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  • April 25, 2013

    Al Jazeera English features article “Challenging Einstein: Kerry's 'New' Diplomacy in the Middle East”

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    So there is talk once again of a “new” US initiative in Israel-Palestine diplomacy. We have got a new secretary of state. John Kerry is shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Hopes are supposed to be rising again. 

    Really? We are supposed to cheer the possibility that 21 years of failed US diplomacy might - just might - become 22? 

    . . . But - if anyone inside is now peering outside the official Washington bubble to acknowledge the need for a different approach to Israel-Palestine diplomacy, that is all good. If anyone in the White House or State Department . . . begins to realise that doing the same thing over and over again, making the same failed claims that “the two sides have to sit together, both sides have to make compromises, only direct talks between the two parties can bring about peace” as if this were a negotiation between equals . . . rather than between a powerful, wealthy, nuclear-armed Occupying Power and an disempowered occupied people, that could mean the beginning of a new approach. 

  • March 27, 2013

    The Real News Network

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    "[I]t proves once again that [Obama's] got a Cracker Jack speech writing team. His speech in Jerusalem and even some of the stuff he said to the Palestinians was pretty great. You know, the man can talk. And the speech talked about justice . . . But the problem was he said all that wonderful stuff but made very clear, quite explicit, that if Israel simply said no, there would be no consequences. 

    . . . But it was also important . . . that when the U.S. wants to pressure Israel for something they want, which in this case was a reconciliation between its two crucial allies in the region, Israel and Turkey, the U.S. gets what it wants . . . And that's one of the important lessons. The U.S. has the capacity to pressure Israel.

    It doesn't use that capacity on behalf of the Palestinians. It will use it when necessary to gain something vis-a-vis Turkey. But so far we have not seen a commitment to the lovely words that President Obama spoke to justice, to an end of occupation, to equality. We're not seeing that."

  • March 22, 2013

    Russia Today TV

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    Obama on Palestine: Talk is Cheap, Interview with Phyllis Bennis  

  • March 14, 2013

    Al Jazeera English

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    PHYLLIS BENNIS: One of the things that is so key, is what's missing from that assessment [the US' 2013 Worldwide Threat Assessment]. They acknowledge that the US is not looked at favorably - it's done politely - but what they don't acknowledge is, why is the US not look at favorably? Because the US was backing up these dictators that this Arab Spring mobilization overthrew in all these countries and until there's some recognition of that, the idea that they're going to change the policies in ways that will enable closer relationships w/the governments is simply not going to be on the table.

  • February 22, 2013

    Inter Press Service

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    The United Nations has come under heavy political fire for its decision to deny compensation for thousands of victims of cholera in Haiti - a deadly disease spread by U.N. peacekeepers in the troubled Caribbean nation.

    . . . Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of several books on the United Nations, told IPS, "The apparently unprecedented effort to hold the U.N. institutionally accountable for the consequences of its negligence should focus on holding accountable the powerful countries - in Haiti."

    . . . "The failures of the U.N.'s peacekeeping system are rooted in the dominance of major powers over UN operations, in which rich countries make the decisions while poor countries provide the troops - usually without adequate preparation, training, or, as we saw in Haiti, even decent facilities," said Bennis, author of 'Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today's UN'.

  • February 14, 2013

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    But Obama didn’t seem to include in the list of “things he could do alone” the solo, individual decisions that are fundamental to the role of commander in chief. And that role could include, without Congress having to have any role in it, bringing home all the troops from the failed war in Afghanistan. Ending it. Totally. Quickly.

    . . . And crucially, when we look at areas in which the President can make executive decisions, independent of the whims of a paralyzed, partisan congress, is there any clearer example than the Obama administration’s strategy of targeting and killing “terror suspects,” along with unknown numbers of civilian “collateral damage” in Obama’s Global War on Terror 2.0? 

    . . . Focusing on the executive actions you can take without Congress is a great idea, Mr. President. But not unless that focus includes reversing the individually taken military actions that brought such disgrace on your administration’s first term.

  • February 11, 2013

    International Business Times

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    A fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington and the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, Bennis told IBTimes UK that the [Israeli] elections were waged on issues around social questions such as social equality and recruitment of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the army.

    "There seems not to be a significant divide between rich and poor on whether to maintain the occupation. It is a given that it should be continued," she said. 

    . . .

    Bennis also explained why the recent UN report on Israeli settlements was "a huge step forward".

    "The finding about settlements and the fact that they deemed it as an ongoing violation is key because it . . . calls on Israel to stop settlement activity but goes further and says that the settlers must be removed - no one has ever said that before."

    . . . "How a right is implemented is thoroughly negotiable," she said. "But rights are not negotiable. Recognition of the right has to come first and then you can negotiate how it can be implemented."

  • January 30, 2013

    Between The Lines

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    PHYLLIS BENNIS: I think the best way to understand the Israeli elections is as a victory for the status quo in Israel.

    . . . The irony of all of this, Scott, is that none of this signals any change in the far-right position of the Israeli government that's been true for so long, through Labor governments, Likud governments, coalition governments -- of oppression of the Palestinians, settlement expansion, the siege of Gaza -- none of that is on the agenda.

    SCOTT HARRIS: Is there any indication that Obama's administration will pursue more aggressively what they didn't pursue in the last 4 years, which is to push Bibi Netanyahu not to be such an obstacle to the peace process?

    PHYLLIS BENNIS: What President Obama could've done, which ironically he was accused of in 2010 . . . was exercise real pressure.

    . . . Real pressure would have looked like a demand from the Obama administration: "Stop building illegal settlements!" and if Israel said "No," then he would respond with, "OK . . . You know that $30 billion in taxpayer money we've been sending directly to your military? You can kiss that goodbye."

    That's what real pressure looks like.

  • January 27, 2013

    The Real News Network

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    BENNIS: Well, it certainly is nothing new and different for Palestinians to talk about the need for Israeli accountability for potential violations of international law and war crimes. This has been on the agenda for some years now. And the question has been: when can Palestine become a member of the International Criminal Court so it can begin the process of trying to hold Israel accountable for those war crimes, for those violations?

    . . . DESVARIEUX: Okay. What do you make of the timing of this announcement, especially in the wake of Israeli election?

    BENNIS: Well, I think that the timing was driven less by the elections . . . But it was kind of putting that new government, the potential new government that will still be led by Bibi Netanyahu, on notice of their intention to go to the International Criminal Court.

    I think the real motivating factor in terms of timing had to do with the growing crisis in the West Bank in particular and the fact that the PA had lost so much of its authority and credibility in recent years but had reclaimed much of that through the UN initiative last fall . . . And one of the real reasons why was precisely this question of a way to bring Israel to account, to hold Israel to account in the International Criminal Court. So this is a way of maintaining that credibility by answering the demand of Palestinians themselves to move forward, to hold Israel accountable in a way that it's never been held accountable before.

  • January 18, 2013

    The Real News Network

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    BENNIS: This is coming on to the second anniversary now of the Arab Spring. And I'm one of maybe only a few left that are still calling it a spring, because I think that despite the horrors that are right now facing people, . . . what we're seeing . . . throughout the Arab world, has been a just incredible rising of peoples claiming their citizenship in a way that they just have never done for the last 40 or 50 years.

    . . . [Granted,] In Syria . . . it's a very messy situation in which . . . the original opposition movement, [those secular, democratic, committed to nonviolence], Their voices have been silenced by the sound of the guns.

    . . . [And] Libya, of course, remains completely chaotic, without a viable government that's capable of providing security for the people of Libya . . .

    [But:] the optimism has to come back when we look at Egypt. [Despite] . . . significant losses for the secular and democratic components of the opposition forces . . . I still think that what we're seeing in Egypt is a very exciting moment that over the long and even medium term is going to transform that country into a place where people claim their rights as citizens of their country and not subjects of a U.S.-backed dictatorship, as they were for so many years.

    . . . I think that the secular opposition, the Christian opposition, the Muslim opposition, who just doesn't want as big a role for religion in the government, all . . . are coming together. And I think they're showing themselves to be an important player in society.

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