Axelrod May Be Out Of Sight, But…
Former White House senior adviser David Axelrod is still in the game, playing a central role in brokering Israel-Palestinian negotiations on behalf of the Obama administration, informed Israeli and Palestinian diplomats confirmed to this column.
Axelrod has been in regular contact with both the Israeli team, headed by politician Tzipi Livni, and with the Palestinian team, led by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, the diplomats said.
A source in Erekat’s office further said that Axelrod was behind the U.S. demand for talks to conclude after a period of nine months, a position later seconded by Secretary of State John Kerry.
It was also Axelrod who pressed Israel to work towards a final status agreement on all key issues – Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Jordan Valley – as opposed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s desire for an interim deal on some issues.
Axelrod’s role until now has been kept largely under wraps.
Meanwhile, Iran and its Hizbullah proxy are attempting to stir violence against both Israel and the Egyptian military, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials. The officials say that experts from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard are currently in the Egyptian Sinai to help train militants to carry out attacks against the Egyptian military.
Egypt has been acting to find and destroy weapons smuggling tunnels between Gaza and the Sinai as well as clamp down on global jihad groups located in the Sinai.
The officials said Guard experts are also working with Hamas inside the Gaza Strip to help organize members of the Islamic group’s military wing to confront the Egyptian military.
Secret TPP Negotiations Continue Apace
During the government slimdown that ended last week, the Obama administration continued secret negotiations to complete what is known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.
The expansive plan is a proposed free-trade agreement between the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. The agreement would create new guidelines for everything from food safety to fracking, financial markets, medical prices, copyright rules, and Internet freedom.
The TPP negotiations have been criticized by politicians and advocacy groups alike for the secrecy under which they have been conducted. The few aspects of the partnership leaked to the public indicate an expansive agenda with highly limited congressional oversight.
A New York Times opinion piece previously called the deal the “most significant international commercial agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995.”
Last week, the White House website released a joint statement with the other proposed TPP signatories affirming “our countries are on track to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.”
In February, the Open the Government organization sent a letter to Obama blasting the lack of transparency surrounding the TPP talks, stating that the negotiations have been “conducted in unprecedented secrecy.”
The groups warned issues being secretly negotiated include “patent and copyright, land use, food and product standards, natural resources, professional licensing, government procurement, financial practices, healthcare, energy, telecommunications, and other service sector regulations.”
Normally free -trade agreements must be authorized by a majority of the House and Senate, usually in lengthy proceedings. However, the White House is seeking what is known as “trade promotion authority” which would fast track approval of the TPP by requiring Congress to vote on the likely lengthy trade agreement within 90 days and without any amendments.
The authority also allows Obama to sign the agreement before Congress even has a chance to vote on it, with lawmakers getting only a quick post-facto vote.
The TPP is “more than just a trade deal,” wrote Lori Wallach and Ben Beachy of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch in a New York Times op-ed last June.
Wallach and Beachy spotlighted several leaks in the proposed TPP text, including one that would regulate the price of medicine. Another leak revealed the TPP would grant more incentives to relocate domestic manufacturing offshore, Wallach and Beachy related.
Jim Hightower, a progressive activist, wrote that the TPP incorporates elements similar to the Stop Online Piracy Act. Hightower wrote the deal would “transform Internet service providers into a private, Big Brother police force, empowered to monitor our ‘user activity,’ arbitrarily take down our content and cut off our access to the Internet.”