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On Iron Dome Funds in US Congress, Only 8 Opposed, Reviewed Here

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 2, more here -- On August 1 as the humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza fell apart just after it began, the US House of Representatives voted 395 to 8 to approve $225 million more for Israel's "Iron Dome" system. This was approved 100-0 by voice vote in the Senate. So 495 American representative said yes, versus only eight voting no.

 Inner City Press, covering the conflict mostly from the UN, tweeted the list of House of Representatives No votes: "Ellison MN, Lofgren CA, Moran VA, O'Rourke TX; R: Amash MI, Jones NC, Massie KY, Sanford SC."

  Among the dozens of retweets, @InnerCityPress got a lot of questions. Who were these eight, viewed alternately as heroes or zeroes?

   Strangely, among the eight No's was Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who has been quoted in his local (Cincinnati) press favoring a cut-off of all US funds to the Palestinian Authority.

  Walter Jones of North Carolina and Mark Sanford of South Carolina -- yes, that Mark Sanford -- were also among only five Republicans to vote against the Veterans Administration legislation: nay-sayers.

   This pro Iron Dome lobbying page provides a link to thank Rep. Zoe Langren -- who voted no.

  Keith Ellison voted no; he has been quoted, "I'm a politician, with multiple constituencies. Why should I alienate one?" (But see video here. And audio of Beto O'Rourke, here.

  Jim Moran has been quoted, "There are a few of us who feel that, you know, a cease-fire is the only way to go, and it’s in Israel’s, as well as the Palestinians’ interest to have a cease-fire."

  Justin Abash of Michigan says he explains every vote, so we'll wait. Watch this site.

  At 5:30 pm on July 31 the UN announced its spokesman Stephane Dujarric would read out a statement, "for the cameras," in its briefing room. Inner City Press ran there but arrived just as Dujarric finished reading the ceasefire statement.

   But the first line said, "the UN Representative in Jerusalem, Special Coordinator Robert Serry, has received assurances that all parties have agreed to an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza."  With the ceasefire in shambles, that is dubious.

 Now Haaretz has reported that Serry "spoke with Hamas leadership in Gaza."

  So on August 1 Inner City Press put two questions to UN Department of Political Affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman. First, would he confirm that Serry spoke with Hamas in Gaza?

   And second, as a former - and future? - US officials, does Feltman think the UN should at least disclose when Ban Ki-moon accepts "in kind" / gifts such as the Qatari-funded private jet he flew on to Doha, to mediate on Gaza.

  Dujarric cut off this question to Feltman, saying that it was already answered. But there is no routine disclosure by the UN. And the impact on the UN's political role is obvious, for example considering that this was the ONLY question asked of Ban Ki-moon in Jerusalem (the UN censored it), and it's been asked at the UN Security Council stakeout.

  Dujarric did not answer when asked, shouldn't there be disclosure. He called it "in kind" - but is it subtracted from what Qatar owes or pays the UN in dues?

  Then Feltman refused to say if Serry spoke with Hamas, saying that he wasn't with Serry. So Feltman doesn't know? Or won't say?

 It's one thing for a diplomat from a country to say, that's secret. But since the UN ostensibly represents, works for and is accountable at least to all 193 states, if not to "we the peoples," on what logic are these things secret? We'll have more on this.

   On July 30, Inner City Press asked UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson about UN direct contacts with Hamas, citing Ban Ki-moon accepting Qatar-funded private jet travel to Doha, and Eliasson said "we don’t feel any need to, at this stage, to be in direct contact with Hamas." From the UN's transcript (video here)

Inner City Press: Sure, thanks a lot. Matthew Lee, Inner City Press. On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, thanks for the briefing. It seems like on this immediate end of the fighting, a sticking point is whether the IDF would remain in Gaza at all. It seems like one of the demands is that they leave in order for there to be a cessation. I want to know if the UN… not the whole golden formula, but just on that one point, what your thinking is, and also, whether the UN and Secretary-General should reach out directly to Hamas. I know that, you know, former OCHA head Jan Egeland, you know, he met with Joseph Kony, which is a pretty extreme example, but it seems like at this point, given that speaking with Mahmoud Abbas may not actually directly relate to the rockets that are being fired. Is there any thought of the Secretary-General reaching out directly to Hamas leadership, especially since he flew on this Qatar-funded plane to Doha and could probably set up such a meeting? What’s your thinking on that? Thank you.

Deputy Secretary-General: We have channels, very strong channels, both, of course, to Egypt, which is working very closely with Israel, but also very close contacts with both Turkey and Qatar, who have close relationships to Hamas. And the Secretary-General has worked extremely intensely with these different actors. And we hope that the combined efforts from Egypt and Turkey and Qatar, and of course, the United States, which has been working very, very hard and very closely with the Secretary-General on the humanitarian ceasefire issue, that these attempts will be successful. And we hope that both sides will understand that the Secretary-General’s proposals are still on the table. They are always there. The Israeli Security Cabinet met yesterday and I made sure that Ambassador [Ron] Prosor was aware of the fact that the [Secretary-General’s] proposal for a humanitarian ceasefire, whether it was for a week or 24 hours or 72 hours, would be there and considered on the table. But, we are in contact closely with all the other actors. So, we don’t feel any need to, at this stage, to be in direct contact with Hamas.

   So what changed? Or did the "we" mean only Ban and his deputy Eliasson? We'll have more on this.

    Earlier on July 31, after the UN Security Council met for five hours, in the wake of the shelling of the UNRWA school in Jabalya, what emerged were mere "elements to the press" - the weakest form of Security Council action.

  The "press elements" consist of 77 words, not one of which is "school." Inner City Press listened and transcribed it:

Council members expressed their grave disappointment that the messages in the Presidential Statement of 28 July have not been heeded. They reiterated in the strongest terms their expectation that the PRST must be implemented Council members called for an immediate unconditional humanitarian ceasefire, that can lead to a sustainable ceasefire, based upon the Egyptian proposal. Pending this, Council members encouraged the use of humanitarian pauses. They called on member states to donate to UNRWA's flash appeal.”

   Earlier on July 31 when UN Relief and Works Agency chief Pierre Krahenbuhl called in on July 31 to take questions from the media, Inner City Press asked him to explain a sentence from his earlier briefing to UN Security Council.

   Krahenbul told the Council, "should further large scale displacements indeed occur, the Occupying Power, according to International Humanitarian Law, will have to assume direct responsibility to assist these people."

  Inner City Press asked Krahenbuhl to explain this, also if UNRWA is thinking of seeking reimbursement for destruction from Israel, and if he is aware of the European Union seeking reimbursement for the destruction of EU-funded projects.

   On reimbursement, Krahenbuhl said there is a precedent, from Operations Cast Lead, but it is too early to look into it on this, "Protective Edge."

   While continuing to parse Krahenbuhl's response on Occupation, the general (assembly) theory is that duties as Occupying Power were delegated or outsourced to UNRWA when it was created by the UN General Assembly.  It seems the duties could be handed back. But how would non-compliance with or non-fulfillment of these duties be enforced?

Just capitalizing letters in a legal phrase doesn't make it so.

   Earlier on July 31 outside the UN Security Council, Israel's Ambassador Ron Prosor and then the State of Palestine's Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour took questions from the Press.

  Inner City Press asked Prosor about Krahenbuhl's call to end the blockade of Gaza. Prosor replied that Israel has no interest in being in Gaza -- what, is there oil there, he asked rhetorically -- but cited and showed charts of Hamas rocket fire, and tunnels (which he said are funded by Qatar).

  Inner City Press asked Mansour about the US Department of Defense' confirmation of new ammunition transfers to Israel (see below).

  Mansour said that more weapons are not needed; he said that the killing of entire families would make peace much more difficult to achieve but that it should be strived for, an independent state of Palestine.

  In the UN Security Council, the Gaza issue has essentially been delegated to the US. In the UN Security Council on July 30, Nigeria criticized the Council's delay in issuing even a Presidential Statement; Chad called the Council "impotent."

  At the end of Rwandan presidency reception later on July 30, Inner City Press was told by more than one Council member that it is all up to the US. But, one might ask, how can a party transferring ammunition be considering an honest broker?

  Couldn't this transfer had been at least delayed? But that too would have been a story, bigger than this one, which Inner City Press was notified was broken by CNN, leading to this statement:

"The Department of Defense received a letter of request from the Israeli Ministry of Defense on July 20 for a normal Foreign Military Sales delivery of ammunition.  The appropriate DoD activities processed the request through normal inter-agency processes, resulting in a signed Letter of Offer and Acceptance on July 23.
"Two of the requested munitions were available in the War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel (WRSA-I), on the ground in Israel, and were therefore delivered to the Israeli Defense Force from this stockpile. Both munitions had been in WRSA-I stock for a few years, well before the current crisis.  All stocks in WRSA-I, as required by law, are "in excess to U.S. requirements." Issuing munitions from the WRSA-I stockpile was strictly a sourcing decision and White House approval was not required.

 "The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability. This defense sale is consistent with those objectives."

  Thus spake the US Pentagon, or at least its spokesperson Kirby. But what will UN Security Council members say, at their July 31 session? Watch this site.

 Back on July 27-28, the Security Council convened to adopted a Presidential Statement, below.

 Afterward, Inner City Press asked Jordan's Deputy Permanent Representative why no vote had been called the draft resolution, if there was one or more vetoes or abstaining votes that would block it.

  He said things haven't reached that stage; rather it was a matter of seeing when the members of the Council thought a resolution would be useful to support of ceasefire.

  Some ask: so is that the UN Security Council's only function?

  Inner City Press asked Israel's Ron Prosor about the different drafts leaked to Haaretz and Al Jazeera (which Inner City Press noted, here). Prosor went wider scope with his answer. A ceasefire did not sound closer.

  Prosor was also asked about Ban Ki-moon flying around in a Qatar-funded private jet - a question on which Inner City Press first reported eight days ago, and on which Ban himself should answer.

 Palestine's Riyad Mansour cited as a precedent a 1994 Security Council resolution providing protecting in Hebron, by Norwegians in white shirts, he said. He said he wished the Presidential Statement had called for Israel to pull out of Gaza, and that he wished for a resolution. We will continue on this.

  Inner City Press immediately inquired and was informed it was to adopt a Presidential Statement; the version below was provided. But why not a resolution? Why proceeding so cautiously, compared most recently with the July 21 resolution on MH17 in Ukraine? 

  Earlier, with even the “humanitarian pause” over in Gaza, the draft "framework" agreement rejected by the Israeli cabinet on July 25 was leaked from both sides.

   But the versions leaked by each side were different.

  On Al Jazeera a one-page document was waved around, which had Qatar in the first paragraph as one of the signatories making commitments, which provided for the opening of “border and non-border” crossings and specified fishing rights up to 12 nautical miles, and a $47 million commitment by the US.

  In the “5 pm Confidential Draft” published by Ha'aretz, Qatar is the last paragraph (without Egypt), fishing rights and the $47 million from the US are not specified, nor are “non-border” crossing being opened.

  At least, the two sides leaked different stages or versions of the draft. Or is there more to this, in the spin war that this stage of the Gaza war has become?

  (The drafts are different; Al Jazeera is saying Ha'aretz stole its scoop. There may be more to this.)

  Meanwhile, silence at the UN with the draft Security Council resolution of Jordan and the Arab League not scheduled for a vote, and canned statements from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who after taking a Qatar-funded private jet from New York to Doha refused through his spokespeople to answer Inner City Press' follow-up questions on who paid for the rest of his travel. Watch this site.


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