gravel track in the summer. A well-maintained road to the settlement doesn’t exist, despite the fact that Shaab al-Buttum lies between two Israeli outposts. The settlements are illegal, but miraculously they have all the basics their Palestinian neighbors are missing: electricity, water and roads.
* * *
Ma’an News reports:
In recent months, the army issued demolition warnings against six solar and wind power systems in the South Hebron Hills, which were funded by European governments and development groups.
“What can you do if there are impediments to development, such as an undefined de-development policy?” says Tsafrir Cohen, Middle East coordinator of Medico International, which supported two of the systems.
Known locally as Masafer Yatta, the communities lie almost entirely in Area C, the 62 percent of the West Bank under full Israel civil and security control since the 1993 Oslo Accords. [...]
Cohen says if Medico International abandons development work in Area C, moving to Palestinian Authority-controlled areas where permits are not a problem, they would do little more than “painting the walls of Bantustans.”
“We cannot just facilitate a nice jail cell, and a system where people don’t have rights.” [...]
Threats to demolish vital village resources are intended to “silently move us from the land,” village council head Ali Muhammad Ali Heirezat says. “We have been here since 1948, and we don’t have another place to go.”
* * *
Several West Bank villages had been without electricity for years. Not long ago, however, international funding and an Israeli foundation made it possible to erect solar panels and wind turbines. In total, 16 communities with 1,500 residents have benefited. Here, a woman in the West Bank village of Susya.
(www.commondreams.org / 17.02.2012)
Abu Markhiyah coordinated public efforts to put out the bus fire and rescued at least 24 kids
- Image Credit: Nasouh Nazzal, Gulf News
- Speaking to Gulf News, Abu Markhiyah who owns a tyre fixing shop in Ramallah said the ragging fire, which broke in the bus, “did not give us a chance to reach the kids inside the bus. We had first to put the fire off and then reach the kids.”
Ramallah: Salem Abdullah Abu Markhiyah, who was called by the families of the dead and injured kids a national hero, was badly beaten by the Israeli military forces and hospitalised, and once he is released from the hospital, he should meet the Israeli police for investigation.
Abu Markhiyah who is originally from the city of Hebron was the first on the accident scene while he was on his way to his work, coordinated the public efforts to put the fire which raged in the bus off and rescued at least 24 kids from the bus.
Speaking to Gulf News, Abu Markhiyah who owns a tyre fixing shop in Ramallah said the ragging fire, which broke in the bus, “did not give us a chance to reach the kids inside the bus. We had first to put the fire off and then reach the kids.”
“We used the fire extinguishers of our private cars. We were also lucky with the heavy rain and the water which made a wadi on the street,” he stressed, with some volunteers felling containers from the street water and pouring on the bus.
“Some kids with a miracle managed to get off the bus sustaining minor injuries, but the majority of them were trapped inside,” he said. “Once the fire was initially put under control, I managed to get inside the bus where I personally cleared eight burned bodies of the little ones,” he said.
“Israel and Israeli occupation forces are fully held responsible for this tragedy. They have acted in a mean way showing no humanity at all,” he said.
“The Jaba’a Israeli Military Checkpoint was less than100 meters from the accident scene, with the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint watching a couple of people with no tools and collecting water from the ground to help the crying and shouting little kids,” he said.
The Israeli colony of Adam was also less than 200 meters away from the accident scene, but they never acted to help in putting the fire off and save the little ones onboard.
(gulfnews.com / 17.02.2012)
ANKARA (Reuters) — NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Western alliance had no intention of intervening in Syria even in the event of a UN mandate to protect civilians, and urged Middle East countries to find a way to end the spiralling violence.
Rasmussen told Reuters on Friday he also rejected the possibility of providing logistical support for proposed “humanitarian corridors” to ferry relief to towns and cities bearing the brunt of President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
“We have no intention whatsoever to intervene in Syria,” Rasmussen said in an interview, during a visit to mark the 60th anniversary of Turkey joining the alliance.
While NATO had acted under a United Nations mandate to protect civilians in Libya and had also received active support from several fellow Arab countries, neither condition had been fulfilled in Syria.
Asked if NATO’s stance would change if the United Nations provided a mandate, Rasmussen was doubtful.
“No, I don’t think so because Syria is also a differrent society, it is much more complicated ethnically, politically, religiously. That’s why I do believe that a regional solution should be found,” he said.
Thousands of civilians have been killed by Syrian security forces since an uprising against Assad’s rule began last March. The government says more than 2,000 soldiers and police have been killed by foreign-backed “terrorists”.
International powers along with the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Arab League will meet in Tunis on Feb. 24 as part of a newly-created “Friends of Syria Group” to look for a way out of a crisis that has raised fears of wider sectarian strife between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims.
Turkey, a Muslim NATO member bordering Syria, along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, has been at the forefront of regional efforts to persuade Assad to end the brutal repression and give way to protesters’ demands for more democracy and freedom.
Earlier this month, China and Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Syria that was partly based on an Arab League plan, prompting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to accuse major powers of regarding Syria as a “bargaining chip.”
Iran is the Assad government’s other main source of support. Turkey has sought to play the role of “honest broker” between its Western partners and neighbouring Iran, over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme.
Iran was irked by Turkey’s agreement to host a NATO anti-missile radar defence system.
And concern has been voiced inside Turkey over the possibility that information provided by the radar system could be passed to Israel. Rasmussen sought to dispel such concerns.
“It is a NATO system and the data within that system will not be shared with third countries. It is a NATO system and of course we will share data within the NATO framework,” he said.
Having championed the cause for a Palestinian state, Turkey is now on bad terms with Israel, which is a regional partner of NATO, while not a member.
(www.maannews.net / 17.02.2012)