Today, 1st April, is April Fools day when people love to play pranks and jokes on each other. The Middle East is certainly celebrating in earnest, with Israel and the West being the butt of the jokes.
Today the Palestinians officially became members of the International Criminal Court (the ICC) and thus made an April Fool out of Israel by reneging on their pledge not to seek an indictment of Israel at the ICC.
Israel has been withholding the tax payments collected on behalf of the PA and has refused to hand them over both because of the huge debt owed to Israel’s utility companies, specifically the Electricity Company, and because the PA had been threatening to sue Israel at the ICC.
More fool us. Today the PA became a member of the ICC and immediately asserted that any claims that they were waiving their right to pursue Israel were baseless:
Despite the fact that some PA officials are trying to lower expectations amongst their citizens, the Gazans at least are already eagerly waiting for the ICC to make Israel pay. No mention of any responsibility of Hamas of course. From the first link:
Beyond seeking war crimes charges against Israel at the court, the Palestinians want the UN Security Council to set a deadline for an Israeli troop withdrawal from the West Bank and hope for new momentum of a Palestinian-led international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions.
But a legal and diplomatic showdown isn’t inevitable, as aides say Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas isn’t interested in an all-out confrontation with Israel. War crimes charges against Israel could be years away and Washington likely will soften any Security Council resolution on Palestinian statehood.
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki was meeting with court officials Wednesday, but it’s largely ceremonial.
Attempting to lower expectations among Palestinians of speedy court action, Malki told the Voice of Palestine radio Wednesday: “I don’t want to disappoint our people, but the ICC procedures are slow and long and might face lots of obstacles and challenges and might take years.”
The Palestinians play us for fools and take us for fools – and sadly they are right. We don’t seem to have the political nous to withstand their diplomatic game of lawfare.
Meanwhile over in Lausanne, the farce continues with the almost flirtatious back-and-forth between the American negotiators and the Iranians. The Europeans are trying to steer a steady course and I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies as they raise objections to the emerging deal.
Yesterday was supposed to be the last day of the negotiations, but – unsurprisingly for anyone watching the spectacle – they limped into overtime. The Iranians are playing the long game while the Americans are behaving like eager puppies waiting to go out for a walk.
Speaking after Iran and major powers missed a midnight deadline to agree the outlines of a potentially historic accord at talks that stretched into the small hours, Iran’s chief negotiator said the Iranians “won’t let time bind us in the talks.”
“Time is important to us but the content of the negotiations and our demands are more important,” Abbas Araghchi said in a live interview with state television from Lausanne.
The US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany want Iran to scale down its nuclear programme in order to extend the “breakout” time needed for Iran to assemble a bomb’s worth of nuclear material.
Iran denies wanting the bomb and its negotiators are under strict orders from supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to refuse any curtailing of its program without relief from painful sanctions.
Araghchi said Wednesday a deal was impossible without a “framework for the removal of all sanctions”, but global powers want any sanctions relief to be phased and easily reversible if Iran violates the deal.
he stakes are high, with fears that failure may set the United States and Israel on a road to military action to thwart Iran’s nuclear drive.
The White House warned again Tuesday that the military option to deprive the Islamic republic of nuclear arms remained “on the table”.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif had raised hopes in the early hours of Wednesday morning that the framework deal might be in sight.
Lavrov told Russian media that they had reached “an agreement in principle on all key aspects of the final settlement”, while Zarif said he hoped negotiators could “finalise” the framework on Wednesday.
But Western countries poured cold water on such expectations, with a senior US State Department official saying tersely: “All issues have not been agreed.”
An outrageous aspect to these negotiations is that the item of ultimate importance has not been removed from the agenda. The Iranian militia chief said that “Destroying Israel is non-negotiable“. And yet the talks continue.
Binyamin Netanyahu reacted in outrage to this statement:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday excoriated world powers over their dogged pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran, pointing to recent statements by officials in Tehran — notably their calls to eliminate Israel — as evidence of the Islamic Republic’s unwillingness to compromise on its nuclear ambitions and campaign of “terror, subjugation and conquest.”
In tones of moral outrage, he issued a brief, infuriated statement to camera, protesting that the talks were continuing in Lausanne even as Iran reiterated its insistent goal of destroying the Jewish state.
“Yesterday an Iranian general brazenly declared, and I quote, ‘Israel’s destruction is nonnegotiable,’” Netanyahu began, referring to a statement by Mohammad Reza Naqd, the commander of the Basij militia of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
“But evidently, giving Iran’s murderous regime a clear path to the bomb is negotiable,” he said. “This is unconscionable.”
He called on world powers to ensure that Iran “stop its aggression in the region, stop its terrorism throughout the world, and stop its threats to annihilate Israel.”
“That should be nonnegotiable. And that’s the deal that the world powers must insist upon,” he concluded.
President Reuven Rivlin wins the understatement of the year competition as he remarked that Israel is “greatly concerned” about the nuclear talks in Lausanne:
“We are sitting here in Jerusalem, but our thoughts are focused on what is happening in Lausanne,” Rivlin said. “There is yet to be a clear picture of what is happening there, and reports are contradicting, but we are of course greatly concerned by the possibility that Iran would achieve nuclear capabilities.”
From what Israel has been able to gather so far, the emerging nuclear deal with Iran is much worse than previously thought:
“After the Beirut-Damascus-Baghdad axis, Iran is maneuvering from the south to take over the entire Middle East,” Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting, one of the last for his outgoing government. “The Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis is dangerous for mankind and must be stopped.”
“While [world powers] convene to sign this deal, Iran’s proxies in Yemen are conquering large swaths of land in an effort to overtake the Bab al-Mandab straits, so that they can change the balance of power in shipping oil,” he said, referring to recent unrest in Yemen.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also called the emerging deal with Iran “a very bad deal.” Turning Iran into a nuclear threshold state, he said Sunday, “would be nothing less than a tragedy for the moderate regimes in the Middle East and the entire Western world.”
…Two officials told The Associated Press that Iran has tentatively agreed to limit the number of machines it could use to enrich uranium to 6,000 — or even less — at its main site.
The officials said Iran has agreed to ship out all enriched uranium it produces to Russia. Enriched uranium can be used to make the fissile core of a nuclear weapon.
They said problems remain on the length of any restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, monitoring Tehran’s compliance and other issues.
The officials demanded anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the confidential talks.
Israeli officials reiterated their concerns over the emerging deal on Sunday, warning that the reported terms would not do enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, one of the top members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, said that while Western powers and Iran may be about to shake hands on an agreement in the coming days, there could still be time to influence the terms of the final deal, due by the end of June.
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, a confidant of Netanyahu, said that the deal was “full of holes,” and that he hoped US President Barack Obama would keep to his word that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”
Steinitz, in an interview with Army Radio, noted that Iran hadn’t provided adequate explanations to the UN’s nuclear watchdog over the nature of its previous nuclear research.
The Iranians are playing the West for a fool, but it is Israel that is going to be the dupe in this very unfunny joke.
Let’s hope that despite today being April Fools’ Day, we will be more influenced by the Hebrew month of Nissan, traditionally “the month of our redemption”.