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For those interested in keeping up with events in Palestine/Israel, there is no better digest than VTJP.

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8 November, 2008

Palestinians: Settlers attack 6-year-old boy with rock
Nadav Shragai Ofra Edelman Jonathan Lis and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 11/9/2008
Palestinians claimed yesterday that a 6-year-old Palestinian boy was hospitalized with moderate wounds after being beaten on the head with a rock by Jewish children in Hebron, a claim denied by Jewish settlers. According to the boy and his family, four children from the Jewish settlements in the city and overlooking Kiryat Arba assaulted the child near the Worshipers Way, the road that leads from Kiryat Arba to the Cave of the Patriarchs. Israel Defense Forces soldiers treated the child for his wounds and later delivered him to Palestinian officials. Noam Arnon, a spokesman for the Jewish settlement in Hebron, warned against placing blame on the entire community and called for police to carry out an investigation into the incident to determine who the perpetrators were. "We are fed up with collective blame," Arnon said.

Haniyeh: Hamas would accept state under 1967 borders
Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 11/9/2008
The Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said on Saturday his government was willing to accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel within the 1967 borders. He spoke at a meeting with 11 European parliamentarians who sailed from Cyprus to the Gaza Strip to protest Israel’s naval blockade of the territory. Haniyeh told his guests Israel rejected his initiative. Clare Short, who served in the cabinet of former British prime minister Tony Blair, asked Haniyeh to repeat his offer. He said the Hamas government had agreed to accept a Palestinian state that followed the 1967 borders and to offer Israel a long-term hudna, or truce, if Israel recognized the Palestinians’ national rights. In response to a question about the international community’s impression that there are two Palestinian states, Haniyeh said: "We don’t have a state, neither in Gaza nor in the West Bank. "

European MPs reach blockaded Gaza by sea
Middle East Online 11/8/2008
GAZA CITY - A boat carrying pro-peace humanitarian activists and European politicians docked in Gaza on Saturday despite a strict Israeli blockade, in the third such voyage in less than three months. The 20-metre (65-foot) ship "Dignity" arrived in Gaza at 9:30 am (0730 GMT) after departing from Cyprus on Friday to protest against the Israeli blockade imposed on the 1. 5 million population of Gaza. On board were 11 European politicians, most of them British, and activists of the US-based Free Gaza Movement who last month completed a second successful attempt to reach the Gaza Strip. The ship, flying the flags of several countries including Britain, the United States and Canada alongside Palestinian flags, was greeted with little fanfare by Hamas officials and police forces and civilans. The politicians plan to visit hospitals to deliver a tonne of medical supplies and three scanners for use in treating spinal injuries.

Egypt postpones Palestinian summit
Jerusalem Post 11/8/2008
Egypt informed the various Palestinian factions over the weekend of its decision to postpone indefinitely a long-awaited conference for solving the dispute between Hamas and Fatah, Palestinian Authority officials said. The decision came shortly after Hamas told the Egyptians that it would boycott the conference, which was scheduled to open in Cairo on Sunday. The Egyptians ordered representatives of various Palestinian factions who had already arrived in Cairo for the parley to leave Egypt immediately. Twelve Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, were expected to take part in the conference, which was also being held under the auspices of the Arab League. Quoting top PA officials, The Jerusalem Post revealed Thursday that the Egyptians were "seriously" considering postponing the conference following threats by Hamas to stay away.

Jayyous villagers beaten and denied return to home
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 11/4/2008
Today Occupation forces prevented farmers from the village of Jayyous from reaching their olive groves. Two youths, Fadi Abdul-Karim and Mohammed Maaz, were beaten and arrested when they tried to harvest their families’ olives. This type of aggression from the Occupation is not uncommon in Jayyous, a village northeast of Qalqilya. Last week, Occupation forces prevented an elderly Bedouin woman from returning home after walking to Jayyous to receive medical treatment. The woman is part of a family that lives on Jayyous’ agricultural land, most of which has been isolated by the Wall. She crosses over to Jayyous every morning to receive cancer treatment, and returns to her home in the afternoon. On Saturday November 1, however, Occupation forces refused to allow her to go back to her home in the afternoon. The woman was forced to seek the aid of two volunteers from the World Council of Churches, who were able to escort her across when the gate opened again in the evening.

Israeli forces enter Gaza in north and south, igniting clashes with NRB, Al-Qassam
Ma’an News Agency 11/8/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli military vehicles and bulldozers entered Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip and began bulldozing lands in the area, eyewitnesses told Ma’an on Saturday morning. Palestinian resistance factions say they tried to block the invading forces and impede their progress deeper into the Palestinian territory. Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades reported having fired at and hit an Israeli soldier while he was on top of a military vehicle advancing into the area. According to Israeli media forces entered Gaza to "neutralize two explosive devices," and the Israeli military deny that any shots were fired. In the north of Gaza more incursionsAt dawn on Saturday Israeli forces entered Gaza near the Erez crossing. The act sparked clashes between Israeli forces and the National Resistance Brigades (NRB), the military wing affiliated to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).

Israeli soldiers terrorise villagers in Zawata
International Solidarity Movement 11/8/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - Three households were terrorised by Israeli soldiers in the village of Zawata on Friday night, 7th November. At least twenty Israeli soldiers from the nearby military base at Shave Shomron stormed through the upper parts of the village on foot - throwing sound bombs and firing at family homes; surrounding houses and forcing families out into the night. Soldiers advised the invasion and terror tactics were a response to the discovery of a few small children burning a tyre on the nearby military road. Soldiers entered the village at approximately 5pm, first surrounding the Attaallaa family home. " We were sitting here, with guests - my cousin, his wife and their three children - watching tv when the sound bombs went off; two at the front door and two at the back", recounts Ahmad, a 23 year old English teacher.

Second arson attack in Burin in a week
International Solidarity Movement 11/8/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - For the second time in one week, Palestinian firefighters were called to put out a fire in Burin, a village south of Nablus. According to eyewitnesses, at approximately 3pm, on Thursday 6th November, Israeli settlers from the nearby illegal settlement of Bracha, burnt Palestinian farmers’ olive trees and agricultural irrigation systems. The attack took place in lands near to the notorious Huwarra checkpoint, highly visible to all those at the checkpoint. One resident of Burin commented "My friend called me from the checkpoint saying ‘come and see the settlers burning the lands’". The fire was lit directly adjacent to the lands which were burnt exactly one week before - an attack in which settler youth, witnessed milling about the area during the blaze, were the only suspects. A number of dounums of land were torched, including olive groves, orchards, and grasslands.

IDF mistakenly shoots Thai migrant worker on northern border
Eli Ashkenazi, Ha’aretz 11/9/2008
Israel Defense Forces soldiers on Saturday shot and wounded a Thai migrant worker near Kibbutz Manara not far from the Lebanese border. The victim was moderately wounded. The incident occurred at around 1:00 P. M. as IDF troops were acting on a tip that an individual had made contact with the border fence. After the soldiers spotted four people standing near the fence, they screamed for the individuals to surrender to custody and be placed under arrest. After not receiving a response, the soldiers opened fire. The soldiers soon realized that the four men were Thai migrants who did not understand the instructions which the soldiers issued. One of the migrant workers, a 25-year-old male, was shot in the back. He was transported to Ziv Hospital in Safed in moderate condition.

Settlers stone six-year-old boy in Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 11/8/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli settlers wounded six-year-old Palestinian Bilal Da’na from Hebron after pelting the young boy with stones near the illegal Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba, Palestinian sources in Hebron said. Israeli soldiers stationed in the area stood by without preventing the group of settlers from assaulting the boy, locals reported, adding that when Israeli police arrived on the scene, none of the rock-throwers were arrested. Medics from the Palestinian Red Crescent said Da’na was taken to the governmental hospital in Hebron to treat moderate head injuries. Doctors confirmed the wounds were moderate. [end]

Israeli settlers beat up Palestinian six-year-old child
Palestinian Information Center 11/8/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Israeli settlers on Saturday attacked and beat up a six-year-old Palestinian child injuring him in the head in Al-Khalil city near the Kiryat Arba settlement, medical sources reported. They added that a group of settlers threw stones at Bilal De’na and severely beat him up. The child was rushed to hospital where his injuries were described as moderate, the sources said. [end]

IDF operating in southern Gaza
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 11/8/2008
Troops detonate 2 explosive devices along border fence; Palestinians claim 4 injured, a claim IDF denies - IDF forces operated in Gaza early Saturday in order to neutralize two explosive devices on the Palestinian side of the borer fence between Israel and the coastal enclave. Palestinians claimed that the forces, operating in the southern part of the strip near Khan Younis, infiltrated far beyond the border fence and injured four Palestinians, apparently by shooting. An Israeli military spokeswoman denied there was any shooting, saying troops detonated the devices in a controlled manner, with no reported casualties. During the ceasefire with Hamas, 20 explosive devices were uncovered along the border fence. Nine rockets were fired at Israeli towns on Friday, following an IDF operation to detonate a weapons’ smuggling tunnel.

IDF attacks rocket-launcher in Gaza; Qassam hits south
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 11/8/2008
Forces attack Qassam-launcher in northern Strip as part of return to old policy; shortly after strike rocket lands south of Ashkelon; no injuries reported -The IDF attacked a Qassam-launcher in northern Gaza Saturday evening, and a short while later a rocket fired from the Strip landed near Zikim, south of Ashkelon. No injuries or damage were reported in the rocket attack. The IDF attack appears to signify a return to the army’s previous policy in Gaza, particularly in light of this week’s ground operationto destroy a tunnel that was meant to be used to kidnap an Israeli soldier. Forces are now authorized to open fire at Palestinian rocket launching cells prior to, during or shortly after their attempt to fire Qassams toward Israel’s southern region. The IDF’s Home Front Command and the Gaza Brigade are on high alert due to the continuous rocket attacks and other. . .

IDF unit comes under anti-tank fire
Yaakov Lappin, Jerusalem Post 11/8/2008
IDF units patrolling the border fence with Gaza came under anti-tank missile fire on Saturday evening, the army said. No soldiers were hurt during the incident. The IDF Spokesman said soldiers were on a routine patrol near the Karni Crossing, on the northernborder with Gaza, when an anti-tank missile was fired in their general direction. The soldiers returned fire, but no casualties were identified on the Gazan side. Earlier, on Saturday morning, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on IDF soldiers after the army discovered two explosive devices planted on the southernborder with Gaza, near Khan Yunis. Army sappers neutralized the explosives with a controlled explosion, before gunmen in Gaza fired at the troops. Soldiers returned fire, but did not identify casualties on the Palestinian side. The IDF said soldiers were operating on the border area which fell under Israeli sovereignty.

IOF troops bulldoze lands in southern Gaza Strip
Palestinian Information Center 11/8/2008
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- Israeli occupation forces on Saturday advanced into east of Khuza’a town in Khan Younis district, south of the Gaza Strip, and bulldozed agricultural lands, local sources said. They told PIC reporter in the area that the IOF soldiers advanced in three tanks and two bulldozers and leveled sand hills and combed the area going as near as 100 meters east of a school in Khuza’a town. The sources pointed out that the Palestinian farmers could not reach their lands near the border fence fearing for their lives due to the continued shooting at them by soldiers in military watchtowers and army jeeps that monitor the border strip. The IOF troops blasted an explosive device that was planted by the Palestinian resistance elements near the border fence east of Khuza’a. A group of foreign activists accompanied Palestinian farmers to their fields on Thursday.

Al-Qassam snipes Israeli soldier in Khan Younis
Palestinian Information Center 11/8/2008
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, reported Saturday that its snipers managed to shoot directly at an Israeli soldier during fierce confrontations with the invading IOF troops in Khuza’a town, east of Khan Younis. Al-Qassam Brigades declared its responsibility for sniping the soldier in retaliation to the Israeli military aggression on the Palestinian civilians east of Deir Al Balah and Khan Younis city and killing six of Al-Qassam fighters. Palestinian local sources told the PIC reporter that the Palestinian resistance spearheaded by Al-Qassam fighters managed to repel the invading troops out of Khuza’a, adding that there were no reported injuries among Palestinian citizens.

Mashaal: Hamas ’ready’ to talk with US Staff, Jerusalem Post 11/8/2008
Damascus-based Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal congratulated US President-elect Barack Obama in a recent interview with Sky News, and used the moment to emphasize the group’s willingness to engage in dialogue with the new president. "There is no doubt that the recent American election is a big change when you get an American president with African roots," he said. "It’s a big change - political and psychological - and it is noteworthy and I congratulate President Obama. "But as a result of the election and the change, he should know he has duties to the United States and in the whole world and in hotspots, especially in the Middle East," the Hamas leader continued. "Yes we are ready for dialogue with President Obama and with the new American administration with an open mind, on the basis that the American administration respects our rights and our options," Mashaal said.

Hamas expresses willingness to hold dialog with the new US Administration
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/8/2008
Khaled Mashal, head of the Hamas political bureau, stated in an interview with "Sky News" that Hamas is ready and willing to hold talks with the new US President, Barack Obama. "We are ready to hold talks with president Obama and the new US administration", Mashal stated, "if the Americans are interested in the Arab-Israeli conflict, they have no option but to hold talks with Hamas". The Hamas leader also said that he believes that dialog with the US should be based on US respect to the Palestinian rights and the capabilities of Hamas. "They have to talk to Hamas", Mashal said, "We are a power that should be taken into consideration". It is worth mentioning that Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas also said that the movement is ready to hold talks with the new US administration. Zahar added that he hopes that "the new occupant of the White House will be different than his predecessor".

Mashaal: Ready to talk to Obama
Ynetnews, YNetNews 11/8/2008
Sky News quotes Hamas politiburo chief of calling for ’open-minded’ dialogue, stressing that American administration must deal with them if it wants to deal with the region - Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal reported his group is ready to dialogue with US President-Elect Barack Obama, according to an interview with Sky News on Saturday. The organization’s politiburo chief met with the British news agency in Damascus. "We are ready for dialogue with President Obama and with the new American administration with an open mind, on the basis that the American administration respects our rights and our options," Sky News quoted Mashaal as saying. [end]

No Mideast Deal Under Bush, White House Says
Glenn Kessler, MIFTAH 11/8/2008
The White House made it official yesterday: There will be no Middle East peace pact on President Bush’s watch. The long-shot effort by Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been written off months ago by many analysts in both the region and the United States, but the White House had insisted that a deal remained possible. Yesterday, however, just two days after Barack Obama was elected president, officials confirmed that they will leave the issue to the new president. " We do not think that it’s likely that it would happen before the end of the year," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, echoing comments made by Rice during a Middle East swing this week. With great fanfare almost a year ago, Bush convened a summit of Arab and Israeli leaders in Annapolis to launch a new round of peace talks. The effort came rather late in Bush’s tenure; the president had disdained the nitty-gritty of Middle East peacemaking through much of his presidency.

UN reports highlight Israeli infringement of Palestinians’ rights
United Nations News Service, ReliefWeb 11/7/2008
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has spotlighted in two new s to the General Assembly how Israeli practices impinge upon the rights of Palestinians through the continued building of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory and other means. In one publication, Mr. Ban stressed that United Nations resolutions and a 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) both reflect how Israel’s construction of settlements – "in effect, the transfer by an occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies" – breach the Fourth Geneva Convention. Other activities, such as land requisition and the destruction of houses and orchards, are also "illegal," he writes. Between 1967 and the end of last year, Israel set up 120 settlements in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem, and as of this August, over 1,000. . .

Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan - Report of the Secretary-General (A/63/519)
United Nations General Assembly, ReliefWeb 11/5/2008
Sixty-third session - Agenda item 30 Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories SummaryIn its resolution 62/108, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to submit to the Assembly at its sixty-third session a report on the implementation of the resolution. The present report, which has been prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, is submitted pursuant to that resolution. The period covered by the report is January to August 2008. The report addresses the continuation of the construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories with its associated system and violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians.

Hamas: PA security detain 26 party affiliates across the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 11/8/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian Authority security services arrested 26 Hamas affiliates across the West Bank, the party said in a statement released Saturday. Most of those arrested were from the Hebron area in the southern West Bank. In Bethlehem several employees from the As-Subani center for stationery services. There were also arrests in Salfit in the northern West Bank and in the Jericho district to the east. [end]

Hamas snubs Cairo talks
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 11/9/2008
Hamas’ announcement yesterday that it will not attend Palestinian reconciliation talks scheduled to begin today in Cairo was meant mainly for Egyptian, not Palestinian, ears, according to observers. Representatives of various Palestinian groups were to have signed a framework agreement in anticipation of a full national reconciliation and many Palestinians had high hopes for the summit. For Hamas, accepting the Egyptian agreement would have meant making concessions in the Gaza Strip. The document calls for the creation of an independent Palestinian government that would rule in both Gaza and the West Bank. This government would be headed by an independent Palestinian figure, despite Hamas’ victory in the last election. In addition, Hamas was to have accepted an extension of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ term until combined parliamentary-presidential elections are held.

Fayyad: No political detainees in West Bank and no justification for delaying dialogue
Ma’an News Agency 11/8/2008
Qalqiliya – Ma’an –There is no justification for delaying the Cairo talks since there are no political detainees in the West Bank and the Egyptian draft paper was prepared as an Egyptian-Arab initiative based on factional consensus and is a just document, said Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Saturday. The comments came after a long day of small catastrophes for the planned Egyptian-mediated conciliation talks. After a handful of factions had set out for Cairo Hamas officials contacted the Egyptian capital and notified mediators that they would not attend the talks. Delegations of Palestinian factions were then turned back when they reached the Egyptian border without being given an explanation. Fayyad, who delivered the speech while opening a community services center in the village of Izbet At-Tabib east of Qalqiliya on Saturday afternoon.

Al Hayya of Hamas: Abbas, his security forces, are responsible for failure of the talks''
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/9/2008
Dr. Khalil Al Hayya, one of Hamas political leaders, member of Hamas’ delegate to Cairo, held the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and his security forces responsible for the failure of the Cairo internal dialog which was supposed to be held on November 9. Al Hayya said that the Abbas-controlled security forces in the West Bank continued their arrest campaigns against Hamas members and supporters, and held these forces responsible for the failure of the Egyptian efforts to hold Palestinian national talks in order to achieve reconciliation. In an Interview with the Qatar-based, Al Jazeera, Al Hayya said that Abbas still denies that his forces are holding dozens of Hamas members captive, and added that Abbas barred West Bank delegates of Hamas from participating in the talks. Al Hayya also said that Hamas is interested in serious talks, but "will not accept an agreement that only stands in front of media cameras".

Hamas: Abbas declared his responsibility for the failure of dialog efforts
Palestinian Information Center 11/8/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement stated that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s denial of the presence of political prisoners in his jails in the West Bank is a clear declaration of his responsibility for the failure of dialog efforts and that he is not concerned with dialog in any way. In a press release received by the PIC, Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, underlined that Abbas’s denial during his meeting with US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice means that he is still adherent to the American dictates and keen on pleasing the US administration at the expense of the national reconciliation and the higher national interests.    Barhoum also said that these positions which are hindering dialog require an Egyptian declaration that Abbas is responsible for the failure of dialog efforts. Taher Al-Nunu, the spokesman for the Palestinian caretaker government in Gaza, said that Abbas’s disclaimer. . .

Palestinian dialog hosted by Cairo officially delayed
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 11/8/2008
On Saturday, the Egyptian Authorities informed Palestinian delegates heading to Cairo for national dialog that the internal Palestinian talks have been officially delayed, and ordered the delegates to head back to Gaza. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Palestinian sources in Syria stated that Hamas officially informed Cairo that it will boycott the talks which were supposed to be held on November 9. Hamas said that its demands were not met. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) said that it was officially informed by Cairo that the talks were postponed upon a request from Hamas. Jamil Mizhir, one of the political leaders of the PFLP, said that this will not be the end and all parties would resume their efforts in order to prepare the atmosphere for a constructive dialog. Talal Abu Tharifa of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). . .

Four Palestinian factions decide to boycott dialog
Palestinian Information Center 11/8/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Egypt decided Saturday to postpone holding the inter-Palestinian dialog after four factions including Hamas officially informed Egypt this morning that they would not attend the dialog sessions unless their remarks on the Egyptian draft were taken into account. Informed sources told the PIC that Hamas reservations concentrated on two basic principles, one is related to the release of all political prisoners in PA jails and the other about the administrative arrangements for dialog, where the four factions saw a clear Egyptian bias in favor of current PA chief Mahmoud Abbas at the expense of the resistance factions. The sources said that the four Palestinian factions who sent their message to Egypt were Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the popular front for the liberation of Palestine-general command and Al-Sa’ika organization.

PFLP criticizes Egyptian draft
Palestinian Information Center 11/8/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine has expressed reservations and criticism toward a number of points mentioned in the Egyptian draft proposal for inter-Palestinian conciliation topped by the right of resistance. Jamil Mizher, the PFLP politburo member, said in an interview with the Quds Press published on Friday that resistance is a legitimate right for the Palestinian people in face of occupation. He noted that the Egyptian draft said that resistance should be approved by all, which he described as "illogical and absolutely unacceptable". He also said that security apparatuses should not be the only one authorized to defend the country and citizens, explaining that such an article would end the role of Palestinian resistance "especially when we are still in the process of liberation".

Palestinian reconciliation talks postponed
Middle East Online 11/8/2008
CAIRO - Palestinian national reconciliation talks scheduled to be held in Cairo on Monday have been postponed, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said on Saturday. An Egyptian official who asked not to be named said the talks were postponed after the democratically elected movement of Hamas said it would not attend the meeting. "The talks have been delayed to an undetermined date, to be decided on and announced later, at the request of Hamas," the official said. A Palestinian official who also asked not to be named confirmed the postponement. Hamas announced on Saturday it will boycott next week’s Palestinian reconciliation talks, accusing president Mahmud Abbas of detaining hundreds of its members, a spokesman for the democratically elected movement said. "Hamas decided not to attend the dialogue talks in Egypt.

Moussa: Hamas won’t go for dialog in light of the political arrest in W. Bank
Palestinian Information Center 11/8/2008
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- MP Yehya Moussa, a member of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, renewed Friday his Movement’s rejection of some sections of the Egyptian draft, highlighting at the same time that his Movement would not go for dialog in light of the political arrests in the West Bank. During a memorial service for five Qassam fighters killed three days ago during an Israeli aerial attack, MP Moussa hailed the position of opposition factions in Damascus towards dialog, calling on Egypt to create atmospheres favorable to dialog and not to create a reconciliation agreement acceptable to the American administration. Regarding the truce issue, the lawmaker underlined that the truce was not welcome if it did not bring the Palestinian people what they were striving for and Israel did not respect it, calling on the Palestinian factions to reevaluate it.

Ablution before Cairo; reflections on the failed conciliation talks
Ma’an News Agency 11/8/2008
Cairo – Ma’an Report – The Ma’an delegation set to cover the Cairo conciliation talks met their counterparts from all of Palestine’s news agencies in the Jordanian airport on Friday evening, the day before talks were scheduled to begin. The question on all lips was: will the dialogue go ahead? The journalists and cameramen buzzed with anticipation; there was not one person there who was not excited to cover what might have been a momentous and historic event. The group convened again on Saturday morning after nights of little sleep filled with dreams of all the possible outcomes the meetings might have. As they sipped their coffee mobile phones in the hotel lobby began to ring, and whispers that Hamas and Islamic Jihad had withdrawn from the talks circled the room. One journalist asked her colleague if they should go up to their rooms and start packing, if they should book the next flight back to Jordan.

Where now for Palestinian unity?
Anita Rice, Al Jazeera 11/9/2008
The emnity between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah seems yet further entrenched, after Cairo-brokered reconciliation talks between the two groups broke down before they had even officially begun. The Palestinian national dialogue, due to be held on Monday in the Egyptian capital, was to have been attended by all the major Palestinian political factions. The main aim was to find some way of bridging the acrimonious divide between Hamas and Fatah following the bloody infighting that lead to Hamas seizing control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 -pushing out security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and the head of Fatah. Tellingly, when the news first broke on Saturday that the talks were off, there was confusion about why they had collapsed and who was responsible.

Thai man shot on border
Hagai Einav, YNetNews 11/8/2008
IDF patrol misidentifies foreign worker as terrorist infiltrator; man hospitalized after troops suspect him of being terrorist infiltrator - A 25-year-old Thai worker from the Manara Kibbutz in northern Israel was lightly injured, Saturday, after IDF troops along the border withLebanon mistakenly identified him as a terrorist infiltrator and shot him. At around noon, IDF look-outs identified a number of suspicious figures moving along the Israeli side of the northern border fence, next to the orchards belonging to the northern Galilee kibbutz. A local patrol was deployed to the area to investigate. Upon arriving, they noticed a figure with a handkerchief across his face and called upon him to identify himself. When he did not, they shot at him. Shortly after, it became clear that the man was a Thai worker, helping with the harvest along with a number of other foreign workers.

List of national and global activities during the Week against the Apartheid Wall
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Stop The Wall 11/8/2008
Palestine: The Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign and its popular committees have prepared in cooperation with Palestinian grassroots organizations and NGOs once again an impressive programme of resistance, featuring almost daily protests and the Third National Olive Festival, held this year in Asira al-Qibliya, Nablus district. City and Location: at-Taybeh, Jenin district Date:November 8th Type of initiative: Voluntary work. Other details: Students help the farmers, whose lands are affected by the Wall to pick their olives. Organizers: Youth for Freedom Initiative and students from Arab-American University in Zababdeh, Jenin district. City and Location: Beita, Nablus district Date:November 9th Time: 1 pm Type of initiative: Festival City and Location: Nablus and Jenin district Date:November 14th Time: after prayer Type of initiative:. . .

Mother of longest-serving Palestinian prisoner dies at 79
Ma’an News Agency 11/8/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Mother of Sa’id Al-Atabah, the now freed Palestinian prisoner who served 32 years -the longest term on record - in Israeli jails, passed away on Saturday. Widad Fadda was 79-years-old, and passed away one week after Sa’id married. Al-Atabah was released from jail on 25 August 2008. Shortly after his release he told Ma’an that his mother’s dreams were twice realized, first as he stepped out of prison and second when he announced his engagement. Sa’id praised his mother constantly, describing her as the ideal Palestinian mother who showed patience and steadfastness during his imprisonment. [end]

13 Qassams fired at Negev over weekend
Avi Issacharoff and Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 11/9/2008
Palestinian militants fired at least 13 Qassam rockets and one mortar round into Israel over the weekend from the Gaza Strip. No injuries or damage to property were reported. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the Friday launches which, along with Israeli incursions, threatened to end the shaky cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. Two of the homemade rockets struck an open field south of Ashkelon, others struck areas in the western Negev. Further, while operating inside the Strip to defuse explosives placed along the border fence, IDF soldiers wounded four Palestinians. Additionally, the Israel Air Force destroyed a Qassam launcher in the northern Strip. Sources within the defense establishment say that despite the exchanges of fire, Hamas is not interested in renewing the fighting with Israel and breaking the six-month cease-fire the organization declared with Israel in June.

Barak seeks NIS 500m for shelters
Amos Harel and Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 11/9/2008
During this morning’s weekly meeting, the cabinet is slated to discuss Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s request for a NIS 500 million addition to the budget for reinforcing Israeli homes near the border with the Gaza Strip. The ministers will also be briefed by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai on the progress of home reinforcements as well as on the development of the Iron Dome missile interception system. The treasury argues that additional funds are not available for reinforcing homes. However, the Defense Minister says the extra money is needed to provide protection against rockets for an additional 4,700 housing units. Since the ceasefire began in June about 400 miguniot, concrete structures that provide protection against rocket fire, have been placed at schools and school bus stops in border communities.

Minister suggests cheap mortgages for Gaza-vicinity residents
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 11/8/2008
Negev Development Minister Edery says low mortgage rates will help residents of Qassam-ridden region afford to fortify their own homes in lieu of government funding. Vinai: Calm is fragile, we are conducting ourselves as if tomorrow reality can change -The Cabinet is expected to discuss the fortification of the Gaza-vicinity communities Sunday morning in light of the renewed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On expressed their objection to Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s request for an additional NIS 500 million ($132 million) toward the construction of secure rooms in some 8,000 Gaza-vicinity housing units. The High Court of Justice still deliberating on an appeal filed by Israeli towns in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip demanding all residential buildings in a 4. 5 km (2. 79 mi) radius of the Hamas-ruled enclave be fortified - Barak is seeking to expand that range to 4.

European MPs reach blockaded Gaza by sea
AFP, YNetNews 11/8/2008
65-foot boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists, European politicians docks in Strip in protest of Israeli sanctions imposed on Hamas. British MP: Even prisoners have rights, rights to have food and medicine and to live in dignity. People here in Gaza don’t have those rights -A boat carrying pro-Palestinian activists and European politicians was allowed to dock in Gaza on Saturday despite a strict Israeli blockade, in the third such voyage in less than three months. The 20-metre (65-foot) "Dignity" arrived in Gaza at 9:30 am after departing from Cyprus on Friday to protest against the Israeli sanctions imposed after the IslamistHamas movement seized the Gaza Strip in June 2007. On board were 11 European politicians, most of them British, and activists of the US-based Free Gaza Movement who last month completed a second successful attempt to reach the Gaza Strip.

’Blockade-busting’ boat arrives in Gaza
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 11/8/2008
A boat carrying eleven European lawmakers, including former British Cabinet member Clare Short, and international activists arrived in Gaza on Saturday. The "blockade-busting," US-based Free Gaza activist group made its third trip to Gaza this year. The activists set off Friday from the port of Larnaca, in Cyprus, on a 20-meter (65-foot) yacht, the SS Dignity. A Muslim member of Britain’s House of Lords, Nazir Ahmad, said the lawmakers from Britain, Ireland, Italy and Switzerland are making the trip to witness the "humanitarian catastrophe" and express support for the territory’s 1. 5 million people. Short said she hoped the trip would generate momentum to end the blockade. RELATEDFree Gaza Movement to make second trip "More and more people are going to say, ’this is how I’m going to show my objection. . .

Third Free Gaza voyage successfully anchors in Gaza port
Ma’an News Agency 11/8/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The third Free Gaza ship, the SS Dignity, anchored in the Gaza harbor on Saturday morning after setting sail from Cyprus Friday evening. Aboard were several European Parliamentarians from England, Italy and Switzerland as well as several Arab leaders, Human rights activists and Journalists. This marks the fourth ship within three months to successfully arrive in Gaza. The voyages, organized by the Free Gaza movement, aim at breaking the Israeli siege on the area by opening the coastal border so Gazans can move freely in and out of the country. The crew reported that a few kilometers off the Gaza shore an Israeli naval gunboat approached cutting across the bow of the boat then "falling back and tracking it for about an hour. " Then the gunboat radioed the ship and "asked who they were and where they were going," then asked for the passenger list.

''Dignity'' Boat arrives in Gaza
Popular Committee Against the Siege, International Middle East Media Center News 11/8/2008
The third Free Gaza ship, the SS Dignity, anchored in the Gaza harbor on Saturday morning after setting sail from Cyprus Friday evening. Aboard were several European Parliamentarians from England, Italy and Switzerland as well as several Arab leaders, Human rights activists and Journalists. This marks the fourth ship within three months to successfully arrive in Gaza. The voyages, organized by the Free Gaza movement, aim at breaking the Israeli siege on the area by opening the coastal border so Gazans can move freely in and out of the country. The crew reported that a few kilometers off the Gaza shore an Israeli naval gunboat approached cutting across the bow of the boat then "falling back and tracking it for about an hour. "Then the gunboat radioed the ship and "asked who they were and where they were going," then asked for the passenger list.

European legislators sail to Gaza
Al Jazeera 11/8/2008
A boat carrying 11 European politicians has reached the Gaza Strip, breaking the Israeli blockade of the coastal territory. The politicans - from Britain, Switzerland, Italy and Ireland - arrived early on Saturday on a 20-metre-long ship named Dignity with activists from Free Gaza Movement. It was the third time the US-based group has defied the siege imposed by Israel after Hamas took full control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, pushing out security forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. "This is an historic time as we have European members of parliament going to Gaza to draw international attention to Israel’s collective punishment of 1. 5 million Palestinians," Lord Nazir Ahmad, a Labour member of Britain’s House of Lords and head of thedelegation, said. He described the Gaza Strip as the "largest prison in the world. "

FGM: Dignity arrives in Gaza
International Solidarity Movement 11/8/2008
International Actions - Larnaca: The DIGNITY pulled into Gaza at 9:15 a. m. Gaza time after an uneventful trip from Cyprus. The 23 passengers and crew on board were tired but ecstatic that they’d arrived. The 11 members of various European parliaments, originally denied entrance through the Rafah border, had made the crossing by sea, courtesy of the Free Gaza Movement’s blockade-busting boat, the third trip for this human rights organization. "I am here to assess the humanitarian situation in Gaza, especially the medical situation. We have medicine and some medical equipment to deliver," said Baroness Jenny Tonge, one of the parliamentarians. " What Israel does is outrageous when it breaks all international laws. No other country is able to get away with what Israel does.

VIDEO - Israeli Army Generals think Obama is best for Israel
JPost, Palestine Think Tank 11/8/2008
Retired Generals of the Israeli Defense Forces and high-ranking Mossad officials on Barack Obama… But, it seems a few of those interviewed didn’t really endorse Obama. Here is an article about the video: IDF Generals and Mossad Do NOT Endorse Obama - A video released by the Jewish Council for Education & Research, (JCER) which appeared to show several retired senior IDF and Mossad officials endorsing Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama has proven to be misleading, with a number of officials who appeared in the video saying on Monday that their words were taken out of context. The film’s producers stressed in response that the Obama campaign was not involved in any stage of the production. "It’s not only misleading, it was an interview about what the next president was going to have to deal with," former deputy chief of General Staff Maj.

Rice tours flashpoint West Bank city
Middle East Online 11/8/2008
JENIN, West Bank - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Saturday toured the flashpoint West Bank town of Jenin where hundreds of Palestinian police have deployed. Jenin is the site of fierce clashes during the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation which broke out in 2000. The top US diplomat met Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad together with the US security coordinator in the region, General Keith Dayton, who has helped to revamp the Palestinian Authority’s security forces. The more than 1,200-strong security forces have pressed a crackdown largely aimed at members of the democratically elecetd Hamas movement, which seized power in the Gaza Strip in June after routing Mahmoud Abbas’s forces. Israel nevertheless remains in full control in the occupied territory and regularly carries out military raids against Palestinian towns including Jenin.

Rice in Jenin: 14 million dollars for Jenin governorate
Ma’an News Agency 11/8/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced on on a visit to the Jenin governorate that the US government will increase aid aimed at developing the area. The Saturday visit saw Rice promise 14 million US dollars for projects which will be supervised by the US international development agency USAID and will include different projects in various sectors. The first stage of aid for the northern West Bank region included supporting Palestinian Authority (PA) in its services to the area, said Rice. The second stage, she continued, was inaugurated with a three million dollar project that began in May. Attending Rice’s visit were Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Health minister Fathi Abu Moghli, Jenin Governor Qadura Moussa, Jenin area commander Radi Assidah, police chief commander Wassim Aj-Jayyusi and security services’ commanders of the governorate.

’Peace talks won’t be bound by deadline’
Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post 11/8/2008
As US President-elect Barack Obama gears up to make his mark on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, leaders from both sides are expected to ask the Quartet on Sunday not to launch a new peace initiative but rather to support the continuation of the bilateral talks that have been going on for the last year. If the request is granted, "it will create a new situation in which Israel and the Palestinians won’t be bound to a deadline and won’t have to deal with a new international initiative," a spokesman for Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night. On Sunday, Livni and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plan to make their first joint address to the Middle East Quartet, whose representatives will be meeting in Sharm e-Sheikh, since the start of the Annapolis process in November 2007.

Rice visits Jenin to tout PA success in combating terrorism
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 11/8/2008
Outgoing U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Jenin, a former militant stronghold in the West Bank, on Saturday to highlight Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ law-and-order campaign, seen as one of the few successes in slow-moving peace efforts. Rice has made frequent stops in the West Bank in recent years, but during most visits just spent a few hours each time in Abbas’ walled government compound in the town of Ramallah, near Jerusalem. Saturday’s trip took her to the northern end of West Bank. Still, despite the effort to showcase improved security in the West Bank, her motorcade took a roundabout route through Israel, rather than straight through the West Bank, to reach Jenin. Her first stop was Jenin Hospital, where she was greeted by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Sharansky slams Egypt for jailing dissident blogger
Haviv Rettig, Jerusalem Post 11/8/2008
Famous Soviet dissident and democracy advocate Natan Sharansky lashed out at Egyptian authorities Thursday over the continued incarceration of 24-year-old Abdul Kareem Nabil Soliman, an Egyptian blogger who criticized Islam and the Egyptian government. Sharansky’s statement coincided with a string of demonstrations held at Egyptian embassies worldwide also on Thursday in support of the blogger. Advocates for Soliman, or as he is more popularly known, Kareem Amer, said he was being mistreated in the Borg Alarab prison, where he has served half of a four-year sentence for insulting Islam and "defaming" Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak. Soliman’s trial in 2006 marked the first time a blogger was tried in Egypt. His conviction was described as "a slap in the face of freedom of expression in Egypt" by Amnesty International.

Iran speaker criticizes Obama’s nuclear remarks
Dudi Cohen and Reuters, YNetNews 11/8/2008
Just a couple days following Ahmadinejad’s congratulatory letter to US president-elect, Iranian Parliament Member responds to statement calling nuclear development ’uacceptable. ’"˜Repeating objections to Iran’s nuclear program will be taking a step in wrong direction,’ says Ali Larijani - Iran’s head of parliament criticized US President-Elect Barack Obama for saying its development of a nuclear weapon would be, "unacceptable" and repeated the Islamic state’s call for fundamental policy change. "Obama must know that the change he talks about is a fundamental change and not changing of colors or tactics," Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said Saturday in comments on state radio. Larijani, echoing Iran’s official line, called on Obama to carry out his campaign slogans of foreign policy change, including change to US dealings with Iran.

Itzik urges EU MPs to act on Iran
Jerusalem Post 11/8/2008
PARIS - Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik urged a group of hundreds of European parliamentarians at the end of the week to act against the threat posed by a nuclear Iran, saying that Europe had a historic responsibility to the security of the Jewish People. The call to action, which was held just days after Barack Obama was elected the next president of the United States, comes amid Israeli concern that the next US administration will take a softer line against the Islamic Republic. "What more needs to happen in order for Europe to stand at the head of doers against Iran? "Itzik told a conference of more than 400 pro-Israel legislators from across Europe and beyond. "Europe has a moral responsibility to prevent Holocaust denial by Iran, and a historic responsibility to the security of the Jewish people," she said.

Russian Mufti joins Hebron sit in; sends encouragement to Palestine from Russia
Ma’an News Agency 11/8/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – As part of the week-long activities of the National Campaign to Lift the Siege in Hebron, Russian Mufti Sheikh Othman Ishaq along with a delegation of Russian officials joined a sit-in in central Hebron protesting the occupation of the city by Israeli forces and settlers. Joining the Russian delegation were Palestinian high court judge Sheikh Taysir At-Tamimi, Head of the construction committee in Hebron Dr Ali Al-Qawasmi the and Coordinator for the National Campaign in Hebron Dr Khaled Al-Qawasmi. During the sit-in Sheikh At-Tamimi spoke to the protesters of the historical and religious importance of the Ibrihimi Mosque, affirming that for Muslims it was one of the most important sites in the world. He stressed that Hebron is an Arab and Islamic city and their population are keen on protecting its residents from Israeli attacks and the lands from being confiscated.

Concluding session, Fourth Committee approves 23 draft resolutions, 4 decisions, including 9 today by recorded vote on Middle East, UN Refugee Relief Agency
United Nations General Assembly, ReliefWeb 11/7/2008
Sixty-third General Assembly - Fourth Committe 24th Meeting (PM) Aware of the fact that the Palestine refugees have suffered for six decades from the loss of their homes, lands and means of livelihood, the General Assembly would affirm the necessity of continuing the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), by one of nine draft resolutions approved by recorded votes today, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) concluded its work for the current session. By a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 1 against (Israel), with 6 abstentions (Cameroon, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), that text -- on assistance to Palestine refugees -- would also have the Assembly decide to commemorate UNRWA’s work on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary. . .

At Rabin memorial, Barak calls right-wing extremists ’cancerous growths’
The Associated Press and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 11/9/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak called right-wing Israeli extremists "cancerous growths" during a rally Sunday at the Tel Aviv square where former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated 13 ago. "The violence is also creeping today, they once called them bad apples in the bunch, but today they are dangerous, metastisizing cancerous growths," Barak said. Barak added that such extremists pose a serious threat to "democracy, rule of law, the Israel Defense Forces, the police, and all of the ruling authorities in a normal society. "Barak also stressed the importance of peace, saying "we have no other country, and no other way, there is no alternative to peace," Barak said. President Shimon Peres also addressed the crowd, saying, "Yitzhak, you are missed, but your way has not been lost.

Ramon: Hundreds of Extremists Rebelling Against State
Roni Sofer, MIFTAH 11/8/2008
Hundreds of people have declared a revolt against the State of Israel’s legitimate government and refuse to accept decisions made by the government and Knesset, Vice Premier Haim Ramon said Sunday in response to West Bank settlers’ acts of violence against the security forces. " If the government really wants to deal with this, it’s very easy," Ramon said during the weekly cabinet meeting. If 20 Palestinians had been bothering the Central Command chief, they would have been in jail a long time ago. " If the government would make a decision, the establishment would be able to deal with 200 or 300 rioting Jews. There is concrete intelligence information on these Jewish rioters," he claimed. The vice premier went on to say that "since the evacuation of (the illegal outpost of) Amona two and a half years ago, it appears the government is afraid to confront those extremists. This is why illegal outposts have not been removed since then. "

Thousands attend Rabin memorial rally
Shelly Paz, Jerusalem Post 11/8/2008
The nation’s leaders took the opportunity at last night’s memorial rally in Tel Aviv for prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to call for national unity and a less violent society. "I didn’t vote for Rabin but he was my prime minister, too," Kadima leader Tzipi Livni told the crowd at the 13th annual rally. Livni and the other speakers called for the nation to come together. "There are no more unifying words than the words that were displayed here 13 years ago; ’yes to peace and no to violence. ’ " Kadima leader Tzipi Livni told the crowd at the 13th annual rally. Livni and the other speakers called for the nation to come together. "There are no more unifying words than the words that were displayed here 13 years ago; ’yes to peace and no to violence. " Livni told a crowd estimated by organizers at over 100,000 Saturday night that she wanted to speak about the "other Israel," the Israel of all of those who were present in the square and of all of those who were not.

Report: Treasury officials may have destroyed victims’ deeds
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 11/9/2008
The Finance Ministry may have ordered the destruction of ownership documents of land in British-mandate Palestine that was purchased by European Jews who died in the Holocaust, according to a recent report. The land was then sold to third parties who were unaware of the true owners’ identity. The internal report, commissioned by the Company for Restitution of Holocaust Victims Assets, was submitted two weeks ago to the company’s board of directors. It points to some 30 assets defined as "highly likely" to have belonged to Jewish Holocaust victims. The treasury’s security officer in the 1950s, according to the report, ordered the destruction of all real estate files. The team of researchers who compiled the report, headed by the Company for Restitution’s attorney, Dr. Nissan Sharifi, called the order to destroy the files as "mysterious and bizarre".

Siege is the mother of invention: Gaza electricians find alternative sources for copper
Ma’an News Agency 11/8/2008
Gaza – Ma’an –Despite the Israeli blockade and renewed Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip, the residents of the beleaguered area are still keen on providing for themselves a decent existence. Gazans have been forced under the current circumstances to use their creativity to surmount fuel shortages and an almost complete absence of construction and electrical materials. First vegetable oil was used in place of gas and diesel so Gazans could travel from home to work and school as usual. When power outages became more and more frequent and hot water was a luxury solar energy was used and hot showers were once again possible. Then copper was put on the list of banned materials for the Gaza Strip so the repair of electrical equipment was near impossible. Ingenuity saw Gazans melt down the half-shekel coins circulating in the Gaza strip to be used as copper conducting wire.

Obama Demands Iraq War Changes
Jason Leopold, Middle East Online 11/8/2008
President-elect Barack Obama, in one of the first policy statements of his transition, demanded that the Bush administration either submit the proposed US-Iraq “status-of-forces agreement” to Congress or leave an opening for him to change it next year. Obama’s transition office posted a statement on its Web site, declaring that any agreement on the future of US troops in Iraq “should be negotiated in the context of a broader commitment by the US to begin withdrawing its troops and forswearing permanent bases. ” The statement also insisted that the agreement authorizing the presence of US troops on Iraqi soil beyond a United Nations mandate that expires Dec. 31 “must be subject to Congressional approval. ” Obama’s transition office noted the irony that the Iraqi government was submitting the agreement to its parliament while the Bush administration was set on approving the troop deal on its own authority.

Hizbullah spokesman attends UK parley
Jonny Paul, Jerusalem Post Correspondent, London, Jerusalem Post 11/8/2008
The British Home Office is under fire for allowing Hizbullah spokesman Ibrahim Mousawi to again enter the country. The visit comes only weeks after the home secretary announced new measures to prevent extremists from entering the United Kingdom. Mousawi spoke at a week-long conference on political Islam at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) that ended on Friday. Last December he was also allowed to enter the UK to address a conference which was organized by a group with an anti-Israel agenda. "The program has a wide range of speakers with diverse specialisms," a spokesperson for SOAS said. "Mousawi was invited to participate in the program as he is a leading expert on Hizbullah. He had no problems in entering the UK. " On Tuesday Mousawi addressed the conference on "The cases of Hamas and Hizbullah" in which he spoke about the history,. . .

Consumer confidence crunch bites restaurants
Barr Hayoun, Ha’aretz 11/9/2008
The latest victim as the global financial crisis infects the real economy is the sector of Israeli eateries. The number of restaurants closing down as people, households and daters elect to cook at home has soared in recent months, says ClickATable. But the worst hit are restaurants that cater to workers seeking refuge from lunchtime sandwiches, surmises the firm, which provides "computer solutions" to about a quarter of Israel’s restaurants - about 700. (That figure doesn’t include fast-food joints. )A sample of restaurants to which ClickATable provides service found that no less than 123 collapsed in the last three months. That’s 3% of all restaurants in the land. The usual implosion rate is about 1% of Israeli restaurants a year, says ClickATable. A year earlier from August to October, only 13 restaurants collapsed.

Energy cos want to drill in Judean Desert
Shira Horesh, Globes Online 11/6/2008
Society for the Preservation of Nature: The limited potential output of the drill sites does not justify the severe and irreversible harm to the biota and landscapes. Delek Group Ltd. (TASE: DLEKG) subsidiary Delek Energy Systems Ltd. (TASE: DEOL) and Ginko Oil Exploration LP want to drill in the Judean Desert Nature Reserve, north of Road 31, which runs from Arad to the Dead Sea. The drilling is planned to reach a depth of 2,000 meters to try to locate a reservoir with the potential of 6. 5 million barrels of oil. The drilling is part of a series of drillings that Delek Energy and Ginko Oil want to conduct in the Negev, as well as new drillings at old sites where commercial quantities of oil were not previously found. The Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel said that this part of the Judean Desert was under severe stress from development,. . .

Egypt postpones Cairo talks at Hamas’ request
Ma’an News Agency 11/8/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Early reports from Reuters say Hamas officials have informed Cairo that they will not be attending the conciliation talks, scheduled to begin Sunday. Meanwhile delegations from the Palestinian People’s Party (PPP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and the Arab Liberation Front (ALF) arrived at Rafah crossing Saturday morning and were refused entry into Egypt. Egyptian border officials are reported to have told the delegations that they could not enter the country for “technical reasons. ” The delegations were turned away and told to go home. Representatives from Hamas said they would address the issue of their non-attendance in Cairo in a Saturday afternoon press conference. The Fatah delegation left for Cairo on Friday, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was expected to leave for Cairo Saturday afternoon.

Hamas deputy blames Abbas for breakdown in Palestinian reconciliation talks
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 11/8/2008
A senior Hamas official in Syria on Saturday announced that his group would boycott this weekend’s Palestinian reconciliation talks with rival Fatah. Deputy Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk blamed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for the talks’ collapse. He said the group’s decision to stay away was taken after Fatah failed to release Palestinian prisoners from its jails. The talks were to start in Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday. The two feuding sides were expected to discuss forming a joint government, rebuilding security forces and setting a date for presidential and legislative elections. Abu Marzouk told The Associated Press that Fatah had reneged on a pledge to release Hamas prisoners it holds ahead of the dialogue, prompting the boycott. He acknowledged that many issues had been settled but that "the prisoners issue was too important to disregard.

Hamas to boycott Palestinian reconciliation talks
Associated Press, YNetNews 11/8/2008
Group announces it will not go to Cairo as planned on Sunday, claims Egyptian sponsors of meetings are biased -A senior Hamas official in Syria on Saturday announced that his group would boycott this weekend’s Palestinian reconciliation talks with rival Fatah. Deputy Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk blamed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for the talks’ collapse. He said the group’s decision to stay away was taken after Fatah failed to release Palestinian prisoners from its jails. The talks were to start in Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday. The two feuding sides were expected to discuss forming a joint government, rebuilding security forces and setting a date for presidential and legislative elections. Abu Marzouk said that Fatah had reneged on a pledge to release Hamas prisoners it holds ahead of the dialogue, prompting the boycott.

Egypt delays Palestinian unity talks after new feud
Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Nidal al-Mughrabi, ReliefWeb 11/8/2008
DAMASCUS/CAIRO, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Egypt decided on Saturday to delay Palestinian reconciliation talks it planned to host next week, an Egyptian source said, after Islamist Hamas threatened to boycott the meeting. Monday’s planned talks were intended to end Hamas’s conflict with the rival Fatah faction of President Mahmoud Abbas, whom Hamas officials blamed for failing to free jailed Hamas members and sympathisers. Abbas said on Friday his forces only held criminals and not "political prisoners". "Egypt decided to delay the Palestinian dialogue meetings," the Egyptian source told Reuters in Cairo. Postponement of the talks coincided with a statement by Hamas’s leader, Khaled Meshaal, that his group is ready to talk to Barack Obama as long as the U. S.

Hamas-Fatah talks postponed
Al Jazeera 11/8/2008
Reconciliation talks between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have been postponed at the 11th hour. All the major factions had been due to attend the talks in the Egyptian capital on Monday, but on Saturday delegates were turned back as reports emerged that Hamas would not be attending. Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, said his faction was not boycotting the Cairo summit, as earlier reports had indicated, but that Egypt had postponed the gathering due to a "bad atmosphere". Hamas and Fatah have been at loggerheads since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Tensions had increased in the past few days due to what Hamas claims is an increase in the number of its members being arrested in the Fatah-administered West Bank.

100,000 remember Rabin 13 years after assassination
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 11/9/2008
Tens of thousands gathered last night at the square where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, to remember the man and his legacy 13 years after his killing. The square in front of Tel Aviv city hall, now known as Rabin Square, was the site of a peace rally on November 4, 1995. As it ended, Rabin was gunned down by Yigal Amir, an ultra-nationalist opposed of Rabin’s policy of trading land to the Palestinians for peace. "Yitzhak. You are missed, the country misses you, you are missed by every one of us, but your way has not been lost," said President Shimon Peres, Rabin’s partner in peacemaking, who was by his side the night he was assassinated. "Peace is closer than we think, and we should make every effort in his memory to complete it. " The official 13th anniversary of Rabin’s slaying is tomorrow, the Hebrew date.

Barak at Rabin memorial: Extremists cancerous growth
Ynet, YNetNews 11/8/2008
Peres warns tens of thousands honoring slain PM of dangers of internal strife in Israeli society. Referring to extremists’ threats, Ehud Barak says ’we used to call them weeds, today they are no less than cancerous growths’. Livni: Three gunshots that killed Rabin united citizens of Israel for a second -Tens of thousands of people gathered at Tel Aviv’s Yitzhak Rabin Square Saturday night for the main memorial service marking the 13th anniversary of the prime minister’s assassination. During his speech President Shimon Peres warned of the possible disintegration of Israeli society due to internal strife. "The Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and other nations were destined to dissolve - both politically and culturally - because they were rotting away from the inside," he said. "True, we are in the midst of a crisis; there is no point in denying it.

Dan Meridor makes political comeback
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 11/8/2008
Former justice, finance minister decides to rejoin Likud, run on party’s list for 18th Knesset. Former IDF Spokesperson Nachman Shai joins Kadima - Following Benny Begin’s decision to return to politics, former justice and finance minister Dan Meridor decided to return to the Likud and run on the party’s list for the 18th Knesset. Meridor served as an MK between the years 1984-2003 and then declared his retirement from politics. A press conference is scheduled be held on Sunday at 10:30 am at the Likud’s Tel Aviv headquarters where Meridor is expected to announce his plan to rejoin the party. Ynet was informed that Meridor did not request and will not receive a secure place high on the party’s Knesset roster. Meridor is the most recent addition to Likud ahead of the February 10 general elections.

Meridor to announce Knesset run Sunday
Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post 11/8/2008
Former finance minister Dan Meridor will join the wave of ex-Likud MKs who have decided to come back to politics and run for the next Knesset when he convenes a press conference on Sunday morning at the Likud’s Tel Aviv headquarters. Meridor will join former science minister Bennie Begin, who announced his run last Tuesday, and former MK and cosmetics queen Pnina Rosenblum, who will hold her own press conference on Sunday afternoon. Many other former Likud lawmakers have already decided to run, but Uzi Landau’s associates said he had not yet made up his mind about whether to return. Sources close to party chairman Binyamin Netanyahu said he was very pleased about the return of Meridor, who quit Netanyahu’s cabinet in June 1997 over a dispute with him and later left the Likud to form the now defunct Center Party.

Iraq moves on minorities bill
Al Jazeera 11/8/2008
Iraq’s president and two vice-presidents have approved a resolution that guarantees local council seats for Christians and other minorities. The bill, which will reserve six seats on local councils for minorities, has proved controversial, with some minorities arguing that it gives them too little representation. The United Nations had suggested they should get 12 seats. Article 50 in Iraq’s constitution, which stipulates the right of minorities to be represented on local councils, had been amended. The modification was opposed by the Christian minority which took to the streets in protest. A rise in attacks on Iraqi Christians was, in part, blamed on Kurdish groups which feared minority representation could jeopardize recognition of Kurdistan’s population as Kurds. The bill will give minorities a quota of six out of a total of 440 provincial council seats to be elected by January 31.

Iraq insurgents urge Obama to adopt neutrality
Middle East Online 11/8/2008
DUBAI - Insurgents in Iraq have urged US president-elect Barack Obama to adopt a policy of neutrality in the war-torn country and to withdraw US troops from there and other Muslim countries. "On behalf of my brothers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Chechnya, I offer you what is better for you and us: you return to your previous era of neutrality, you withdraw your forces, and you return to your homes," said an audiotape attributed to Omar al-Baghdadi, head of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq. The tape, whose authenticity could not be verified, was addressed to the "New Rulers of the White House and All Their Allies, Presidents of Christian Countries. " It was made available by SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors Islamist web sites. Because it does not mention Obama by name, SITE said it assumed the recording was made prior to the US elections on Tuesday.

Syria’s Assad congratulates Barack Obama
Middle East Online 11/8/2008
DAMASCUS - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose country’s ties with Washington remain frosty, on Friday congratulated Barack Obama on his election as US president and said he hoped for "constructive dialogue" on Middle East peace. "President Assad congratulated Barack Obama on his victory in the American presidential election," the state news agency SANA said. Assad also "expressed hope for constructive dialogue so that the difficulties can be overcome which have hampered the advance of peace, stability and progress in the Middle East," SANA said. Relations between Damascus and Washington have reached the lowest point since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 that Syria fiercely opposed. Last month, Syrian authorities said US troops attacked a village near the border with Iraq killing eight civilians. Print

Knowing one’s friends
Bassel Oudat, Al-Ahram Weekly 11/6/2008
In the wake of the US strike on Syria, relations worsen between Damascus and the US-supported government in Iraq. The Syrian government expressed serious discontent with the official Iraqi position towards the US military attack on Al-Sokariya village within Syrian borders on 26 October. The bombarding US helicopters flew into Syrian territory from Iraqi land without clear reason. The attack was vicious, resulting in civilian casualties. Meanwhile, an Iraqi government spokesperson verified that attack targeted terrorists who, recently, killed Iraqi policemen. The Syrian government perceived the Iraqi position as acceptance of and participation in the aggression. Direct coordination between Iraqi authorities and US forces may also be suspected. The Syrian expected the Iraqi government to condemn the attack. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Muallim described the Iraqi official spokesperson’s statement as "not made by an Arab".

Complex persecution
Nermeen Al-Mufti, Al-Ahram Weekly 11/6/2008
Despite political intrigues against Christians, the enduring peace between Muslims and Christians is hard to snuff out - Ever since the invasion started, things have been tense in the oil-rich city of Mosul in northern Iraq, which the Kurds want to declare part of the northern region they now control. The Kurdish administration has placed towns close to Mosul on the list of so-called disputed areas. These towns are inhabited by minority groups such as the Turkomen (500,000 of them live in Talaafar, Al-Rashidiya and surrounding areas), Yazidis, Shabaks, and Christians. Political manoeuvres have succeeded in breaking many of the minority communities apart. A section of Shabaks now call themselves Kurds, so does a section of the Yazidis. Other sections, such as the Shabak Party led by parliamentarian Honein Qadou, and the Yazidi Party led by Anwar Moawiya, want to be recognised as separate ethnic groups.


Arabs in British and Israeli History
Robert Fisk, Middle East Online 11/8/2008
      LONDON – In Damascus, a massive statue of the late President Hafez al-Assad sits on a mighty iron chair outside the 22,000 square meters Assad Library, a giant book open in his right hand.
     Behind him lie the archives of his dictatorship. But not a single state paper is open to the people of Syria. There are no archives from the foreign ministry or the interior ministry or the defence ministry. There is no 30-year rule—for none is necessary. The rule is forever. There is no Public Record Office in the Arab world, no scholars waiting outside the National Archives.
     It is the same in Cairo, in Riyadh, in Beirut and in Tripoli. Dictatorships and caliphates do not give away their secrets. The only country in the Middle East where you can burrow through the files is called Israel—and good for the Israelis. But the result is obvious. While Israeli scholars have been able to deconstruct the traditional story of little Israel – proving that there were no Arab radio stations calling for the Palestinians to leave their land, that the Arabs were indeed ethnically cleansed from their towns and villages by Irgun and the Hagana – there is no Arab scholar who can balance the books by drawing on the archives of his own history. They must go to the National Archives in London to read General Cunningham’s dispatches from 1948 Palestine, or quote from Israeli books. The record stops there. Aside from the self-serving biographies of Arab dictators and generals, that’s it. Even Walid Khalidi’s huge tome on the destroyed villages of Palestine relies heavily on the work of Israeli historian Benny Morris.

The Intra-Palestinian Rift

Jihad el-Khazen, Middle East Online 11/8/2008
      LONDON – According to Hamas leaders, Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas has stood against any bilateral meetings between the two factions because he wants to end his term in office on 9 January 2009 without paying any price. On the eve of the upcoming reconciliation sessions in Cairo, Hamas leaders fear that Abbas may rally the Palestinian factions and the Arabs against them.
     This fear is partly justified. Abbas has rejected any bilateral meeting between Fatah and Hamas—despite the efforts made by Syrian, Egyptian and other ministers and officials. Yet the reasons behind that fear are merely an "opinion." I heard the Palestinian president express a different opinion in recorded conversations I had with him in Amman and New York.
     The reconciliation meeting in Egypt represents a critical turning point. It will be held under the auspices of President Hosni Mubarak, which means failure is forbidden. Hence, if the negotiations fail, the party responsible for failure will find itself in further confrontation with Egypt, not just with the other Palestinian factions.

Palestine’s Partner for Peace?

Nadia Awad, Middle East Online 11/8/2008
      JERUSALEM – After a month of haggling, Tzipi Livni, appointed to replace outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, announced last week that she has not been able to form a coalition government to support her rule. “Let the people choose their leaders,” she said instead, calling for early elections likely to take place in February of next year. Most observers called her decision a huge blow to peace. Livni’s inability to create a coalition government sends more than just the message of snap elections. It tells us that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas may not have a partner for peace in Israel’s government after all.
     Israel’s political system is a notoriously complicated one, with a large number of small parties effectively preventing any one party from winning a majority of the Knesset’s 120 seats. In order for any government to survive, they must create an often unstable coalition with small parties with whom they do not necessarily have much in common with. This requires sacrifices on their part for a precious few seats. PM Olmert’s Kadima party succeeded in 2006 in building a coalition that included Labour, a large centre-left political party, and Shas, a right-wing ultra-orthodox faction with 12 seats. This time around, Labour again agreed to join a new coalition....

''The Israelis attack us every day''

Report, PCHR, Electronic Intifada 11/8/2008
      "I’ve been a fisherman for 15 years now, ever since I was 15 years old. My father was a fisherman and so was my grandfather. I have spent half my life at sea. But every day we face problems from the Israeli gunboats: they follow us, and then they start shooting at us because they want to force us to stop working."
     Saber al-Hissie comes from a Gazan family of fishermen. His 20-meter vessel belongs to his father, who, after many years of fishing, has finally passed the family business over to Saber. There are more than 3,500 professional fishermen in the Gaza Strip, and the majority of them live in and around Gaza City, where the main harbor is located. The al-Hissie family live in the sprawling refugee camp, known locally as the Beach camp, near the Gaza harbor.
     The Gaza harbor awakens before dawn. The fishermen land the night catch, the fishmongers gather to buy the fish, and those fishermen who have spent the night in the luxury of their own beds at home arrive to start preparing for the early morning fishing. Nets are mended, fuel and water supplies replenished, and the boats are back out at sea before 7am. Saber al-Hissie has a crew of seven men and boys with him today, including 13-year-old Mahmoud, and 18-year-old Ali, who both regularly work as fishermen. Mahmoud is still at school, but Ali says he never went to school. "I always wanted to be a fisherman" he says, grinning.

An Open Letter from an Uprooted Palestinian to Obama

Adib Kawar, Palestine Think Tank 11/8/2008
      Dear Mr. Barack Obama 
     We take the opportunity to congratulate you for being elected for the presidency of the presently mightiest military power and thus most influential political post in the world. 
     We are sure that a man of your caliber and intelligence who was able to overcome the doubt to achieve a big victory in spite of the old inherent prejudice against electing an Afro-American to lead the American people during at least the coming four years. 
     Mr. President Elect, we are sure that you are aware that your emulator to the post, as is evident, requested the outgoing president not to openly extend support to him in the presidential election campaign, though they belong to the same political party, because he was afraid that Mr. Bush’s reputation would smear his and strongly affect his chances of winning the post as a Republican candidate; which had actually strongly contributed to his failure, which is simply a result of the foolish, both internal and international, policy the outgoing regime had followed, which caused unprecedented global tragedies, especially as a result its directly waged wars - as is the case against Iraq and Afghanistan - and threat to wage other wars, and indirectly by supporting the rogue states, the outstanding example of which is the Zionist state of Israel, with its continuous wars against the indigenous Arab population of Palestine, and other Arab states especially during the 2006 war against Lebanon, and Israel’s role in the devastating war against Iraq....

Let’s hope Obama won’t be a ’friend of Israel’

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 11/9/2008
      The march of parochialism started right away. The tears of excitement invoked by U.S. president-elect Barack Obama’s wonderful speech had not yet dried, and back here people were already delving into the only real question they could think to ask: Is this good or bad for Israel? One after another, the analysts and politicians got up - all of them representing one single school of thought, of course  and began prophesizing.
     They spoke with the caution that the situation required, gritting their teeth as though their mouths were full of pebbles, trying to soothe all the fears and concerns. They searched and found signs in Obama: The promising appointment of the Israeli ex-patriots’ son, whose father belonged to the Irgun, and maybe also Dennis Ross and Dan Kurtzer and Martin Indyk, who may, God willing, be included in the new administration.
     But in the background, a dark cloud hovered above. Careful, danger. The black man, who had associated with Palestinian expats, who speaks of human rights, who favors diplomacy over war, who even wants to engage Iran in dialogue, who will allocate more funding for America’s social needs than to weapons exports. He may not be the sort of "friend of Israel" that we have come to love in Washington, the kind of friend we have grown accustomed to.

Report from Gaza-bound blockade-busting ship

Amira Hass, Ha’aretz 11/9/2008
      Saturday morning, 7:25 A.M., about 40 kilometers west of the Gaza Strip we discovered that we were led by a different ship than we previously hasd been. Within a few minutes, our suspicions that it was actually a Israel Navy vessel were confirmed when it identified itself to us through its loud speaker system.
     It asked which port we set sail from and 15 minutes later asked us to report the names of the passengers aboard.
     "That is not necessary," our vessel, part of the Free Gaza Movement, responded. "You can find our names on the internet and also make a donation."
     The movement’s previous successful attempt to sail to Gaza from Cyprus encouraged people to donate money, allowing our vessel to be purchased for 240,000 euros.
     A few minutes later the voice coming from the Israel Navy vessel was heard again.
     "Have a nice day," it said. "You too," we responded. We would be allowed to sail to Gaza. No surprise as the organizers had reached an agreement with the Israel Defense Forces because it justly realized preventing us from passing would only damage Israel’s image.

A Clear Case of Provocation

Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 11/8/2008
      After reading the Jerusalem Post article “IAF Kills Islamic Jihad Terrorist in Northern Gaza Strike” this morning [Nov 6th- see link below] I felt like I was living in an alternate reality. Then I decided that I was not, and that perhaps the Post had mixed things up. This is the response to their confusion and a call for a return to rationality.
     Some useful facts to keep in mind:
     1. Prior to the Israeli invasion of Gaza on Tuesday night, which resulted in the deaths of six people, there had been an ongoing but uneasy truce between Hamas and Israel for five months. Ma’an News quotes an Israeli spokesperson as saying that the invasion was intended to “protect the ceasefire”. An interesting strategy, but nevertheless, one which failed to raise any eyebrows at The Post. I will ask the question that they seem to have forgotten: “How could an attack protect a ceasefire?”
     2. “Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland, former National Security Adviser to the prime minister’s office, and the former head of the IDF’s Planning and Operation Branches” spoke to Jerusalem Post about the need to pre-emptively attack the tunnels as a result of the lessons learned from the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. He said it should have been done years ago. The reason for the threat: “We don’t control what goes in and out of Gaza”. I beg to differ. Israel may not control the arms and money flowing in through the tunnels-that is for certain. They do however control the import and export of goods and services to the civilian population of Gaza and have severely restricted them for well over a year. This makes the population dependant on the tunnels for more than weapons, but also for basic goods. The Post failed to mention the siege on Gaza or the proliferation of tunnels that it has caused. Ha’aretz mentions that Gaza has been sealed in response to the rocket fire, but declined to comment on how this would effectively strengthen Hamas and its ability to provide for people through the tunnel system. The siege affects civilians and does little to undermine the influence of Hamas in the Strip. -- See also: IAF Kills Islamic Jihad Terrorist in Northern Gaza Strike

Ill Will

Khalid Amayreh, Palestine Think Tank 11/8/2008
      Barring last-minute glitches, Palestinian political factions will meet in Cairo Saturday in a last ditch-effort to end the two-year rift between the Islamic group Hamas and the American-backed and financed Fatah organization. (It has been announced that the talks will be postponed indefinitely).
     The Egyptian-mediated reconciliation talks are being closely monitored by the Palestinian masses whose national cause has suffered immensely as a result of the enduring crisis between the two largest Palestinians political parties.
     Israel and the US are also monitoring the talks, hoping that the Palestinians will remain divided for as long as possible in order to give Israel an additional pretext to keep up building Jewish-only colonies on stolen Arab land.
     Israel and her guardian-ally, the US, have played a pivotal role in creating the showdown between Fatah and Hamas.

In league with the enemy!

Dina Ezzat, Al-Ahram Weekly 11/6/2008
      The Arab League will be at Union for the Mediterranean meetings. But is this confronting Israel or part of a process of normalisation, asks European Union foreign ministers and their counterparts from the members of the 43-member Barcelona Process Union for the Mediterranean concluded their two-day meeting in Marseille, France, on Tuesday with a decision to allow the participation of the Arab League in all meetings of the new union. This overrode an Israeli veto that wanted to restrict the Arab organisation to a more ceremonial, less influential role. As such, Arab countries that are not member of the Union for the Mediterranean will now be indirectly represented through the Arab League.
     "The Arab League will be present in all meetings of the Union for the Mediterranean. This is final," said Hisham Youssef, chief of the cabinet of the Arab League secretary-general. Youssef accredited the decision to "the firm Arab stance" that declined to succumb to pressures exercised by Israel on the European partners to exclude the Arab League from meetings of senior officials where all projects and decision-making is orchestrated. He also praised "high-level intervention on the part of President Hosni Mubarak, the co-chair of the Union for the Mediterranean," during a meeting last week with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the other co-chair, and "much support from within the European Union" including the support of Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

Pre-dialogue doubts

Saleh Al-Naami, Al-Ahram Weekly 11/6/2008
      Hamas is insistent that it must be treated as an equal partner in Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation talks.
     Hamas leaders cross the Rafah borders on their way to Egypt The surprise visit by several Hamas leaders to Cairo this week was a sign of the lingering doubts Hamas leaders harbour about Cairo’s intentions, a well-informed Hamas source told Al-Ahram Weekly.
     Three things bother Hamas. One is Egypt’s refusal to respond to any of the amendments the movement suggested to the Egyptian paper on reconciliation. Another is Egypt’s desire to set a deadline for the conclusion of the talks. A third has to do with the way Cairo is likely to treat Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during the talks, due to start 9 November. Hamas is not going to attend the dialogue sessions, the source said, unless these three points are clarified.
     Specifically, Hamas leaders don’t want Abbas to take part in the dialogue as an independent sponsor of the dialogue, but as a party to the conflict. The movement doesn’t see Abbas as president of the Palestinian people, but rather as a "partner in the conspiracy against the movement and an accomplice in the blockade on Gaza". Consequently, Hamas doesn’t want Abbas to sit on the main podium while its representatives sit below with the rest of the factions.