Netanyahu Using Iran to Distract From Palestine Issue, Says Sha'ath

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Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is using Iran to distract both Israelis and the wider world from Palestine, Fatah's commissioner for International Affairs Nabeel Sha'ath said yesterday, Thursday 16th August.

"We're afraid that a so-called preventive attack on Iran might also destroy us. We are being dragged by the people of Israel to a slaughterhouse that is not of our choice," Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post reports Sha'ath as saying.

Sha'ath also compared Netanayahu's insistence that Iran was developing nuclear weapons to use against Israel to US President George W Bush's claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, in the run up to the US invasion of Iraq.

Sha'ath did express his concern about such weapons being used in the region, but dismissed the Iranian threat. "I am worried about any country developing weapons that may be used against my country or against my neighborhood," Sha'ath told The Jerusalem Post.

He continued, "But honestly, I'm worried about your atomic bomb, and Dimona [nuclear reactor] sending nuclear dirt that kills my people.

"Why should I be less concerned about an Israeli bomb? The Israeli bomb is a reality. The Iranian bomb is a potentiality."

Sha'ath's comments came during a meeting that Jerusalem City Councillor Meir Margalit organised between Sha'ath and Meretz activists on Thursday.

Margalit, who represents East Jerusalem in the municipality, and co-founded the Israeli Coalition Against Housing Demolitions, told PNN, "We were there in order to try to put back the Palestinian issue on the focus, in opposition to the goverment's efforts to put the Iranian issue on the top and the Palestinians aside.

He added, "We were also in opposition to the Labor efforts to put the social issues on the front and to live the palestinians aside."

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Pepe Alalu, also a Meretz member, called upon Sha'ath to encourage Arabs living in East Jerusalem to vote in the municipal elections. Currently most boycott the elections, as they view voting as legitimising an Israeli democratic process. East Jerusalem's Arabs are allowed to vote in local elections but not national ones, as they are classified as residents not citizens.

However, Sha'ath said that he will continue to support the Arab boycott of Israeli local elections, though he acknowledged that East Jerusalem is "in dire need of attention".

Margalit told PNN, "Shaath still supports the idea of boycotting the municipal elections, but he said we have to look again at this sensitive issue."

Margalit said that he believed that Arabs should vote in the local elections in Jerusalem, in order to gain the representation they need to resolve the problems facing their communities, such as the threat of housing demolitions.

Arabs make up approximately 38% of Jerusalem's population, yet East Jerusalem gets only 10.4% of the city's budget.

Alalu agreed with Margalit, calling the economic situation and infrastructure in East Jerusalem "unacceptable". He also estimated to the Jerusalem Post that Arabs could have up to nine council members if they voted, and said that their votes would be decisive in a mayoral race.

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