Venezuela: Economic Warfare Brings Nation To Its Knees

Featured article from Mint Press News.

Which is mightier; the pen or the sword? In the case of the recent upheaval in Venezuela, the pen is the obvious answer.

The bankers fight using the pen — the pen that signs the paperwork to impose the sanctions that incur mass starvation, dissolve order, hike prices, and bring nations to their knees — Venezuela is in the crosshairs this time.

Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a determination that singled out Venezuela for failing to adhere to counternarcotics obligations. The accusation came – perhaps not so coincidentally – on the same day that Venezuela declared it would no longer participate in the U.S.’ petrodollar trade system.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro made his position clear, he had stated earlier in that month that the country would look to “free” itself from the dollar within a week’s time, following the U.S.’ sanctions against the embattled nation.

The decision is similar to that once made by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who dropped the dollar in favor of the euro a few years prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, we all know how that ended.

International markets thus far have failed to noticeably react to the policy shift, despite the threat it presents to the petrodollar system. The system, created in the 1970s, calls for OPEC nations to sell their oil in dollars in order to create artificial demand for the U.S. currency, a fiat currency based on thin air — held together by force.

Venezuela, home to the world’s largest oil reserves, is likely to exert some effect on the demand for dollars through its new policy, though the extent of the potential damage remains unclear. What is clear is that it means enough for the U.S. to declare a financial soft war in retaliation.

Millions of Venezuelans have seen their living conditions vastly improved through the Bolivarian process which shifted the focus away from compliance to the Western Banking Cartel.

The problems plaguing the Venezuelan economy are not due to some inherent fault in socialism, but to artificially low oil prices and sabotage by forces hostile to the revolution.

Starting in 2014, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia flooded the market with cheap oil. This is not a mere business decision, but a calculated move coordinated with U.S. and Israeli foreign policy goals. Despite not just losing money, but even falling deep into debt, the Saudi monarchy continues to expand its oil production apparatus. The result has been driving the price of oil down from $110 per barrel, to $28 in the early months of this year. The goal is to weaken these opponents of Wall Street, London, and Tel Aviv, whose economies are centered around oil and natural gas exports.

Venezuela is one of those countries. Saudi efforts to drive down oil prices have drastically reduced Venezuela’s state budget and led to enormous consequences for the Venezuelan economy.

At the same time, private food processing and importing corporations launched a coordinated campaign of sabotage. This, coupled with the weakening of a vitally important state sector of the economy, has resulted in inflation and food shortages. The artificially low oil prices have left the Venezuelan state cash-starved, prompting a crisis in the funding of the social programs that were key to strengthening the United Socialist Party.

Corruption is a big problem in Venezuela and many third-world countries. This was true prior to the Bolivarian process, as well as after Hugo Chavez launched his massive economic reforms. In situations of extreme poverty, people learn to take care of each other. People who work in government are almost expected to use their position to take care of their friends and family. Corruption is a big problem under any system, but it is much easier to tolerate in conditions of greater abundance. The problem has been magnified in Venezuela due to the drop in state revenue caused by the low oil prices and sabotage from food importers.

Venezuelans told of how the privatizations mandated by the International Monetary Fund made life in Venezuela almost unlivable during the 1990s. Garbage wouldn’t be collected. Electricity would go off for weeks. Haido Ortega, a member of a local governing body in Venezuela, said: “Under previous governments we had to burn tires and go on strike just to get electricity, have the streets fixed, or get any investment.”

Chavez took office on a platform advocating a path between capitalism and socialism. He restructured the government-owned oil company so that the profits would go into the Venezuelan state, not the pockets of Wall Street corporations. With the proceeds of Venezuela’s oil exports, Chavez funded a huge apparatus of social programs.

After defeating an attempted coup against him in 2002, Chavez announced the goal of bringing Venezuela toward “21st Century Socialism.” Chavez quoted Marx and Lenin in his many TV addresses to the country, and mobilized the country around the goal of creating a prosperous, non-capitalist society.

In 1998, Venezuela had only 12 public universities, today it has 32. Cuban doctors were brought to Venezuela to provide free health care in community clinics. The government provides cooking and heating gas to low-income neighborhoods, and it’s launched a literacy campaign for uneducated adults.

During the George W. Bush administration, oil prices were the highest they had ever been. The destruction of Iraq, sanctions on Iran and Russia, strikes and turmoil in Nigeria — these events created a shortage on the international markets, driving prices up.

Big oil revenues enabled Chavez and the United Socialist Party to bring millions of Venezuelans out of poverty. Between 1995 and 2009, poverty and unemployment in Venezuela were both cut in half.

After the death of Chavez, Nicolas Maduro has continued the Bolivarian program. “Housing Missions” have been built across the country, providing low-income families in Venezuela with places to live. The Venezuelan government reports that over 1 million modern apartment buildings had been constructed by the end of 2015.

The problems currently facing Venezuela started in 2014. The already growing abundance of oil due to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was compounded by Saudi Arabia flooding the markets with cheap oil. The result: massive price drops. Despite facing a domestic fiscal crisis, Saudi Arabia continues to expand its oil production apparatus.

The price of oil remains low, as negotiations among OPEC states are taking place in the hopes that prices can be driven back up. While American media insists the low oil prices are just the natural cycle of the market at work, it’s rather convenient for U.S. foreign policy. Russia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and the Islamic Republic of Iran all have economies centered around state-owned oil companies and oil exports, and each of these countries has suffered the sting of low oil prices.

The leftist president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, has already been deposed due to scandal surrounding Petrobras, the state-owned oil company which is experiencing economic problems due to the falling price of oil. Although much of Brazil’s oil is for domestic consumption, it has been revealed that those who deposed her coordinated with the CIA and other forces in Washington and Wall Street, utilizing the economic fallout of low oil prices to bring down the Brazilian president.

The son of President Ronald Reagan has argued that Obama intentionally drove down oil prices not just to weaken the Venezuelan economy, but also to tamper the influence of Russia and Iran, Trump has continued this foreign policy.

Writing for Townhall in 2014, Michael Reagan bragged that his father did the same thing to hurt the Soviet Union during the 1980s:

“Since selling oil was the source of the Kremlin’s wealth, my father got the Saudis to flood the market with cheap oil.

Lower oil prices devalued the ruble, causing the USSR to go bankrupt, which led to perestroika and Mikhail Gorbachev and the collapse of the Soviet Empire.”

Read more here.

 

Peace for Korea: U.S. Influence In Far East Diminished?

The recent peace talks between Korean leaders Kim Jong-Un and Moon Jae-in came together in a historic moment with the declared joint aim to end the multi-decade hostilities, to denuclearize, deescalate, and to draw a close to the Korean “war” that never technically ended following the armistice agreement in 1953.

A hopeful Kim Jong-Un stated that he wanted to pursue “permanent peace”, adding “we will adopt the Panmunjom declarations while the whole world is watching us. I believe the declaration will never let us repeat our past mistakes.”

South Korean President Moon praised the “precious agreement” and declared a “new era of peace”, pledging “there will be no more war on the Korean peninsula.”

Scenes of the two leaders strolling together have, for the past sixty years or so, been an unthinkable sight through the Western rose-tinted glasses, in reality Korea has wanted to join forces and boot the Western imperialists, but the U.S. has had clout in South Korea long enough to obstruct this.

That changed today as the two leaders embraced a watershed moment.

Kim’s political pivot to warmer relations with a longtime rival and U.S. proxy/ally (South Korea) is evident that Kim wants to preserve North Korea and boot the imperialists out, but the DPRK, up until recently, has been wary of dealing with a South Korea directed by U.S. foreign policy-making.

Recent developments suggest the U.S.’s grip on the South has slipped — and so Kim, likely with careful advice and guidance from close allies such as China, has made his move to cool the climate.

How long this will last is not apparent, when Moon is replaced once more by a U.S. favoring puppet, the status quo may return, for now, a period of respite — or perhaps a sign of a permanent decline of U.S. influence in the region? Time will tell.

Smart PR move: Kim insists that he and Moon Jae-in hold hands in a symbol of solidarity that will be broadcast across the world’s media. This will no doubt destroy the public appetite for further U.S. involvement in the region.

The demonization of North Korea: a brief history.

The demonization of North Korea by the United States government continued unrelentingly, only now in 2018 have the Koreans been able to take control of their own destiny.

George W. Bush used his first State of the Union address on January 29, 2002 to brand North Korea, along with former allies Iran and Iraq, as “the world’s most dangerous regimes” who now now form a threatening “axis of evil.”

Unbeknownst to the public, because it was intended to have remained a secret, was the fact that this claimed president presented a “Nuclear Posture Review” report to Congress only three weeks earlier, on January 8, which ordered the Pentagon to prepare contingency plans for use of nuclear weapons.

The first designated targets for nuclear attack were his newly identified members of the “axis of evil,” (including the DPRK) along with four other lucky nations as well – Syria, Libya, Russia, and China.

That this is nothing short of a policy of ultimate terror remains unaddressed in the U.S. media.


2018: One step closer to a Korean peninsula free from U.S. dominion? 

As one of the few countries without a Rothschild central bank, North Korea is a total unabashed nonconformist, and, as a result, targeting the DPRK is naturally an objective in U.S. foreign policy — in fact, North Korea being a bit of a rogue state (although still partially under China’s wing) has also been a blessing for the U.S. warmongers.

In keeping North Korea as the bogeyman of the Far East, the U.S. can continue to build-up its military presence at the behest of “peacekeeping” which, while claimed to be provisional against Jong-Un’s regime, has a troubling permanence — and is actually intended to corner and target more relevant powers such as China and Russia.

The North Korea “problem” disinformation campaign (and resultant U.S. aggressive rhetoric) has been escalated ever since the South Korean peacemaker Jae-in came into office in early 2017.

For example, within the last year, U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis engaged with hysterical rhetoric, stating that:

“North Korea has accelerated the threat that it poses to its neighbors and the world through its illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear weapons programs …” The situation had developed a “new urgency.”

This is why with the surmounting pressure from the U.S. and an ever-strengthening case for an invasion of North Korea, U.S. military escalation, and with building pressure on the Chinese — Kim was wise to amend relations and keep the U.S. interventionists out of the equation, to keep his only strong ally, China, happy — and to preserve his dynasty, which, if cut-off from its dependencies and protectorates would quickly wither from the inside out; more isolated than ever without recourse.


South Korean President Moon Jae-in less compliant with U.S. interests.

The US has been continually blocking efforts for North-South peace talks, and has expressed its contempt for South Korea’s elected President Moon Jae-in, with Trump opposing Moon’s pro-dialogue policy, calling it “talk of appeasement” with North Korea.

Jae-in was elected on a peace platform by the South Korean people. Moon’s predecessor Park Geun-hye, a puppet, did the U.S.’s bidding — until she was impeached and then sentenced to 24 years earlier this month for abuse of power, bribery, coercion, and leaking government secrets, with some claims that she took $3.5 million in bribes from a spy agency.

As a non-puppet, or at least a leader less pliable and less receptive to U.S. interests, Moon Jae-in’s peacemaker policy stands in stark contrast with that of Western-controlled Japan, which continues to involve itself with U.S. foreign policy, framing North Korea as the reckless, uncooperative state it patently isn’t.


North Korea was never the “threat” the West portrayed it to be.

North Korea both wanted unification ever since they were freed of vassalization under the Japanese Empire after WW2, the U.S. imperialists moved in to seize Korea and a war ensued, the result was a divided peninsula, one side controlled by U.S. interests, the other by North Korean, supported as a sovereign state by China and Russia.

In the fallout of the post Korean war, North Korea armed itself to the teeth, and like any sovereign nation would be — was hostile to those who sought to subvert it. Kim going the nuclear route is an act of self-defense if anything. While by no means is the Kim dynasty perfect, no side of the political equation is.

Flag of North Korean leaders.

To look at things objectively, Korea is better off multi-polar with cooperation between the sides, an amicably decentralized group of cooperative states — as opposed to the U.S. seeking to control all states for sake of “World Order” and “Peace”. At least the Kims rule honestly, they don’t hide their totalitarianism (an inevitability of political power) like all the so-called “democracies” do.

Kanye West sums it up, “decentralize”, the two Korean nations making their own decisions suggests it:

The Korean tensions were and continue to be desirable for the elites, it keeps the peninsula divided and brings South Korea closer to the U.S. sphere of influence, enabling the South to be a front-line launchpad and encirclement base for Western imperialism around China and Russia — and as a general power play in the Far East.

Conclusively, to Washington, South Korea going it alone and talking peace is undesirable, it breaks the strawman narrative that the U.S. needs to be militarily involved in the Far East and pursue full spectrum dominance.

Retaliatory moves such as when the US sent more nukes to Guam, and put the state of Hawaii on a full alert that a “ballistic missile was inbound” were part of an effort to reignite tensions, perhaps even to convince Moon Jae-in that Kim was a “madman” with his “finger on the button” — therefore obstructing peace-talks and retaining South Korea as a fearfully compliant proxy.


The U.S. is a two-sided coin of good cop, bad cop imperialism.

The U.S. intervening in Korea is nothing new, the U.S., over its history, has militarily intervened over 400 times, covertly thousands of times, in over one hundred nations. The U.S. is a globalist apparatus.

Virtually all these interventions have been lawless. It has bombed at least eighteen nations since it dropped Atomic bombs on Japan in 1945. It has used chemical warfare against Southeast Asia, and has provided chemical warfare agents for use by other nations such as Iraq. It has used biological warfare against China, North Korea, and Cuba. The Koreans are quite aware of most of this history. Most U.S. Americans are not. But now the U.S. has declared a unilateral “terrorist” war on the whole world.

Now that the two nations of Korea are at the negotiating table, the U.S.’s policing role in the region seems more redundant than ever. Let’s hope this is a win for self-governing nationalism and a defeat for monolithic globalism.


Understanding Korea: A case of perspective.

S. Brian Wilson from Global Research is a Vietnam veteran, long-time peace activist, and writer. In an article for the website he discusses the misunderstanding of the Korean situation that clouds the true motives of U.S. foreign policy in the region.

I believe it important for U.S. Americans to place themselves in the position of people living in targeted countries. That North Korea, a nation of 24 million people, i.e., one-twentieth the population of the U.S., many of them poor, a land slightly larger in area than the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, continues to be one of the most demonized nations and least understood, totally perplexes the Korean people. It is worthwhile to seek an understanding of their perspective.

I recently visited that nation and talked with a number of her citizens. I traveled 900 ground miles through six of North Korea’s nine provinces, as well as spending time in Pyongyang, the capital, and several other cities. I talked with dozens of people from all walks of life. Though times have been hard for North Koreans, especially in the 1990s, they long ago proudly rebuilt all of their dozens of cities, thousands of villages, and hundreds of dykes and dams destroyed during the war.

U.S. interference into the sovereign life of Korea immediately upon the 1945 surrender of the hated Japanese, who had occupied the Korean Peninsula for forty years, is one of the major crimes of the Twentieth Century, from which the Korean people have never recovered. (SEE “United States Government War Crimes,” Spring 2002 – issue # 1 of Global Outlook). From a North Korean’s perspective they

(1) have vigorously opposed the unlawful and egregious division of their country from day one to the present,

(2) were blamed for starting the “Korean War” which in fact had been a struggle between a minority of wealthy Koreans supporting continued colonization in collaboration with the U.S. and those majority Koreans who opposed it,

(3) proudly and courageously held the U.S. and its “crony U.N. allies” to a stalemate during the “War,” and

(4) have been tragically and unfairly considered a hostile nation ever since. They have not forgotten the forty years of Japanese occupation that preceded the U.S. imposed division and subsequent occupation that continues in the South. They deeply yearn for reunification of their historically unified culture.

Everyone I talked with, dozens and dozens of folks, lost one if not many more family members during the war, especially from the continuous bombing, much of it incendiary and napalm, deliberately dropped on virtually every space in the country. “Every means of communication, every installation, factory, city, and village” was ordered bombed by General MacArthur in the fall of 1950. It never stopped until the day of the armistice on July 27, 1953. The pained memories of people are still obvious, and their anger at “America” is often expressed, though they were very welcoming and gracious to me. Ten million Korean families remain permanently separated from each other due to the military patrolled and fenced dividing line spanning 150 miles across the entire Peninsula.

Let us make it very clear here for western readers. North Korea was virtually totally destroyed during the “Korean War.” U.S. General Douglas MacArthur’s architect for the criminal air campaign was Strategic Air Command head General Curtis LeMay who had proudly conducted the earlier March 10 – August 15, 1945 continuous incendiary bombings of Japan that had destroyed 63 major cities and murdered a million citizens. (The deadly Atomic bombings actually killed far fewer people.)

Eight years later, after destroying North Korea’s 78 cities and thousands of her villages, and killing countless numbers of her civilians, LeMay remarked, “Over a period of three years or so we killed off – what – twenty percent of the population.”6 It is now believed that the population north of the imposed 38th Parallel lost nearly a third its population of 8 – 9 million people during the 37-month long “hot” war, 1950 – 1953, perhaps an unprecedented percentage of mortality suffered by one nation due to the belligerance of another.

Virtually every person wanted to know what I thought of Bush’s recent accusation of North Korea as part of an “axis of evil.” Each of the three governments comprising Bush’s “axis of evil” of course immediately condemned the remarks, North Korea being no exception. I shared with them my own outrage and fears, and they seemed relieved to know that not all “Americans” are so cruel and bellicose. As with people in so many other nations with whom the U.S. has treated with hostility, they simply cannot understand why the U.S. is so obsessed with them.

Koreans were relieved to learn that a recent poll had indicated eighty percent of South Koreans were against the U.S. belligerent stance against their northern neighbors. The North Korean government described Bush as a “typical rogue and a kingpin of terrorism” as he was visiting the South in February, only three weeks after presenting his threatening State of the Union address.7 It was also encouraging that the two Koreas resumed quiet diplomatic talks in March just as the U.S. and South Korea were once again conducting their regular, large-scale, joint military exercises so enraging to the North, and to an increasing number of people in the South among the growing reunification movement there.

In the English-language newspaper, The Pyongyang Times, (February 23, 2002) there were articles entitled “US Is Empire of the Devil,” Korea Will Never Be a Threat to the US,” and “Bush’s Remarks Stand Condemned.” Quite frankly, all three of these articles relate a truth about the U.S. that would draw a consensus from many quarters around the world.

While in country, together we listened to Bush’s March 14 Voice of America (VOA) radio chastizement of North Korea. First, he stated that the North’s 200,000 prisoner population was proof of terrible repression. Though I had no way of knowing the number of prisoners in the North, any more than Bush did, I do know that the United States has 2 million prisoners which is similar in per-capita detention rate to that of North Korea if the 200,000 figure is accurate. Furthermore, the U.S. has a minimum of 3 million persons, mostly minority and poor, under state supervision of parole and probation. The U.S. sweeps its class and race problems into prison.

Second, Bush declared that half the population was considered unreliable and, as a result, received less monthly food rations. The Koreans are a proud people living in a Confucian tradition, having rebuilt their nation from virtual total destruction during the Korean war. I did not notice any obvious display of dissent. That some Koreans are desperate due to lack of food, water, and heat, especially in some rural areas, does not necessarily translate into dissent, though some are seeking relief by travel to neighboring countries.

Third, Bush claimed that Koreans who listen to foreign radio are targeted for execution. Together we regularly listened to U.S.VOA radio broadcasts and they freely discussed the content of the broadcasts without fear of reprisals.

Fourth, Bush condemned the DPRK for spending too much on its military, causing food shortages for the people. Note: Again it must be remembered that it was the U.S. that unilaterally divided Korea following the Japanese surrender in August 1945, and subsequently ruled with a military occupation government in the south, overseeing the elimination of virtually the entire popular movement of (majority) opposition to U.S. occupation, murdering hundreds of thousands of people. The consequent Korean civil war that openly raged in 1948-1950 was completely ignored when the U.S. defined the beginning of the Korean War in 1950. The U.S. remains at war with the DPRK, never having signed a peace treaty with her. The war has left a deep scar in the Korean character with a memory that is regularly provoked by continued belligerance directed at the DPRK. The U.S. regularly holds joint military exercises with South Korean military forces aimed at the DPRK. The U.S. retains 37,000 military troops at 100 installations south of the 38th parallel. The U.S. has its largest Asian bombing range where it practices bombs five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, despite opposition from many South Koreans. And now Bush has identified North Korea as part of an “axis of evil” targeted for nuclear attack. This is no remote idea to North Koreans. The U.S. possesses nuclear weapons on ships and planes in the Pacific region surrounding North Korea. Virtually every nation in this perilous position would be concerned about their defense.

It is worth noting that the United States is the leading military spender in the world resulting in substantial underfunding of its own indispensable social programs.

Fifth, Bush accused the DPRK of selling weapons to other nations. That is like the pot calling the kettle black. The U.S. is by far the largest manufacturer of conventional, nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons in the world. It is also the largest seller of these weapons, and has used conventional (against dozens of nations), biological (Cuba, China, Korea, perhaps others), chemical (Southeast Asia), and nuclear (Japan, and threatened to use them on at least 20 other occasions) weapons. In addition it has armed other nations with these weapons of mass destruction, including Iraq, one of those countries now identified as part of the “axis of evil.” In the year 2000, international arms sales were nearly $37 billion, with the U.S. being directly responsible for just over half of those sales. South Korea was the third largest buyer of weapons from the United States with $3.2 worth of military hardware. And in January 2002, South Korea was seriously contemplating purchasing an additional $3.2 billion worth of 40 F-X fighter jets from U.S. arms giant Boeing.

At the conclusion of this VOA radio broadcast, Koreans and I looked at each other in disbelief. But we also knew that we were in solidarity with each other as part of the human family. When I said goodbye to my new friends we embraced knowing that we live in a single world made up of a rich diversity of ideas and species. We know that we are going to live or die together, and hope that the arrogant and dangerous rhetoric and militarism of the United States will soon end so we can all live in peace. However, for that to happen, there will need to be a dramatic awakening among the people and a corresponding expression of massive nonviolent opposition that will make such threatening behavior impossible to carry out.

US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank

Seemingly unrelated events all point to a tectonic shift in which Israel has begun preparing the ground to annex the occupied Palestinian territories.

Last week, during an address to students in New York, Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett publicly disavowed even the notion of a Palestinian state.

“We are done with that,” he said. “They have a Palestinian state in Gaza.”

Later in Washington, Bennett, who heads Israel’s settler movement, said Israel would manage the fallout from annexing the West Bank, just as it had with its annexation of the Syrian Golan in 1980.

International opposition would dissipate, he said.

“After two months it fades away and 20 years later and 40 years later, [the territory is] still ours.”

Back home, Israel has proven such words are not hollow.

The parliament passed a law last month that brings three academic institutions, including Ariel University, all located in illegal West Bank settlements, under the authority of Israel’s Higher Education Council. Until now, they were overseen by a military body.

The move marks a symbolic and legal sea change. Israel has effectively expanded its civilian sovereignty into the West Bank. It is a covert but tangible first step towards annexation.

In a sign of how the idea of annexation is now entirely mainstream, Israeli university heads mutely accepted the change, even though it exposes them both to intensified action from the growing international boycott (BDS) movement and potentially to European sanctions on scientific co-operation.

Additional bills extending Israeli law to the settlements are in the pipeline. In fact, far-right justice minister Ayelet Shaked has insisted that those drafting new legislation indicate how it can also be applied in the West Bank.

According to Peace Now, she and Israeli law chiefs are devising new pretexts to seize Palestinian territory. She has called the separation between Israel and the occupied territories required by international law “an injustice that has lasted 50 years”.

After the higher education law passed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his party Israel would “act intelligently” to extend unnoticed its sovereignty into the West Bank. “This is a process with historic consequences,” he said.

That accords with a vote by his Likud party’s central committee in December that unanimously backed annexation.

The government is already working on legislation to bring some West Bank settlements under Jerusalem municipal control – annexation via the back door. This month officials gave themselves additional powers to expel Palestinians from Jerusalem for “disloyalty”.

Yousef Jabareen, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, warned that Israel had accelerated its annexation programme from “creeping to running”.

Notably, Netanyahu has said the government’s plans are being co-ordinated with the Trump administration. It was a statement he later retracted under pressure.

But all evidence suggests that Washington is fully on board, so long as annexation is done by stealth.

The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, a long-time donor to the settlements, told Israel’s Channel 10 TV recently:

“The settlers aren’t going anywhere”.

Settler leader Yaakov Katz, meanwhile, thanked Donald Trump for a dramatic surge in settlement growth over the past year. Figures show one in 10 Israeli Jews is now a settler. He called the White House team “people who really like us, love us”, adding that the settlers were “changing the map”.

The US is preparing to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May, not only pre-empting a final-status issue but tearing out the beating heart from a Palestinian state.

The thrust of US strategy is so well-known to Palestinian leaders – and in lockstep with Israel – that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is said to have refused to even look at the peace plan recently submitted to him.

Reports suggest it will award Israel all of Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians will be forced to accept outlying villages as their own capital, as well as a land “corridor” to let them pray at Al Aqsa and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

As the stronger side, Israel will be left to determine the fate of the settlements and its borders – a recipe for it to carry on with slow-motion annexation.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has warned that Trump’s “ultimate deal” will limit a Palestinian state to Gaza and scraps of the West Bank – much as Bennett prophesied in New York.

Which explains why last week the White House hosted a meeting of European and Arab states to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

US officials have warned the Palestinian leadership, who stayed away, that a final deal will be settled over their heads if necessary. This time the US peace plan is not up for negotiation; it is primed for implementation.

With a Palestinian “state” effectively restricted to Gaza, the humanitarian catastrophe there – one the United Nations has warned will make the enclave uninhabitable in a few years – needs to be urgently addressed.

But the White House summit also sidelined the UN refugee agency UNRWA, which deals with Gaza’s humanitarian situation. The Israeli right hates UNRWA because its presence complicates annexation of the West Bank. And with Fatah and Hamas still at loggerheads, it alone serves to unify the West Bank and Gaza.

That is why the Trump administration recently cut US funding to UNRWA – the bulk of its budget. The White House’s implicit goal is to find a new means to manage Gaza’s misery.

What is needed now is someone to arm-twist the Palestinians. Mike Pompeo’s move from the CIA to State Department, Trump may hope, will produce the strongman needed to bulldoze the Palestinians into submission.

*

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His books include “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.