FORMER secretary of state John Kerry has revealed the Obama administration’s frustrations with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu in a new book slated for release this month.
According to excerpts released by a Washington newsletter, Kerry began losing trust in Netanyahu in 2014 during Israel’s last war on Gaza, when he says Netanyahu began leaking to the press against the US government. An ‘element of personal trust had been lost’ at that time, he writes. ‘We were in the middle of negotiating a ceasefire based on your input. Now I see it in the press? This is outrageous,’ Kerry recalled telling Netanyahu.
‘The humanitarian ceasefire was your idea. And now you leak this document to make it sound like I am trying to advance Hamas’s position?’ he said. The book, titled Every Day is Extra, catalogues Kerry’s tenure at the State Department throughout Obama’s second term in office, including his efforts to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran.
Kerry writes that Netanyahu gave him two reasons why he was sceptical about entering ‘peace’ talks with the Palestinians. ‘I’m willing to give this effort a try,’ he allegedly told Kerry, ‘but there are two things you should know. ‘First, everyone in this region lies all the time,’ he said, and ‘second, the most I can do may be less than the least Abbas could ever accept.’
Kerry’s so-called peace efforts ended in failure in 2014. In the book, he tells about how Netanyahu would withhold concessions during ‘peace’ talks ‘Bibi’s attitude was “I’m open to solving this problem if I can have all my needs met.” That included his political needs with his coalition,’ he writes.
As an instance, Kerry explains how Netanyahu would insist on a permanent Israeli military presence in the occupied West Bank by rejecting a plan that would have required a gradual withdrawal of the Israeli troops. ‘It was now clear to all of us that Bibi was not interested in actually addressing the security questions in a way that could allow for the eventual withdrawal’ of the Israeli military, Kerry recalls.
Kerry also writes about how the Israeli premier was trying to adversely influence the course of the US negotiations with Iran and others that led to the conclusion of a landmark nuclear deal. A better nuclear conclusion with Iran is ‘fantasy’ and critics offer no alternatives, John Kerry says.
He says Netanyahu acted against the White House’s wishes by addressing Congress to vilify the deal on March 3, 2015. Kerry writes that he was ‘disappointed in him… I thought we deserved better than a speech that hit below the belt.’
• The FBI and Justice Department sought to turn Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who had close ties to the Kremlin, into an informant between 2014 and 2016, a report says. The two US agencies offered Deripaska assistance in getting visas for the United States in exchange for information on Russian organised crime and, later, on possible Russian aid to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, The New York Times reported, citing current and former officials and associates of Deripaska.
The move aimed to measure the possibility of flipping several of Russia’s wealthiest men, most of whom have close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who has been frequently attacked by Trump on Twitter recently, and former British spy Christopher Steele are believed to have played a role in the effort to recruit Russian oligarchs.
In one encounter, FBI agents showed up unannounced and uninvited at a home Deripaska has in New York and questioned him about whether Paul Manafort, a former business partner of his who later became chairman of Trump’s campaign, had worked as a liaison between Russia and the Trump campaign.
During the interrogation, Deripaska described the theories about Manafort’s role on the campaign as ‘preposterous,’ dismissing any potential connections between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. The anonymous officials told the Times they were afraid that disclosing the attempt could undercut national security.
• A US diplomat to Ukraine says Washington will provide Kiev with more lethal weapons to help build up its naval and air forces in the face of what they call Russian threat. US Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker told The Guardian that the administration of President Donald Trump was ‘absolutely’ prepared to go further in supplying such weaponry to Ukraine.
The West accuses Moscow of providing support for the pro-Russia forces fighting in eastern Ukraine, a charge Russia resolutely denies. ‘They (Ukrainians) are losing soldiers every week defending their own country’ said Volker. ‘And so in that context it’s natural for Ukraine to build up its military, engage in self-defence, and it’s natural to seek assistance and it’s natural that other countries should help them. ‘And of course they need lethal assistance because they’re being shot at.’
He said Kiev and Washington are engaged in negotiations ‘about naval capability because as you know their navy was basically taken by Russia. ‘And so they need to rebuild a navy and they have very limited air capability as well. I think we’ll have to look at air defence,’ he added.
Earlier this year, Congress approved $250 million in military support to Ukraine in 2019. Congress had voted for such measure in the past, but was blocked by the Obama administration amid concerns about an escalation from Russia.
The Trump administration lifted the Obama-era restraint last December and approved the shipment of lethal weaponry.
Russia has warned at the time that the US was ‘crossing the line’ by providing Ukraine with lethal weapons, saying Washington is practically pushing Kiev into ‘new bloodshed.’ Moscow also warned Washington about the consequences of supplying arms to Ukraine, saying that the weapons would provoke ‘hotheads’ among Ukrainian nationalists to seek to unleash new bloodshed in the country’s troubled east.
The conflict broke out in Ukraine following the ousting of the pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014, and intensified after people in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea voted for reunification with the Russian Federation in a referendum in March 2014.
• US President Donald Trump will probably face impeachment if Democratic Party lawmakers become majority in the House of Representatives after the upcoming mid-term congressional elections, Vice President Mike Pence says.
‘They’re all talking about it and so, you know, I take them at their word, even though some of them have decided to not talk about that quite so much,’ Pence said of Democrats in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) on Saturday. Despite an apparent reluctance between Democratic leaders for an impeachment before the November 6 election, several Democrats such as Representative Al Green have been filing articles of impeachment.
The possibility of an impeachment increased last week after the Republican president’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to charges of bank fraud, tax fraud and violations of election campaign finance laws.
Cohen’s campaign finance law violations included paying hush money to women who Trump had alleged affairs with prior to the 2016 US presidential campaign.
Following Cohen’s confessions, Rep. Green warned Trump that the ‘countdown to impeachment’ had already started.
Trump found himself another step closer to possible impeachment after his former campaign manager Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight charges by a federal jury in Virginia, including bank fraud, tax fraud and failure to report a foreign bank account. With the Cohen, and Manafort crisis gripping the White House, US President Trump is denying any wrongdoing as the recent wave of pressure against his presidency is raising questions about his ability to continue his tenure.
Feeling the pressure, Pence warned Republican voters that failure to preserve the Republican majority in the House would spell disaster for the party. ‘The American people understand the choice in this election,’ he said. ‘Do we want to continue our nation on a path that’s creating jobs, rebuilding our military’ he said.
‘That’s a choice Republicans are offering, and our administration is offering, whereas Democrats essentially are saying, “We want more obstruction, we want more of the kind of controversy in Washington, DC, … that doesn’t make our country more safe or more prosperous,’’’ he added.
Trump has been dismissive of Democratic efforts to impeach him. He told Bloomberg News in a White House interview last Thursday that his opponents couldn’t impeach him because he was ‘doing a great job.’ ‘I don’t think they can impeach somebody that’s doing a great job. You look at the economy, you look at jobs, you look at foreign, what’s going on with other countries. You look at trade deals. I’m doing a great job,’ he argued.