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Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel
www.vtjp.org/
For those interested in keeping up with events in Palestine/Israel, there is no better digest than VTJP.

VTJP Archives | Newslinks Archives  
10 June 2008

Israel mulls onslaught as strike kills three Hamas men
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/11/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Israeli troops killed three Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip Tuesday as Premier Ehud Olmert met with top ministers to weigh up a possible military offensive on the besieged territory. The meeting came a day after the parents of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held at a secret location by Gaza militants, received a letter from their son who was captured two years ago. Israel’s political and military leaders have for months been mulling a wider military blitz in the Gaza aimed at ousting its Hamas-run government. The Israelis have been trying to unseat Hamas since the Islamist group won democratic elections across the Palestinian territories in January 2006, stepping up their siege last June after Hamas took control of the enclave by routing forces loyal to the rival Fatah faction which had refused to accept the results of the polls.

Israeli troops shoot Palestinian man near Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 6/10/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli soldiers shot a young Palestinian man in the feet at midnight on Monday near the West Bank village of Beit Ummar, near the city of Hebron, Israeli sources reported. The Israeli military claims that the man threw a Molotov cocktail at an Israeli military position, provoking the shooting. In a separate incident, An Israeli settler’s car was pelted with stones near the West Bank town of Tarqumiya, west of Hebron. The car was reportedly damaged, although no one was injured. [end]

Knesset votes to amend ’Intifada law’
Zvi Lavi, YNetNews 6/10/2008
Government seeks to expand legal definition of counterterrorism operations, exempting state from accountability for damages resulting from IDF activities in West Bank - Palestinians who sustain damages to person or property as a result of IDF activity in the West Bank may soon find it nigh impossible to file a lawsuit against the State of Israel. The Knesset on Tuesday passed an amendment of the so-called ’Intifada law’ (civil damages act) in its first reading. The government’s bill proposal seeks to expand the definition of the term ’military act,’ under which the state is exempt from being held accountable for damage incurred in counterterrorism operations. The immunity currently pertains only to limited situations. According to the law, which was revoked by the High Court of Justice in December 2006 following numerous petitions by human rights organizations, residents. . .

Olmert ’wants Lebanon talks’
Al Jazeera 6/10/2008
The Israeli prime minister has suggested that peace talks should be opened with Lebanon, following the resumption of negotiations with its neighbour Syria. "Just as we started talks with Syria, I would hope it would be possible to start talks with Lebanon," an official quoted Ehud Olmert as saying in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Israel and Syria announced last month that they had been holding indirect talks through Turkey. Further meetings are expected for later this week, officials said. However, a source, who spoke to the Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity, said that the prime minister "wasn’t asking for talks with Lebanon" but was voicing his hope that conditions would emerge to enable negotiations. Hezbollah conflictIsrael fought a 34-day war with fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah group in 2006.

Olmert warns new US administration may not be as ’friendly’
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 6/10/2008
Prime minister briefs cabinet on Washington visit, state of peace talks with Palestinians, Syria. Israel, he says, must advance process while Bush still president - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday Israel should push to advance peace talks the Palestinian Authority in the final months of US President George W. Bush’s term in office as, "there is no telling what thing would look like once a new president is elected. "The current US administration, he said "is extremely friendly," and that therefore it would be unwise to waste such an advantage. "Time is of the essence," he added. Olmert briefed the cabinet on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, saying "we are seeing some progress, not only between (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas and myself, but also between the Palestinian team and that headed by (Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni).

90% of Israelis see country ''tainted with corruption''
Noam Sharvit, Globes Online 6/10/2008
Survey: 51% believe that corruption is necessary in politics. The 2008 Democracy Index compiled byIsrael Democracy Institute finds that 90% of Israelis believe that the country is "tainted with corruption". 60% of respondents said that corruption was "very high" and 30% said that it was "quite high". Only 9% said that it was "very low", and 1% said that there was no corruption at all. 51% of the respondents said that corruption was necessary in order to reach the top echelons of Israeli politics today. Although the survey finds that Israel receives better evaluations from international research institutes compared with previous years, there is no change in Israel’s ranking among a sample of 36 countries, and in certain cases, its ranking has fallen. In other words, despite the relative improvement in Israel’s scores in certain categories, the situation of other countries. . .

U.S. Army training Egyptians to find, destroy smuggling tunnels
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 6/11/2008
The United States Army has begun training Egyptian soldiers to locate and destroy tunnels, in an effort to improve the Egyptian army’s ability to cope with arms-smuggling from Sinai to the Gaza Strip. A second, larger group of Egyptian soldiers is also due to arrive shortly for training, which is taking place at a U. S. Army base in Texas. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers is teaching the Egyptian troops how to use advanced technological equipment to find and destroy the tunnels, including instruments that measure ground fluctuations and signal that a tunnel is being dug. There has already been some improvement in Egypt’s anti-smuggling activity, said Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz, who heads the Military Intelligence research division. "The Egyptians have intensified their efforts along the border, but their activity is. . .

Two Palestinians killed in Rafah underground tunnel system
Ma’an News Agency 6/10/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A Palestinian man was killed on Monday evening when an underground tunnel collapsed in the city of Rafah, underneath the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Palestinian medical sources identified the victim as 20-year-old Fadi Khalifa. His body was taken to Abu Yousif An-Najjar Hospital in Rafah. Earlier on Monday, Palestinian sources said that 27-year-old Majdi Khdair was killed in a similar tunnel collapse in the Salam neighborhood of Rafah. Palestinian resistance groups use tunnels to move weapons and personnel into the blockaded Gaza Strip. [end]

Captive Israeli soldier begs for life in letter home
Steve Weizman, Associated Press, in Jerusalem, The Guardian 6/11/2008
An Israeli soldier held by Palestinian militants for almost two years has pleaded for his life and begged for his government to step up efforts to win his release in his latest letter home, his father told Associated Press yesterday. Noam Shalit, father of Corporal Gilad Shalit, 21, would not quote directly from the letter, passed to him through emissaries acting for Jimmy Carter, the former US president, but he said his son wrote of poor health and dreams of home. Cpl Shalit has not been seen since he was seized by militants linked to Hamas in a cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip into Israel in June 2006, although a recording of his voice and two other letters have been sent to his family. Hamas, which rules Gaza, handed over the latest note as part of a promise it gave Carter during a meeting in Syria in April.

Egypt demands more flexibility from Hamas on prisoner exchange deal
Ali Waked, YNetNews 6/10/2008
Palestinian sources say Cairo wants Islamist group to submit new list of prisoners it want Israel to free in exchange for Shalit. ’The captive IDF soldier has become a burden on Egyptian policy makers who want to end the affair and have Rafah crossing reopened,’ they say -Senior Palestinian sources in Gaza claimed on Tuesday that Egypt has increased its pressure onHamas to submit a new list of prisoners it wants released as part of a comprehensive ceasefire agreement with Israel that would include the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Hamas’ original list of 300 prisoners was, for the most part, rejected by Israel. According to Palestinian sources, Israel has agreed to release 71 prisoners "with blood on their hands". "Now Egypt expects Hamas to become more flexible, agree to Israel’s request and transfer another list of prisoners," one of the sources said.

Bahr: The issue of prisoners is of the biggest concern to the PLC
Palestinian Information Center 6/10/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Ahmed Bahr, the acting speaker of the PLC, stated Tuesday during his meeting with the director of the Wa’ed society that the PLC will never forsake the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails nor their families, highlighting that the issue of prisoners is of the biggest concern to all lawmakers in the council. Dr. Bahr underlined that the PLC presidency discusses the conditions of prisoners and their suffering in Israeli jails as well as the suffering of their families who are deprived of visiting them every time it gets the chance to meet with foreign delegations. The acting speaker promised to inform the society about any visit paid by foreign delegates to the council in order for prisoners’ families to meet with them and explain the real suffering experienced by them, and their sons and daughters imprisoned in Israeli jails.

Cairo to host Hamas-Fatah talks ’soon’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/11/2008
CAIRO: Egypt will "soon" host inter-Palestinian talks between Fatah and Hamas, Palestinian Ambassador to Cairo Nabil Amr said on Tuesday. Egyptian President "Hosni Mubarak accepted the request by [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas during their meeting on Monday that Cairo should host inter-Palestinian dialogue sessions soon," the official Middle East News Agency (MENA) quoted Amr as saying. The move follows Abbas’ request to Mubarak that "Cairo should be the center of joint Arab efforts to end the Palestinians’ internal crisis," MENA reported. Hamas’ exiled political chief, Khaled Meshaal, said Monday that his Islamist movement was ready for talks with Fatah. -

Hamas meets with Palestinian resistance factions in unity effort
Ma’an News Agency 6/10/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas leaders met with officials from Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza on Monday as a part of a series of consultations the movement says is aimed at successful national reconciliation. Senior Hamas leader Jamal Abu Hashim said that Hamas will give priority to Palestinian national interests over its own interests. Abu Hashim also explained to the factions about Hamas’ contacts with Arab and Islamic countries as well as the Arab League. He also updated the faction leaders on the results of the Hamas-Fatah talks in Senegal. He also reaffirmed that Hamas insists on comprehensive Arab participation in unity efforts. He said Arab intervention would enhance the chances of success of the dialogue and guarantee that any agreement reached would be implemented and respected. Hashim talked about a number of basic Palestinian principles on which dialogue should. . .

Barghouthi: Democracy is the Key to Restoring National Unity
Palestine Monitor 6/10/2008
Ramallah: PNI leader, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP, today welcomed steps towards restoring national unity currently being taken by President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leaders, and stressed that this new initiative cannot be missed. He underlined that the democratic process - free and fair elections, respect for the separation of powers and the rule of law, and the equality of all Palestinians before the law - was the key to restoring national unity. Dr. Barghouthi stressed the need for national unity to end divisions on the Palestinian street and between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to lift the Israeli siege on Gaza, and to protect the Palestinian national cause. He pointed out that national unity was of greater importance now than ever before in the face of increased Israeli military attacks since Annapolis, together with the ongoing siege on Gaza, the continued. . .

Israeli officials deny attempt to weaken Fayyad’s government
Ma’an News Agency 6/10/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The government of Israel denied having any intention on Monday to weaken the Palestinian caretaker government led by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad through delaying the transfer of tax revenue money that pays the salaries of Palestinian civil servants. Israeli TV quoted Israeli officials as saying to European leaders and to Tony Blair, the official envoy of the international Quartet on the Middle East, that Israel will speed up the delivery of tax revenue to the Palestinian government. Israel reportedly delayed the transfer of tax funds for over a week in retaliation for a protest Fayyad lodged with the European Union over Israel’s expansion of illegal settlements. In a different regard, Israeli TV quoted the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas saying that the decision to hold dialogue with Hamas was the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) decision.

UNRWA seeks extra funds for Palestinian refugees
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/11/2008
DAMASCUS: The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine refugees launched an appeal to international donors on Tuesday to fill a funding shortfall that hit $98. 8 million last year. UNRWA Commissioner General Karen AbuZayd said the agency also needed additional funds for urgent projects planned for this year, notably the reconstruction of the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in North Lebanon, which was largely destroyed in an Islamist uprising last year. AbuZayd said the agency also planned to renovate the Al-Nayrab camp in Syria’s main northern city of Aleppo. The two-day conference with donors in the Syrian capital, which was due to wrap up on Wednesday, was also attended by representatives of the main host countries for Palestinian refugees, Jordan as well as Lebanon and Syria. In May, the UN agency appealed for an extra $117 million for its general fund this year due to meet rising food prices and increasing costs of living.

UNICEF Regional Director visits Palestinian children bearing brunt of conflict
United Nations Children''s Fund - UNICEF, ReliefWeb 6/9/2008
GAZA, Occupied Palestinian Territory, 9 June 2008 – UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Sigrid Kaag visited the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel recently to see firsthand the enduring impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on children. ’Under current conditions, the key challenges remain access to quality services and care, especially in education and health, and stronger protection systems at the household, community and government levels,’ said Ms. Kaag. ’Children make up more than half the population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and they bear the brunt of conflict, closure and increase in poverty levels. ’ Ms. Kaag visited UNICEF-supported programmes in Gaza City as well as Gaza’s Jabaliya camp, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Beit Lahiya. She also met the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Activists move to help Palestinians regain land
Google Maps, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 6/11/2008
JERUSALEM, 10 June 2008 (IRIN) - A group of Israeli human rights activists has begun a project to help Palestinians in the West Bank, who have in the past had land taken away by settlers, regain what they say are their property rights. Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, according to a 2007 report entitled The Humanitarian Impact of Israeli Infrastructure in the West Bankby the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), are causing hardship to the local Palestinians: Their ability to develop urban areas is severely hampered, their agricultural land has shrunk and their movement has been restricted. Said Shahada, from the village of Ein Yabroud, recalled how settlers took over an old Jordanian army base, and then gradually occupied Palestinian land and built Ofra, one of the first and largest settlements in the West Bank.

Occupation is a ''millstone'' around Israel’s neck, report says
Ma’an News Agency 6/10/2008
JERUSALEM, 8 June 2008 (IRIN) - The occupation of the Palestinian territories is exacting a high price from Israel, a local think-tank said. "The prolonged conflict with the Palestinians is a millstone around Israel’s neck," Adva, a social justice NGO, said in a 4 June report, The cost of the occupation. Israel’s poor carry much of the burden as inequality within the country grows. The percentage of families considered poor has doubled since the 1970s, the report said, noting this was due to the conflict and partially the result of immigrants from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union being unable to integrate in Israeli society. Government spending cuts in recent years have targeted social services. "[From] 2001 through 2005, child allowances were cut by 45 percent, unemployment compensation by 47 percent, and income maintenance by 25 percent," causing increased suffering for the poorest.

Talks with Syria to resume next week
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 6/11/2008
Prime minister’s office trying keep scheduling details of meeting with Syrians under wraps, but Jerusalem officials tell Ynet representatives from both countries expected to meet in Turkey as early as next week. Fate of Shebaa farms may be on agenda - Official sources in Jerusalem told Ynet on Tuesday night that the negotiations between Israel and Syria will resume next week in Turkey. The al-Arabiya news network said the disputed Shebaa Farms region may end be on the table as the representatives sit down with Turkish mediators once more to continue the peace talks. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Office has so far maintained a veil of secrecy over the exact date of the meetings, possibly out of concern that such exposure could hamper the talks. The Syrians as well have been keeping mum about the schedule and location of the negotiations.

EU and Bush warn ’nuclear’ Iran
Al Jazeera 6/10/2008
The United States and the European Union have sought to increase pressure on Iran to drop its nuclear enrichment programme, saying they are ready to go beyond the last round of United Nations sanctions. "Iran with a nuclear weapon would be incredibly dangerous for world peace," George Bush, the US president, said at an US-EU summit in Slovenia. "So we have got to continue working to make it clear, abundantly clear, to them that it is their choice to make, that they face isolation, or they can have better relations with other [countries] if they verifiably suspend their [uranium] enrichment programme. "Extra measures - At the summit, Bush met Slovenian leaders, who hold the EU’s rotating presidency, as well as Jose Manuel Barroso, the European commission president and Javier Solana,. . .

Hamas: The Israeli escalation today proves it is not concerned with any calm
Palestinian Information Center 6/10/2008
RAFAH, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement stated that the new Israeli military escalation against the Palestinian people which claimed at noon Tuesday the lives of three Qassam fighters and wounded five citizens in the Shujaiyeh neighborhood in the east of  Gaza city confirmed that Israel is not concerned with any calm. In a press statement received by the PIC, Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said that this Israeli aggression can never scare the Palestinian people and break their fortitude, but rather it will boost their determination and death defiance in the face of the Israeli occupation. Dr. Abu Zuhri underlined that Israel has to be ready to pay dearly for the crimes it commits under the silence of the international community. In retaliation to the ongoing Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people, Al-Qassam Brigades took the credit for firing during the early morning. . .

18 mortars hit Negev; 3 Hamas men killed in IAF strike
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 6/10/2008
Palestinians fire two separate salvos toward south Israel as ’Kitchen Cabinet’ discusses possible military operation in Gaza; no injuries or damage reported. Three Hamas operatives killed in ensuing IAF strike - Eighteen mortar shells were fired from Gaza toward the Nahal Oz area noon Tuesday, as the "Kitchen Cabinet" - consisting of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni - was expected to reach a decision on whether or not to launch a military operation against Palestinian terror groups in the coastal enclave. Hamas claimed responsibility for the mortar fire, and shortly after the attacks Palestinian sources reported that three Hamas operatives were killed and a number of others were wounded in an Israel Air Force strike in the Gaza City neighborhood of Sajaiya.

Hamas members killed in Gaza raid
Al Jazeera 6/10/2008
Three members of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, have been killed in an Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials say. Health officials said at least four other Palestinians were wounded on Tuesday in separate Israeli air raids. The Israeli military said it targeted fighters who had fired mortar rounds across the border. Hamas said 16 mortar shells were fired towards an Israeli-controlled border crossing in retaliation for the killings. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman said Israel’s military action "clearly indicates that Israel [is] not interested in achieving calm." "Therefore they must be ready to pay the price," he told the Associated Press news agency. The attacks occurred east of the town of Jebaliya, in northern Gaza.

Three Qassam fighters killed, 5 civilians wounded in IOF tank shelling
Palestinian Information Center 6/10/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Three Qassam fighters were killed, Tuesday afternoon, in the Shejaeyyah suburb in east Gaza city, while five civilians were wounded when an IOF tank fired artillery shells at a group of Qassam fighters. Palestinian medical sources confirmed the death of the three fighters and said there were children amongst the wounded, adding that emergency services hurried to the scene and carried the dead and wounded to the Shifa hospital in west Gaza city. One of the fighters killed was identified as Yahya Hamida of the Qassam information office, while the bodies of the two others were mutilated beyond recognition. Following the shelling, an Israeli airplane bombed a target in eat Gaza city wounding a civilian.

Gaza groups unfazed by possible IDF op
Ali Waked, YNetNews 6/10/2008
As security cabinet prepares to decide on future military operation in Strip, militias seem unwary. ’The Israelis know that any large operation would carry severe consequences,’ says militant source - Israel’s security cabinet is expected to make the pivotal decision of when - and more importantly if - the Gaza will see a wide-scale military operation meant to crush militant infrastructure; but the various armed groups in the Strip seem unfazed by the prospect. Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) all believe that the political state of mind in Israel will not allow such an operation to materialize. "The letter relayed from

PFLP fighters shelled Nahal Oz, group says
Ma’an News Agency 6/10/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed wing of the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), claimed responsibility for shelling Nahal Oz border crossing with eight mortar shells, on Tuesday at 12:40 pm. In a statement the group said it would "wildly respond to the occupation’s crimes." Three Hamas-affiliated fighters were killed by Israeli forces in the vicinity of the crossing at around noon on Tuesday. [end]

Al-Quds Brigades ’fire projectile’ at Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 6/10/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The Al-Quds brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for launching two homemade projectiles on Tuesday morning at the Israeli town of Sderot, which borders the Gaza Strip. The Brigades said in a statement that this action came in the retaliation for ’ongoing Israeli atrocities’ in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. [end]

Hamas fighters attack Israeli bulldozer in Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 6/10/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – The Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, claimed responsibility for launching an rocket-propelled grenade at an Israeli bulldozer next to east of the city of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday morning. The Brigades said in a statement, that they attacked the invading bulldozer at 9am. [end]

Israel starts to build a big settlement project near the Aqsa Mosque
Palestinian Information Center 6/10/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Aqsa foundation for the reconstruction of Islamic shrines warned that Zionist organizations are embarking on establishing and marketing a massive settlement project overlooking the Aqsa Mosque on the Mount Zeitoun in the Ras Al-Amud area. During an inspection tour of the Mount Zeitoun, a commission of the Aqsa foundation found out that Zionist settlement organizations were accelerating the construction of 60 settlement units where they started to build the foundations of the project that are located in the middle of Arab houses. The foundation pointed out that the Zionist organizations confiscated the Palestinian lands on which these settlement units are being built. The foundation also discovered that Jewish organizations and companies are marketing this settlement project through many promotional materials including a documentary film showing. . .

Olmert signals readiness for talks with Lebanon
Daily Star 6/11/2008
BEIRUT: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday suggested holding peace talks with Lebanon, following last month’s announcement of Israel’s indirect, Turkish-mediated negotiations with Syria. "I would have been glad if - after the announcement of the talks with Syria - the Lebanese government would announce its willingness to open direct bilateral talks with Israel," a senior official quoted Olmert as saying in a cabinet meeting. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Olmert spoke in a closed meeting, said the premier "wasn’t asking for talks with Lebanon" but was voicing his hope that conditions would emerge to enable negotiations to be held. Hizbullah refused to comment on Olmert’s remarks, pending the release of an official reaction, the reistance group’s media office said. Meanwhile, sources close to Prime Minister-designate Fouad Siniora said Lebanese-Israeli peace talks were not an option at the current time.

Continuing clashes defy efforts to restore stability
Anthony Elghossain, Daily Star 6/11/2008
BEIRUT: The volatile security outlook in Lebanon continues to eclipse political efforts to build on the Doha agreement and foster greater stability in the country, with clashes and shootings continuing to occur across the country. Jalal Hassanein, a 27-year-old Palestinian, was shot dead late Monday night at the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon, scene of a recent foiled suicide attack on a Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) post just outside the camp. Hassanein was shot four times by unidentified assailants on Monday at about 10:30 p. m. and succumbed to his wounds at approximately 2:30 a. m. on Tuesday, said a security source. The source told The Daily Star that Hassanein, the son of a Fatah faction member, "was responsible for uncovering or pointing out foreign residents of the Ain al-Hilweh camp." Speculation regarding Hassanein’s potential affiliation with Osbat al-Ansar,. . .

Lebanese cabinet tussle may come down to finance, foreign affairs
Daily Star 6/11/2008
BEIRUT: Lebanon spent another day waiting for the formation of a new unity cabinet on Tuesday, but senior figures from both the ruling March 14 camp and the March 8 opposition alliance expressed confidence that the difficulties would be ironed out. Former President Amin Gemayel met Prime Minister-designate Fouad Siniora, telling reporters afterward that the latter had forwarded two different formulas to the rival parties and was awaiting their responses. Gemayel denied that Siniora was insisting on keeping the Finance Ministry in the hands of one of his confidantes, contradicting news reports quoting the premier as stating that he would rather "go home" than relinquish control of a portfolio he held for several years under the late Rafik Hariri. Gemayel also defended the principle of empowering recently elected President Michel Sleiman by giving him major ministries in the new cabinet.

UN helps replace livestock lost in 2006 hostilities
Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star 6/11/2008
SOUTH LEBANON: The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in collaboration with the Agriculture Ministry, held a ceremony Tuesday to distribute cows to livestock farmers who suffered significant losses during the summer 2006 war with Israel, as part of the international body’s program to aid South Lebanon’s agriculture industry improve productivity. Organizers of the project drew lots to distribute 100 pregnant cows - from Germany and Holland - to Southern farmers. Samir Chami, representing resigned Agriculture Minister Talal Sahili, said the step "constitutes a small compensation to Southern farmers following the losses they have incurred during the 2006 hostilities. ""We hope to implement further projects in a bid to cover the needs of the whole South," he added. Beneficiaries of the project should meet three conditions, Chami said.

Olmert calls for Israel-Lebanon talks
Middle East Online 6/10/2008
JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday suggested holding peace talks with Lebanon, following last month’s announcement of Israel’s indirect Turkish-mediated negotiations with Syria. "I would have been glad if after the announcement of the talks with Syria the Lebanese government would announce its willingness to open direct bilateral talks with Israel," a senior official quoted Olmert as saying in a cabinet meeting. "I see many advantages in this," he said. Israel and Syria last month announced they were holding indirect negotiations brokered by Turkey, eight years after their last attempt at peacemaking broke down. Israel went to war in Lebanon in July 2006 after the Lebanese Hezbollah militia captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border attack. The war lasted 34 days. In 1982 Israel launched a full-scale invasion of Lebanon, where its forces remained until 2000.

Haniyeh advisor: Hamas expects gesture in exchange for Shalit letter
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 6/11/2008
Hamas expects a gesture from Israel because it delivered a letter from kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit to his family, an advisor to Hamas’ Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh told Haaretz on Tuesday. Ahmed Yusuf said that as a gesture of goodwill, Israel could release women prisoners or minors to prove it is serious about a prisoner exchange. Yusuf said Hamas has delivered two letters from Shalit, and released one audio tape of Shalit’s voice; however, Israel has not responded with a gesture of its own. Yusuf also said that if Israel did nothing this time as well, it would be hard to imagine Hamas initiating a further gesture. Channel 1 on Tuesday released portions of the letter Shalit’s family received Sunday through the Carter Center. "Dear Dad, Mom, my brother and sister, grandmom and grandad and all the family.

Reservists: If we’re captured, don’t negotiate for our bodies
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 6/11/2008
"If we are captured by the enemy, we ask that the state of Israel does not release many hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for our freedom," Israel Defense Forces reserves soldiers wrote in a letter addressed to the IDF chief of staff, channel 2 reported Tuesday. The reservists, members of a decorated infantry battalion, are slated to be the first soldiers to enter enemy territory should Israel decide to carry out a large-scale military operation in the Gaza StripAccording to Channel 2, the letter will be handed to IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi only when such an operation begins. The soldiers and officers emphasize in the letter that they are "ready to sit in an enemy prison for as long as it takes," and demand that Israel refrain from paying a high price for their freedom.

Soldiers write to IDF chief: Don’t free hundreds of prisoners for us
Jerusalem Post 6/11/2008
Dozens of soldiers and officers from a reserve IDF infantry brigade have written a letter to the chief of the general staff, asking that he prevent Israel from freeing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for their release in the event that they are captured by the enemy, Channel 2 reported Tuesday. "We are willing to sit in the enemy’s prison as long as it takes," wrote the soldiers of the brigade, which is considered to be one of the army’s finest, and would be one of the first to enter the Gaza Strip if the government decides on a large-scale military operation there. [end]

Marriv: Israel is confused about accepting the truce or waging war on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 6/10/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli Maariv newspaper stated that Israel is in confusion and cannot decide between two fateful options, either to accept the truce with Hamas or to indulge itself in an unpredictable large-scale military operation in the Gaza strip. Amir Rapaport, a military affairs writer in the newspaper, said that the Israeli government would not ratify a truce agreement with Hamas at a time when the Palestinian resistance inflicts losses on IOF troops as such a step now would be look like being defeated by the resistance. Rapaport underlined that Israeli war minister Ehud Barak’s recent statements point out that Israel may wage small-scale or quality operations against Gaza to teach the Palestinian resistance a lesson and then engage in calm out of strength. In another context, the Hebrew radio reported that the parents of Israeli captive soldier Gilad Shalit. . .

Israeli government considering both ceasefire and escalation in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 6/10/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an Exclusive – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to preside over a meeting with Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday to discuss whether to agree to a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip or to launch a major military operation there. Israeli political sources say that several members of the Israeli cabinet, including Barak, are leaning towards military escalation and away from ceasefire. The Israeli cabinet will also hold its weekly session and discuss political and security issues on Tuesday. Israeli Housing Minister Ze’ev Boim said he will ask the cabinet to make a final decision regarding a harsh military operation which he hopes will devastate Hamas. He added that such an operation would empower "moderates" in the Gaza Strip to assert themselves against Hamas.

Seized Israeli soldier sends letter
Al Jazeera 6/10/2008
The family of Corporal Gilad Shalit, the soldier abducted in the Gaza Strip nearly two years ago, has received a letter from their son. The letter was passed to the family via the Ramallah office of the Carter Centre, the foundation set up by former US President Jimmy Carter, the Israeli media reported. It is one of the few indicators that Shalit is alive since his capture on June 25, 2006 by Palestinian armed men who tunnelled into Israel from Gaza. The letter is said to include a plea by Shalit for efforts to be quickened to win his release. Noam Shalit, his father, would not quote directly from the letter, but said his son also wrote of poor health and dreams of returning home. Excerpts from another letter from Shalit was released in September 2006.

Palestinians injured in prisoners’ fight
Ma’an News Agency 6/10/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A number of Palestinian prisoners were injured in Israeli Ketziot prison in the Negev desert were injured on Monday when fighting between them, Israeli sources said. According to the sources, a fight erupted between prisoners from the northern West Bank cities of Jenin and Nablus. The prison’s guards intervened and dispersed the fight. The cause of the fight is still not known. [end]

Hamas takes aim at Internet porn in Gaza
Middle East Online 6/10/2008
GAZA CITY - First it went after drug dealers, then booze and car theft. Now the democratically elected Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, which seized power inside Gaza a year ago (the Strip is still under illegal Israeli occupation), is taking on another challenge to its self-styled rule -- Internet pornography. "A couple of weeks ago Hamas installed a filter to prevent people from accessing such pages on the net," said Ali Sarayfi who runs an Internet cafe in the university area of Gaza City. Inside the cafe dozens of young people are glued to computer monitors, surfing the Internet and enjoying one of their last remaining links to the world outside the fenced-off territory. Since Hamas took over control of inside the Gaza Strip on June 15 last year after routing forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, Israel has sealed the impoverished territory off from all but limited humanitarian aid.

Haneyya: We make every effort to initiate win-win dialog with Fatah
Palestinian Information Center 6/10/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Ismail Haneyya, the premier of the caretaker government, stated Monday that his government and the Hamas Movement are making every effort to create an appropriate climate for initiating win-win national dialog with the Fatah faction in order to end the internal rift in the Palestinian arena. During his visit to some Gaza high schools to check the process of final exams, Haneyya said that the government and Hamas are making their best to lift the siege and create an atmosphere to start national dialog based on the higher interests of the Palestinian people and cause. For his part, Sa’eed Siyam, the interior minister in Gaza, underlined in a statement posted on the Islam online website that Hamas will show unprecedented flexibility in its talks with Fatah on the basis of a win-win situation. Siyam pointed out that the preliminary talks taking place between Hamas and. . .

Fatah lawmaker: Gaza will welcome Abbas’ return
Ma’an News Agency 6/10/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A Fatah-affiliated lawmaker from the Gaza Strip, Ibrahim Al-Masdar, claimed on Tuesday that the residents of the Gaza have been eagerly awaiting the return of the Palestinian Authority. He said that after President Mahmoud Abbas launched his call for national unity, Gazans will embrace him again as their leader. Abbas called for renewed dialogue with the rival Hamas movement in a televised speech last Wednesday. Hamas, which has never disputed Abbas’ authority as president, welcomed the call for dialogue. Al-Masdar also emphasized that the PLO’s Executive Committee should be in charge of every step related to Hamas-Fatah dialogue. He urged the executive to speed up the dialogue procedures. With regards to Israel’s threats of a major escalation of attacks on the Gaza Strip, he said, "They do not scare the Palestinian people as they are nothing new.

World Bank grants $40 million to Palestinian Authority
Ma’an News Agency 6/10/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an - Palestinian caretaker Prime Minister Salam Fayyad signed an agreement with the World Bank today for the transfer of $40 million in budget support for the Palestinian Authority. The Bank says the grant falls in the framework of Fayyad’s Palestinian Reform and Development Plan (PRDP). Fayyad, who was appointed as prime minister in 2007, worked for the World Bank in Washington, DC from 1987 to 1995. The World Bank said that budget support is a central component of ongoing World Bank efforts to support the PRDP, which was presented to the international donor community in Paris in December 2007. "This grant aims to support the PA’s efforts to accelerate the implementation of reforms described in the PRDP, especially those aimed at strengthening its fiscal position and improving public financial management," said David Craig, World Bank Country Director for the West Bank and Gaza.

EU contributes €23 million to pay salaries and pensions of over 73,000 Palestinian civil servants and pensioners through PEGASE
European Commission - EC, ReliefWeb 6/10/2008
PR/021/2008 Jerusalem -73,761 Palestinian public service providers and pensioners will today receive a total of over NIS 117 million (over €23 million), which is being disbursed through the European mechanism for support to the Palestinians, PEGASE[1]. The EU’s PEGASE contribution will be added to this month’s payment of salaries and pensions by the Palestinian Ministry of Finance, thus helping to ensure the continued delivery of essential public services. Funds from the European Member States and the European Commission will be channeled through the Single Treasury Account of the Palestinian Authority. Spain and Sweden have both contributed to this month’s payment. PEGASE channels EU and international assistance to help build a Palestinian State and is the main financing mechanism of the European Union, the largest donor to the Palestinians.

Peres: Limit politicians’ term to 8 years
Neta Sela, YNetNews 6/10/2008
’Politicians must understand that they were elected to serve the public and not themselves,’ President says after receiving 2008 democracy index - Israel must adopt the political norms prevalent in many countries around the world and limit the terms of its politicians to 4-8 years, so public service "won’t become a life-long career", President Shimon Peres said Tuesday. Speaking at a ceremony in which he was presented with the 2008 Democracy Index, Peres, who has been involved in Israeli politics for the past 60 years, said "politicians must understand that they were elected to serve the public and not themselves. "A politician should consider his work a calling and not as something that serves his or her own interests," the president said. Peres called on Israeli youngsters to enter the political arena and "fix it from within instead of complaining about it from the outside".

Egyptian police kill Sudanese headed for Israel
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/11/2008
AL-ARISH, Egypt: Egyptian police shot dead a Sudanese man on Tuesday as he tried to sneak across the border into Israel, a security official said. Mohammed Taher Mersal, 30, was shot as he tried to enter Israel from an area south of the Egyptian town of Rafah, the official told AFP. In recent months Egypt has arrested dozens of illegal immigrants, mostly Africans, trying to cross into Israel from the Sinai in search of work. Several have been killed. [end]

Egypt set to review Israel natural gas deal
Lior Baron, Globes Online 6/10/2008
Egyptian opposition claims the contract price for the gas does not reflect market prices. The Egyptian government will reconsider the price of the natural gas it exports to Israel as well as the prices in its other contracts, Egypt’s Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmy told a session of the Egyptian parliament which discussed the natural gas supply agreement between Israel and Egypt. The debate was held amid pressure and criticism from the Egyptian opposition which claims the contract price for the gas supplied to Israel is too low, and does not reflect market prices. Sameh’s comment is the second by a top Egyptian minister after Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said last month that the Egyptian government was holding talks with Israel on the issue. Egypt began supplying natural gas to Israel last month. There has been no indication so far from Egypt about reopening its current natural. . .

Syria’s culture minister solidifies rapprochement with visit to France
Daily Star 6/11/2008
Syria’s culture minister arrived in Paris on Tuesday on the first visit by a Syrian government member in three years, confirming a thaw in Franco-Syrian ties following the political breakthrough in Lebanon and one day after the US State Department reacted with caution to French plans to renew relations with Damascus. France’s Foreign Ministry said the official visit by Culture Minister Riad Naassan Agha marked a "new page" in relations with Damascus, coming in the wake of a decision by President Nicolas Sarkozy to renew top-level ties. Sarkozy has also invited President Bashar Assad to Paris to attend a Mediterranean summit next month. "This visit is part of a new page we hope will be turned and written in relations between France and Syria, insofar as recent positive developments continue," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Pascale Andreani said.

US confirms Iraqi concerns about immunity for guards
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 6/11/2008
BAGHDAD: Immunity from Iraqi law for foreign private guards is a sticking point in the deal between Washington and Baghdad over long-term US troop presence in the country, a top US official said Tuesday. "The issue of contractors including [foreign] security contractors is a sensitive one, is a significant one," David Satterfield, the US State Department’s top Iraq adviser, told reporters in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. "There are outstanding issues, obviously, including issues focused on the security side." The presence of tens of thousands of foreign private security contractors has been heavily criticized, especially after last year’s brutal massacre of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad by the Blackwater company which provides protection to US officials in Iraq. These contractors, however, enjoy immunity from Iraqi law.

Washington and Brussels warn Tehran again
Paul Harrington and Olivier Knox, Daily Star 6/11/2008
Agence France Presse - BRDO PRI KRANJU, Slovenia: US and European leaders warned Iran on Tuesday of new sanctions if Tehran refuses to halt a nuclear program the West suspects to be a covert atomic weapons drive. "Iran with a nuclear weapon would be incredibly dangerous for world peace," US President George W. Bush said at a joint news conference after his final summit with EU leaders. "Now’s the time for all of us to work together to stop them. "The US president dismissed talk of divisions between hard-line Washington and Europe, which plans a new package of diplomatic and economic incentives if Iran will verifiably halt uranium enrichment. "We’re on the same page," he declared. He also expressed sympathy with Israeli threats of military action against the Islamic Republic if it refused to give in to Western demands.

EU Summit: Tougher sanctions on Iran
News agencies, YNetNews 6/10/2008
US president, EU leaders warn Iran they plan to launch new, more serious sanctions if country does not suspend nuclear activity. Bush: Iran with nuclear weapon incredibly dangerous to world peace - US President George W. Bush, pushing for a tougher international stance against Iran’s nuclear ambitions, came together with his European partners Tuesday to embrace financial sanctions beyond those the United Nations already has undertaken to pressure Tehran. During the EU Summit, held in Slovenia, the US president pushed for the agreement of Britain, Germany and France on a package of new penalties and incentives aimed at preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. According to the summit declaration, Bush and the EU leaders were poised to threaten Iran with further financial sanctions unless it verifiably suspends its nuclear enrichment.

US and Iraq ’set for security deal’
Al Jazeera 6/10/2008
A deal that would lead to the long-term presence of US troops in Iraq will be reached by the end of July, according to the US state department’s senior adviser on Iraq. The comments by David Satterfield on Tuesday came after reports that talks over the agreement on security relations had stalled due to of Iraqi opposition. "We’re confident it can be achieved, and by the end of July deadline,’’ Satterfield told reporters in the heavily fortified Green Zone government and diplomatic area of the Iraq’s capital, Baghdad. He said that possible immunity from Iraqi law for foreign private guards was a sticking point in the deal between Washington and Baghdad. The issue of contractors including [foreign] security contractors is a sensitive one, is a significant one," Satterfield said.

Jeddah declaration: Islamic Development Bank allocates US$1.5 billion to meet food crisis in member countries
The Islamic Development Bank Group - IDB, ReliefWeb 6/2/2008
Jeddah, June 2, 2008 --The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) announced today it is allocating US$1. 5 billion to support efforts to meet immediate, medium and long term food crisis in its least developed member countries (LDMCs), though some programs will benefit other members as well. This was announced in the presence of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, by Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohamed Al-Khalifa,Chairman of the IDBBoard of Governors and Finance Minister of Bahrain. ‘A financial package of $1. 5 billion will be allocated to help provide food security in member countries,’ Sheikh Ahmed said while addressing the opening session of the IDB 33rd Annual Meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The program, which will go over a 5-year period, known as Jeddah Declaration, is targeting needy countries in particular in various short term programs that include. . .

Madonna’s next project: documentary about the Israeli-Arab conflict
Nathan Burstein, The Forward, Ha’aretz 6/11/2008
She’s busy promoting her first documentary and her seventh No. 1 album, but the world’s most famous kabbalah devotee already has her sights set on a new project: a documentary about the Arab-Israeli impasse. Pop diva Madonna has said that her film would focus on children and would provide a second chance for her to collaborate with director Nathan Rissman, who once served as the singer’s gardener and as her children’s nanny. At the Cannes Film Festival, the pair spoke about and promoted "I Am Because We Are," a documentary that Madonna wrote and Rissman directed. The film is about the more than 1 million children orphaned in Malawi because of AIDS. The singer adopted an infant from the country in 2006. That’s all well and good, but Israelis who are certainly accustomed to hearing foreign celebrities’ vague proposals for projects. . .

Democracy index: Faith in Supreme Court slipping
Ynet, YNetNews 6/10/2008
Findings show increasing feeling of mistrust towards governmental institutions, aversion to Israeli politics -The Guttman Center at the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) presentedPresident Shimon Peres with the 2008 Democracy Index on Tuesday morning. The index, based on a survey in which 1,201 Israelis over the age of 18 participated, displayed the low ranking given to law enforcement authorities. For instance, only 36% of the public place their trust in Israel’s attorney general. Faith in the government declined drastically from 41% to 33%. It was further revealed that the ongoing dispute between Minister of Justice Daniel Friedmann and Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish have affected the Israeli public. In 2008 a 12% decrease was noted in the amount of trust Israelis had in the Supreme Court.


Articles


Wilful killing of baby by Israeli army in Gaza house raid
Defence for Children International - Palestine Section, Palestine Monitor 6/10/2008
      Name of victim: Amira A.
     Date of incident: 4 March 2008
     Age of victim: 20 days
     Location: Abu al-Ageen, southern Gaza
     On 4 March 2008, Israeli tanks under aerial helicopter coverage besieged the home of Youssef S., a wanted Palestinian combatant, near Khan Younis in southern Gaza [1] . For several hours, Israeli soldiers directed gunfire towards the house and its occupants, including 15 children, and subjected them to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. During the raid, Israeli soldiers fired upon unarmed civilians, including children, as they followed orders to exit the house. This unlawful act claimed the life of 20-day-old Amira, who was shot in the head while in her mother’s arms. DCI/PS strongly condemns the wilful killing of civilians, which constitutes a war crime under international humanitarian law. Description of incident
     In the early evening hours of 4 March 2008, Khaled A. and his wife Nadia arrived at the home of their friend, Youssef S., in Abu al-Ageen near Khan Younis in southern Gaza. They had come to visit Youssef’s mother, Alia’, who was suffering from renal failure and had recently been hospitalised. With them, were their two daughters Nadine (2), and Amira, just 20 days old.

Where is the water? It is in the settlements

Najib Farrag and Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network, Palestine Monitor 6/9/2008
      Bethlehem - It is a well researched and reported fact that Israelis use a grotesque amount of water compared to that allotted to Palestinians. "Israelis control and utilize 89 percent of the total water resources," reports the highly respected Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA).
     If the Israeli government had not already ensured this by controlling the supply, the well-planned Wall route to take in the wells, aquifers and fertile land above the water table, has made it a complete reality.
     The PLO NAD "Barrier to Peace: Assessment of Israel’s Revised Wall Route," updated in October 2007, reports that the Wall and settlements "seize vital land and water resources, and effectively pre-empt a fair and equitable future allocation of the West Bank’s water resources." This is not to mention the dire situation in the Gaza Strip, which has been much worse for years.

Pledging allegiance to AIPAC

Khody Akhavi, Electronic Intifada 6/10/2008
      WASHINGTON, 9 June (IPS) - With the Iranian nuclear "threat" in the crosshairs, discussion of Palestinians or a Syrian-Israeli detente was virtually non-existent. But then again, one should not expect many overtures for peace when attending the annual policy conference for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
     As more than 5,000 Jewish-American activists ascended Capitol Hill last week, the most common word circulating through panel discussions, daily briefings, and remarks made by high-level officials and presidential candidates was "security" -- more accurately, Israel’s security.
     And most of the tough talk, whether substantive or merely stylistic, was directed at a nuclear Iran and its presumed proxies -- Lebanese Hizballah, Palestinian Hamas, and even Syria.
     The policy prescriptions, outlined in a draft proposal of AIPAC’s policy agenda, urge, among other things, that the US "take all appropriate measures to halt Iran’s pursuit of nuclear and 152 other weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them."

A village in its death throes

Seth Freedman, Palestine Monitor 6/10/2008
      Scrambling up the rock-strewn hillside in the baking midday sun, we stumbled across two middle-aged men taking shade under an olive tree. As they bade my guide "Salaam aleikum", their eyes scanned my face for a hint of recognition. Finding none, one of the men ventured a tentative greeting in English and, when I responded in kind, proffered two items in my direction.
     One was a surgeon’s mask; the other a strip of alcohol-saturated prep pads: "You’ll need them for where you’re going", he assured me. As we edged closer to our destination, it was clear we had been well advised. Plumes of tear gas criss-crossed the air, trailing the canisters fired by the border police towards the scores of demonstrators. The pungent, acrid fumes filled our nostrils and mouths, while our ears resonated to the sporadic bursts of rubber bullets being shot in our direction.
     From our vantage point atop the hill, we had a perfect view of the operating table that lay beneath us, and our surgical accessories added to the sense of theatre that we were witnessing. As we looked on, we watched the obligatory rocks flung at the troops from youths wielding slingshots; the equally standard opening of fire by the police in response and the all-too familiar sight of wounded protesters being rushed by stretcher to waiting ambulances.

A View From the Arab World

Rami G. Khouri, Middle East Online 6/7/2008
      BEIRUT - Now that the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States have chosen their presidential candidates, we might expect some thoughtful discussion of the issues that concern the American people at home and abroad. Viewed from the Arab world and the wider Middle East - including Turkey, Israel and Iran -- the results of the American election will have enormous impact on the condition of this region.
     The people and leaders of the Middle East follow the US election with special interest, for three main reasons: 1) America’s presence, policies and potential, i.e., its wide, deep and growing military presence and ideological ferocity in the region; 2) the Arab-Islamic-Iranian resistance to these; and 3) the potential for constructive, mutually beneficial American-Middle Eastern engagement.
     The American presence in the Middle East today is much more extensive, complex, and varied than it was a few decades ago when the Arab-Israeli and the Cold War conflicts were the only defining parameters of its engagement. Today the United States fights, and foments national transformations in Iraq and Afghanistan; rhetorically nudges Arab autocrats to reform (without resorting to any real muscle or sincerity); fights Islamist movements everywhere; and, essentially gives Israel everything it seeks -- militarily, economically, and diplomatically.

Getting Back on Track

Joharah Baker, MIFTAH 6/9/2008
      I just returned from participating in the United Nation’s conference on the Question of Palestine, organized by its Committee for the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, in Malta. Obviously, the audience, participants and organizers were comprised of a unique amalgam of nationalities, religions and perspectives, making the assembly extremely rich and diverse.
     The Palestinian representatives at the conference were also of diverse opinions, but with one common thread woven between all of those there. Getting Palestine’s house in order is the first task the Palestinian leadership must tackle before any other progress could be made.
     This was clearly the opinion of President Mahmoud Abbas, who on June 4 announced an initiative for a national dialogue based on the Yemeni Initiative last March, in a bid to bridge the treacherous and often bloody gap between Fateh and Hamas. It is no coincidence that his initiative took flight on the first anniversary of Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip last June after a confrontation between Palestine’s two Titan rivals where brothers turned their arms against each other.

Palestinian leaders take step towards reducing rift

Nora Barrows-Friedman, Electronic Intifada 6/10/2008
      GAZA CITY, 6 June (IPS) - In the early hours of Friday morning, Israeli warplanes targeted a Hamas-run security post in the northern town of Beit Lahiya, injuring 29 Palestinian civilians, according to Gaza medical sources. In the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of al-Shuja’iya, a 27-year-old man was shot dead by Israeli special forces during another invasion.
     As the Israeli military invasions and attacks continue unabated in the occupied Gaza strip, movement towards a so-called Palestinian national unity government seem possible, according to local politicians.
     On Thursday, Palestinian National Authority (PNA) Prime Minister Ismayil Haniyeh of the Hamas party extended an open invitation to PNA President Mahmoud Abbas, saying that Hamas’s hand "reached out" to the Fatah party to hold talks on national dialogue, reconciliation and political unity.

Olmert has to go, but the impact may be substantial

Yossi Alpher, Daily Star 6/11/2008
      There is a broad consensus among non-political officials with frequent access to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office that since the July-August 2006 Lebanon war Ehud Olmert has been an efficient and effective prime minister. Some would say that even initiating and balancing no fewer than five diplomatic negotiating processes at one and the same time is no mean feat.
     Israel is currently directly talking to the West Bank-based Palestinian leadership on two fronts: the Livni-Qorei final status talks and the Barak-Fayyad "road map" phase I contacts. And it is engaged in indirect negotiations with Syria (over peace), Hamas (over a cease-fire, a prisoner exchange, and over Gaza crossings) and Hizbullah (over prisoner exchange). Arguably, this is far too much. Olmert’s predecessors found that even parallel negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Syria put too much strain on the system; when they did pursue both tracks simultaneously it was usually for tactical reasons, for example to signal the Palestinians that if they were not more forthcoming Israel had better things to do.

Getting the Palestinian Legislative Council out of the freezer - an Interview with Dr. Mustafa Barghouti

Marian Houk, Ma’an News Agency 6/10/2008
      Ramallah - Ma’an - With a plan proposed by Palestinian lawmakers to resuscitate the long-dormant Palestinian parliament, the Legislative Council, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ call for reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah, it appears that the year old Palestinian internal crisis may be begining to ease.
     Following on these developments, Ma’an contributor Marian Houk spoke with Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, an independent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and one-time presidential candidate.
     In an exclusive interview in his offices at the Palestinian Medical Relief Services in Ramallah, Barghouthi elucidates the sometimes Byzantine problems of Palestinian parliamentary situation.
     Q: Dr. Barghouthi, I wanted to ask you first of all about the Palestinian Legislative Council. It reportedly met for the first time in a long time on the 5th of June, last Thursday and welcomed the initiative of President Abbas.
     A [interrupting the question]: Not exactly, no. We did not have a meeting of the Legislative Council. And that was not the purpose of the meeting. The meeting took place as a follow-up of a previous meeting which we had had between heads of different groups in the parliament, because we are very worried about the fact that there is a concentration of all the powers in Palestine in the hands of the government – whether in Gaza or in the West Bank, and both governments practically have eliminated the role of the Legislative Council. And what we are seeing is the government practicing legislative authority in addition to executive authority, although its status, legally, is questionable....

Uri Avnery’s 1948: A Critique

Middle East Reality Check, Palestine Think Tank 6/8/2008
      If you want to sort the political sheep from the goats in the Palestine/Israel fold, just look at the positions taken by pundits on the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948-1949, Uri Avnery is a case in point. Avnery is the 84 year-old veteran leader of Israel’s peace movement, Gush Shalom (Israeli Peace Bloc), and an often perceptive and insightful commentator on the Israel/Palestine conflict. Yet his recent essay, 1948* (10/5/08, www.gush-shalom.org), reveals a major blind spot. In fact, at many points, I thought I was reading Benny Morris.
     [*In which he states that his wartime reports from that era "will soon appear in English."]
     Avnery views the first Arab-Israeli war as two wars: that waged by Zionist forces against the Palestinians (from the UN partition resolution of 29/11/47 until the proclamation of the state of Israel on 14/5/48), and that waged by Zionist forces against Arab military intervention after 15/5/08. He misrepresents the first as an “ethnic war” of the kind that wracked the Balkans in the 1990s. In doing so he overlooks the fact that the great bulk of the Jewish community in Palestine had only entered the country over the previous 30 years, under British imperial sponsorship and protection, and against the wishes and interests of its indigenous Arab inhabitants.

The Jewish Experience

Gilad Atzmon, Palestine Think Tank 6/10/2008
      For more than half a century, those who have been trying to combat the forces that are behind the Israeli paradigm have been identifying Israeli policies and practice with Zionism and Zionist Ideology. I am afraid to say that they were wrong all the way along. Indeed, Zionism’s project dictates the plunder of Palestine in the name of Jewish national aspiration. It is also true to argue that Israel has been rather efficient in translating the Zionist philosophy into a devastating oppressive and murderous practice. Yet, Israelis, or more precisely, the vast majority of Israeli-born secular Jews, are not motivated or fuelled by Zionist ideology. Its spirit or symbols are virtually meaningless to them. As bizarre as it may sound to some, Zionism is either a foreign or just an archaic notion for most Israeli-born secular Jews.
     Since the vast majority of Israelis are confused by the notion of Zionism, most forms of criticism that would label itself as anti-Zionist would have hardly any effect on Israel, Israeli politics or on the Israeli people. In other words, in the last sixty years, those who have been using the paradigm of Zionism and its antipode have been preaching to the converted.