Kadima Rejects Netanyahu's Offer

Kadima, led by former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, declined the offer to form a national unity government made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling the offer "cynical and unrealistic." Last week, PM Netanyahu surprised Livni with an offer to form a broad-based coalition government that would have given Kadima, the largest party in the Israeli Knesset with 28 seats, four unspecified cabinets posts. Netanyahu cited existential threats to the state of Israel in making the offer but most Israeli political observers suggested that the offer was a ploy to hasten the fracture of the centrist Kadima party, the largest opposition party.

More from Al Jazeera:

Kadima, Israel's main opposition party, has voted against joining the ruling coalition after an offer from Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, last week.

Yohanan Plasner, a Kadima MP, said that the offer had been unanimously rejected on Monday by the party's parliamentary group.

"The prime minister's proposal as relayed to the Kadima chairman does not express an honest desire for such partnership," Plasner said.

"A unity government has many advantages, but a national unity should not be an empty expression, but a commitment for a real partnership with a joint vision and principles and an agreed way to materialise these principles," he said.

Tzipi Livni, the Kadima leader, said that Netanyahu's offer was "cynical and unrealistic".

She said that the offer was an attempt to use Israel's international relations issues for "small-time politics", adding such behaviour was "unworthy of the prime minister".

I should note that Livni has been facing an internal party challenge from Shaul Mofaz, the former Transportation Minister in the Olmert government. According to Ha'aretz, Mofaz is backing Livni on the rejection saying that "Netanyahu's offer, as it appears today, is arrogant and unrealistic. This arrogance is not a good quality for a leader; I tell Netanyahu today what I told Livni a few days ago: Arrogance is not a substitute for leadership."

Meanwhile poor Bibi is playing the role of a jilted lover. The Prime Minister's office released a short statement: "Netanyahu was saddened to hear that the Kadima faction, headed by Tzipi Livni, refused his offer and refused to broaden the national unity government. In light of the challenges Israel is currently facing, the prime minister had hoped that Kadima's stance would be different."

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Egypt permits Viva Palestina convoy Gaza entry UPDATES Hedy on hunger strike

Updates in order from the latest.

UPDATE: Egypt to permit entry of Viva Palestina convoy into Gaza. No word on Gaza Freedom March participants stuck in Cairo

George Galloway, British MP and convoy leader, reporting.

UPDATE: 'Israel is the persecutor,' says Holocaust survivor on hunger strike for Gaza...Daily Star, Dec 29

CAIRO: An 85-year-old Holocaust survivor entered the second day of her hunger strike on Tuesday, in protest over the Egyptian government’s refusal to allow an international Palestinian solidarity march to enter the Gaza Strip. American peace activist Hedy Epstein came to Cairo as part of an international delegation with participants from 43 countries. The delegation had planned to join Palestinians in a non-violent march from Northern Gaza toward the Erez border with Israel, calling for the end of the blockade on Gaza on the anniversary of the Israeli invasion last December. Egyptian authorities have refused to allow any of the 1,300 protesters entry into Gaza, prompting Epstein and many others to go on hunger strike.

“There comes a time in one’s life when one has to step up and risk one’s own body,” she told The Daily Star. “We’re in a desperate situation here, but not as desperate as the people in Gaza.”


Leaving No Stone Unturned for the Freedom March to Get to Gaza...Alternet, Dec 29

Jodie Evans, Cairo

On the Egyptian government's stonewalling passage for the Gaza Freedom March, Evans writes: "We hope the Egyptians get so annoyed they just want to get rid of us.

Before leaving the states, CODEPINK reached out to Mrs. Mubarak, wife of Egyptian premiere Hosni Mubarak about the Gaza Freedom March, and the government’s denial of our passage to Gaza. She had interceded on our behalf when we were having the same experience with the Egyptian Government in March, when they refused to let our buses take us to Al Arish, as they did this morning at 7 a.m. In March, we were all able to enter and deliver the thousands of pink baskets of aid to the women of Gaza for International Women’s Day.

This morning, I went to Mrs. Mubarak’s offices at the Women’s International Peace Movement to ask for her help again in opening the border of Gaza for our delegation. Her program manager was quite helpful and delivered a copy of the email thousands had been sending all weekend from the states, translated into Arabic.


Emails from the Viva Palestina convoy back in Syria.

1) Dec 29. Dejavu. we’re back at the hotel we stayed at in Damascus. thanx to EGY monkeying for Israel, we’ve had to do a roundabout. what’s nice is hotel people still giving us warm welcome despite 2nd time visiting and mission still not accomplished. we’re all absolutely beat. drove for 12 hours today from Aqaba to Damascus. people still checking in. unlikely to know details re sailing till tomorrow. we can either sail from SYR or LEB. so we’ll see. it’s really, really sad how the biggest losers in all this are the PLEs. we got all these medicine that need to get delivered, some have expiry dates. so sad. so so sad… friends here bitching, can’t get onto Facebook. SYR blocks Facebook and Blogspot i mean Blogger – @juanajaafar

2) Dec 30. Just finished meeting. Convoy leavcing Damascus at noon for port! Yay!

UPDATE: Egypt trying to have it both ways.

Egypt to allow 100 protesters into Gazafrom Samer al-Atrush (AFP) – 4 hours ago

CAIRO — Protest leaders stranded in Cairo accepted an Egyptian offer on Tuesday to allow only 100 out of about 1,300 protesters into blockaded Gaza after the activists staged demonstrations and a hunger strike. The decision split delegates from more than 40 countries who came to Cairo planning to reach the Palestinian enclave, which shares the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

Some organisers said Egypt's offer was a victory after it initially refused to allow any of the protesters into the Gaza Strip for the Gaza Freedom March, which is scheduled to take place on Thursday. "It's a partial victory," said Medea Benjamin, an American activist and one of the demonstrations organisers. "It shows that mass pressure has an effect."

The offer, however, angered many of the activists. A French organiser rejected it as divisive and said the sit-in in front of the French embassy would continue. "This just gives the Egyptian government a photo-up and the chance say we allowed people through," said Bassem Omar, a Canadian protester. Activists left behind in Cairo said they planned further protests.

LINK: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gKc9Qmw6xY4YDWIVeTl0ZN_kS0TA

Other recent reports (for links go here: http://www.gazafreedommarch.org/article.php?id=5234)

Dec. 30: 'Israel is the persecutor,' says Holocaust survivor on hunger strike for Gaza, Daily Star Dec. 29: Egypt to allow 100 protesters into Gaza! AFP News Dec. 29: Under International Pressure, Egypt Yields Ground to Gaza Freedom March, Huffington Post Dec. 29: Gaza hunger strikes: 'Gorgeous' George, a Holocaust granny, and angry Frenchmen, The Christian Science Monitor Dec. 29: Activists Blocked From Planned March to Support Gaza, NYTIMES Dec. 29: Egypt cracks down on foreign protesters heading to Gaza Strip, The Christian Science Monitor Dec. 29: Sam Husseini Blog from the March Dec. 29: Hedy Epstein and others begin hunger strike to pressure Egypt on Gaza, Mondoweiss Dec. 29: Freedom Marching in Circles While Winding Our Way to Gaza, By Emily Ratner Dec. 29: Gaza Freedom March Members Gain a Small Taste of the Palestinian Experience, Huffington Post Dec. 29: North Texans head to Middle East in hopes of joining Gaza Freedom March, Fort Worth Star Telegram Dec. 29: Hundreds attend Toronto Gaza Freedom March,Rabble.ca Dec. 29: UN Is Silent as Egypt Bans Press From Protest of UN in Cairo, Gaza Freedom March, Inner City Press Dec. 28: US Press Ignores Egyptian Suppression of Gaza Freedom March, OpEd News Dec. 28: GAZA: ONE YEAR ON: 'Israel resembles a failed state' , AlJazeera Dec. 28: Activists Blocked From Planned March to Support Gaza, NY TIMES Dec. 28: Louisvillians among Gaza supporters blocked in Egypt, Courier-Journal Dec. 28: Gaza Freedom March: Disappointment, Flux and Vigils on the Nile, Huffington Post Dec. 28: French protesters demand transport to Gaza Dec. 28: BLOG: House Arrest and other News Dec. 28: Holocaust survivor stages hunger strike for Gaza, YnetNews Dec. 28: Gaza marchers on hunger strike in Egypt, BBC Dec. 28: Egypt Blocks Americans from Gaza March, Stops Aid Convoy, Huffington Post Dec. 28: Gaza: World March Facing Challenges, Islam Online Dec. 28: Norwich councillor in Gaza house arrest, Norwich Evening News Dec. 28: New Yorkers march against Israeli crimes in Gaza, Presstv Dec. 28: La solidarité toujours aussi active et vivace Dec. 28: Two Metro women fly to Gaza for protest, The Detroit News Dec. 28: Strong words only at protest, Israeli and Palestinian supporters march in T.O., TORONTO SUN Dec. 28: Ex-Rialto resident heading for Gaza, Redlands Daily Facts Dec. 28: TODAY IS THE ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE ATTACKS ON GAZA JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE"? SodaHead News Dec. 28: AZ man embarks to Gaza on mission of peace, KTAR.com Dec. 28: Gaza Freedom March: Viva la France! The Indypendent Dec. 28: Toronto GAZA Freedom March Video, Global News Dec. 28: Operation Cast Lead: Verdict, By Uri Avnery Dec. 28: Toronto Peace Activists March in Solidarity with Gaza, By Wendy Goldsmith, Rabble.Ca Dec. 27: 1300 Activists converge on Cairo: We are blocked but we will not be stopped, By Wendy Goldsmith, Rabble.Ca Dec. 27: Egyptian Authorities Harass Palestine Solidarity Activists, By Alex Kane, The Indypendent Dec. 27: French protestors camp out in front of Cairo embassy, AFP Dec. 27: Gaza Freedom Marchers Warned by Embassies, By Jillian York, Huffington Post Dec. 27: Police detain 16 leftists on Gaza border, YnetNews Dec. 27: Together, We Will Break The Siege of Gaza! Dec. 27: Will Egypt Prevent Marchers from Entering Gaza? The Liberator

UPDATE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE from Marina Barakau, Mobile: 0197412890

CAIRO, EGYPT (GFM) Dec. 29, 2009– In downtown Cairo this afternoon Gaza Freedom March (GFM) advocates, including a group of roughly 30 U.S. citizens, are being detained in three separate quarantine areas within the U.S. Embassy's Garden City compound.

A similar scene took place in front of the French Embassy in Cairo on Dec. 27, 2009. (Aishah Schwartz)

In a telephone interview with Muslimah Writers Alliance Director, Aishah Schwartz, GFM women's group organizer, Marina Barakau stated, "American citizens and 1,400 Gaza Freedom March advocates from 43 countries worldwide are demanding that the illegal siege of Gaza be lifted."

"We also ask how it is that an alleged democratic government could willingly participate in the detainment of its own citizen nationals at their own Embassy, and further demand that all due diligence be exercised in securing our immediate release," Barakau added.

Barakau stated she has also contacted the group's legal council coordinator, Sally Newman.

In the meantime, three members of the detained U.S. citizen group are meeting with U.S. officials in the Embassy's offices.


UPDATE: BREAKING: U.S. Citizens attacked by Egyptian Riot Police in Cairo in front of U.S. Embassy

Call the U.S. Embassy to demand the release of those detained/that permission is granted for the March to cross into Gaza: Telephone: 00 (202) 2797 3300.

by Cindy Sheehan, Gazafriends

Don't bother calling as the US Embassy in Cairo is apparently blocking all incoming calls. Hillary, where are you, and where is Barak?

This message came from Sydney Levy, Jewish Voice for Peace

Over 1,600 JVPers have emailed the Egyptian authorities asking to let the Gaza Freedom Marchers get into Gaza. But Egypt is not relenting. It is determined to enforce the Israeli siege on Gaza.

We are asking you to contact Egyptian authorities again. Even if you've already done it, please do it again.

Over thirteen hundred people from 42 countries are now in Egypt, and they intend to participate in the Gaza Freedom March on December 31. And yet, Egypt is denying them access to the border. These freedom marchers did not travel all the way to Egypt to tourist around in Cairo, but to express their solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza.

Hedy Epstein, the 85 year old Holocaust survivor and peace activist, announced that she is beginning a hunger strike in Cairo today as a response to the Egyptian government's refusal to allow the Gaza Freedom March participants into Gaza. Please join a one-day emergency fast on Thursday, December 31 to show solidarity with the Gaza Freedom Marchers.

Additionally, Egypt has stopped a convoy with humanitarian relief en route to Gaza. The convoy, organized by Viva Palestina, was stuck in the Jordanian port of Aqaba, and in order to satisfy Egypt's whims is now being forced to take a costly detour to the Syrian port of Latakia, and to sail from there to the Egyptian port of El Arish, and then to Gaza.

And to make matters worse, news reports confirm that Egypt is building a new separation wall at the border to stop cross-border smuggling. Unfortunately, the Israeli-imposed siege on Gaza leaves Palestinians in the Strip with no alternative but the tunnels to survive. The solution to the smuggling will come when the siege is lifted, not when it is further entrenched.

We need to stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza.

What's going on? Is it a coincidence that Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. military aid, after Israel? Or that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is visiting Egypt today?

Tell Egypt to let the marchers in and to stop the wall!


UPDATE: This communique is from US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Many people are not aware that Israel has been conducting a military occupation on the Palestinian people for over 42 years, and its only purpose is to enforce the colonization of their lands. This illegal project is the only reason the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues.

Take Action: Gaza Still Blockaded One Year after 'Cast Lead'

Last Sunday marked one year since Israel unleashed 'Operation Cast Lead' against Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip.  During this three-week attack, Israel killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, injured thousands more, and destroyed billions of dollars of Palestinian civilian infrastructure. 

Today, Israel continues to subject the 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants of the Gaza Strip to a dehumanizing blockade-an illegal act of collective punishment-that denies Palestinians adequate access to food, clean water, sanitation, electricity, and even school books and construction materials for rebuilding.

Meanwhile the international community has failed to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1860, which calls for "unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment" or hold Israel accountable for what the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict documented as violations of human rights, international law, war crimes, and possible crimes against humanity. 

For things you can do to help, click here.

In other news, while the Viva Palestina convoy heads back to Syria, there are reports of Americans being harassed by Egyptian police, cameras confiscated, as they protest in front of the US Embassy. The Gaza Freedom March participants, the nearly 1,400 of them, have been told they will not be permitted access to Gaza. And the Obama administration and State Department seem to be playing along, while the main US media remains relatively silent.

UPDATE: Until today, the Viva Palestina convoy was stuck in Jordan as Egyptian authorities were unwilling to give permission for it to enter through a Red Sea port. After intervention by Turkey, however, the convoy leaders agreed to return to Syria and then sail to the Meditteranian port of El-Arish, not far from the Gaza crossing. See the full UPDATE below.

UPDATE: Robert Naiman reporting from Cairo (Huffington Post):

Egypt Blocks Americans from Gaza March, Stops Aid Convoy

Dec 28, 2009

Cairo - The government of Egypt is taking a spectacularly hard line against international solidarity efforts in support of civilians in Gaza on the one-year anniversary of the Israeli invasion, blocking peace marchers from the U.S., Canada, and Europe from even approaching the Egyptian border with Gaza and blocking an aid convoy that has the support of the Turkish government from entering Egypt at Nuweiba. Even a peaceful protest at UN offices in Cairo was largely walled off from public view by Egyptian police.

It seems that any pretense of Egyptian government concern for the suffering of Palestinian civilians has been dropped, along with the pretense that there is anything less than 100% cooperation from Egypt and its US and European patrons with Israel's program of punishing Gaza's population for the political crime of having provided majority support to the Hamas movement in a legislative election.

Meanwhile there is largely a U.S. press blackout of these striking developments. A search of the New York Times and the Washington Post only turns up a tiny AP story on the websites of the Times and the Post.


The British-initiated aid convoy has at least been mentioned by the BBC, but NPR has not reported on the U.S.-initiated Gaza Freedom March.

The original diary concerned Egypt's blockade of the convoy which was stuck in Aqaba, Jordan for several days, as follows:

Viva Palestina convoy stuck in Jordan

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Gaza Freedom March HUNGER STRIKE Video UPDATEx11

11th UPDATE: International Aid Convoy Members on Hunger Strike From the post below it appears that Turkey and Syria are involved in negotiations to permit the convoy into Egypt. It now clear that Egypt is just cowtowing to Israel and the US. Obama's apparent lack of involvement is disturbing.

27th December 2009

Members of the Viva Palestina international aid convoy to Gaza will begin a hunger strike at 11.25 am today (27 th) in protest at the Egyptian government's refusal to allow the convoy entry onto its soil.

Diplomatic negotiations are also taking place between the Turkish and Egyptian governments over the convoy's entry to Egypt. IHH, Turkey's main humanitarian aid agency, has 63 vehicles travelling on the convoy.

The Syrian government has also provided aid and vehicles, as has the government of Malaysia. More than 400 people from 17 countries are travelling on the 150 vehicle convoy, which is taking medical, humanitarian and educational aid to Gaza.

The convoy departed London on 6 December and have travelled nearly 3,000 miles across Europe and the Middle East. However, the convoy and its cargo of aid is now stopped in the Jordanian port town of Aqaba, having been denied entry into Egypt.

British MP, George Galloway , who is travelling with the convoy, said: 'Israel has kept Gaza under siege for three-and-half years against international law. It has not allowed aid or rebuilding materials in following its attack on Gaza earlier this year. Our convoy is determined to break the siege and take in urgently needed supplies Spirits are high in our camp in Aqaba, and we are going nowhere except to Gaza.'

It was at 11.25 am on December 27 2008, that Israel dropped its first bombs on the besieged population of Gaza. Three weeks later, following a sustained air, land and sea assault, more than 1,400 Palestinians had been killed.

The Viva Palestina hunger strikers will consume only liquids until the convoy is allowed entry into Egypt.

Convoy members will also mark the first anniversary of the beginning of Israel's Operation Cast Lead by holding a march through Aqaba, jointly with the Jordanians. In the evening, more than 1,400 candles will be lit for a vigil.

The convoy has been jointly organised by the charity Viva Palestina and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign , the UK's largest organisation campaigning for solidarity with the Palestinian people.

10th UPDATE: Latest Video from Aqaba, Jordan, Dec 27. Convoy remains stuck as Egypt does Israel's dirty work. No other news to report.

9th UPDATE: Latest Video from Aqaba, Jordan, Dec 26.

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Gaza Freedom March delayed by Egypt

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Netanyahu Calls for a Unity Government

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surprised the leader of the opposition, Tzipi Livni, with an offer to join the Likud-led right of center coalition government, saying Israel was faced with existential choices that required a broad coalition to form a unity government. By existential choice, Netanyahu is referencing Iran. The Kadima leader, and the former Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni did not reject the proposal out of hand.  The story in Haaretz:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked opposition leader Tzipi Livni, the chairwoman of Kadima, on Thursday to join a unity government. Livni did not immediately reject the offer, and added that if the offer is real "I always said that it is up for discussion."

Livni clarified that any decision regarding Kadima's moves will be taken by the party after thorough discussion and not by her alone.

Netanyahu told Livni that Kadima's addition to the government was crucial in light of the local and global challenges facing Israel today.

During their meeting, which lasted about 90 minutes, Netanyahu briefed Livni on political and security issues on the government's agenda, telling her that the basis for joining a unity government would be principles of peace and security that he outlined in his foreign policy speech at Bar Ilan University in June.

Netanyahu offered Livni to include four Kadima members in inner cabinet discussions, should Kadima join the proposed unity government, but he didn't offer ministerial portfolios.

The meeting between the prime minister and the opposition leader comes on the tail of Livni's accusation earlier Thursday that Netanyahu was trying to split Kadima, currently embroiled in a proxy war over the faction's leadership.

Kadima No. 2 Shaul Mofaz on Thursday demanded that Livni take the party to primary elections, telling reporters after their afternoon meeting that he hoped she would "listen to others, for once" and keep the party from breaking up.

The rift at the top of Kadima worsened on Wednesday, after MK Mofaz lashed out at Livni, saying it was her lack of leadership that has reportedly led 14 of Kadima's 27 MKs to start negotiations with Likud about moving to that party.

Mofaz met Livni at her north Tel Aviv home on Thursday afternoon, hours before the faction's council was to convene to discuss the future of the party.

Livni told Mofaz during the talks that she feared Netanyahu was "trying to split Kadima. It's on the table and it's a fact." She urged Mofaz, along with other senior members of the party to do everything possible to keep Netanyahu from "weakening Kadima."

Kadima, a centrist party by Israeli standards with 27 seats, is the largest single party in the 120-member Knessett. Israeli political observers seem to think that Netanyahu's offer is not much more than an attempt to destroy his only significant internal opposition by luring about a dozen of Kadima members to form a breakaway party and join the government.

Certainly events in the Middle East have been moving quickly over the latter part of 2009: a financial collapse in Dubai; a tribal revolt by a Shi'ite minority that has led to a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Yemen; US drone attacks in Yemen targeting Al-Qaeda operatives; a border dispute between Iran and Iraq amidst attacks on Shi'ites; an Egyptian move to seal off the Gaza Strip; a rapprochement between Syria and Turkey that perhaps has left the Israelis worried; a historic visit to Damascus by Saad Hariri, the new prime minister of Lebanon; an Al-Qaeda attack against a Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in Riyadh; and the on-going but going nowhere talks between the West and Iran over the nuclear issue now set against the backdrop of increasing protests and unrest in the Islamic Republic. Never a dull moment.

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