Category : War in Gaza December 2008–

(Guardian) Secret papers reveal slow death of Middle East peace process

The biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the Middle East conflict has revealed that Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to accept Israel’s annexation of all but one of the settlements built illegally in occupied East Jerusalem. This unprecedented proposal was one of a string of concessions that will cause shockwaves among Palestinians and in the wider Arab world.

A cache of thousands of pages of confidential Palestinian records covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the US has been obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared exclusively with the Guardian. The papers provide an extraordinary and vivid insight into the disintegration of the 20-year peace process, which is now regarded as all but dead….

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., England / UK, Europe, Foreign Relations, Israel, Middle East, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Violence, War in Gaza December 2008--

(Lebanon Daily Star) Ghassan Rubeiz–Religious leaders needed in peacemaking

Mutual distrust leads many Palestinians and Israelis to think of peace as a mirage. Since religion plays a significant role in justifying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, politicians need the help of religious leaders in their search for a solution.

The problem is that often the patriarchal figures of the three faiths are too focused on “protecting” the community from erosion of piety or the threat of assimilation to pay enough attention to moral empowerment. Too many leaders defend ownership of land at the expense of justice, rationalize war and its spoils, and remind their people to track the enemy vigilantly using partial interpretations of sacred texts for this purpose.

Religious leaders from outside the region oftentimes also fuel the conflict, sometimes without even being aware that they are doing so. Based outside of the area and free from the considerations of local day-to-day life, these authorities too often espouse hardline positions. The American charismatic church, for example, supports Israel automatically, even at the risk of threatening long-term Jewish security. To become enablers of peace, religious authorities will have to shift from a preoccupation with protecting the tradition from change to becoming agents of inter-communal reconciliation.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Islam, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, War in Gaza December 2008--

BBC–US 'disappointed' as settlement building ban ends

The US says it is “disappointed” by Israel’s decision not to extend a ban on West Bank settlement building.

US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has been sent to the region in an attempt to salvage direct peace talks that were restarted earlier this month.

The 10-month moratorium came to an end at midnight (2200 GMT on Sunday).

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Israel, Middle East, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, Violence, War in Gaza December 2008--

BBC–Settlement concerns as Mid-East peace talks resume

Renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are opening in Egypt, amid concern over the imminent expiry of Israel’s partial ban on West Bank settlement building.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are holding three-way talks with Hillary Clinton in Sharm-el-Sheikh.

Before the talks began the US secretary of state had said Israel should extend its freeze on West Bank construction.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Israel, Middle East, Politics in General, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, War in Gaza December 2008--

Sunday (London) Times: Obama stumped by Israel as all world’s problems arrive

It was supposed to be the week President Barack Obama saved the world. More than 100 heads of state are preparing to descend on New York for talks on halting climate change, promoting nuclear disarmament, defeating terrorism in Pakistan and tackling poverty in sub-Saharan Africa ”” all before a G20 meeting in Pittsburgh on Friday aimed at reaching agreements on global financial regulation and curbing bankers’ bonuses.

The headline-grabber was expected to be the relaunch of the stalled Middle East peace process, to be followed a week later by America’s first direct talks with Iran since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Instead, attempts to revive talks between Israelis and Palestinians, the cornerstone of the administration’s foreign policy, have failed so far. Western diplomats say it will take all the president’s considerable charisma to revive them.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Foreign Relations, Israel, Middle East, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, War in Gaza December 2008--

Binyamin Netanyahu may yield to two-state solution after pressure from Obama

Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to endorse a “two-state solution” in a much-heralded speech this weekend, but he may stall on American demands to freeze Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Feeling the squeeze between the US Administration, which wants a moratorium on settlement growth and a commitment to a Palestinian state, and his national-religious coalition, which favours neither, the Israeli Prime Minister appears likely to try to steer a middle course.

Israeli newspapers were full of speculation about what Mr Netanyahu ”” who has so far refused openly to back a Palestinian state alongside Israel ”” might offer to deflect pressure from Washington. Ehud Barak, his Defence Minister, urged him this week to recognise a Palestinian state, but members of Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party have cautioned him against the move.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Israel, Middle East, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, War in Gaza December 2008--

Jordan sees new war if US does not act quickly

Jordan’s king urged President Barack Obama Sunday to take a more forceful role in the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, warning of a new Mideast war if there is no significant progress in the next 18 months.

Speaking to NBC’s “Meet the Press,” King Abdullah described the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as the core problem of the region and solving it would help the U.S. in dealing with Iran and combatting the appeal of radical Islamic groups like Al-Qaida.

“In the next 18 months, if we don’t move the process forward, and bring people to the negotiation table, there will be another conflict between Israel and another protagonist,” he said in the interview recorded in Washington on Friday.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Israel, Jordan, Middle East, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, War in Gaza December 2008--

A Religious War in Israel’s Army

The publication late last week of eyewitness accounts by Israeli soldiers alleging acute mistreatment of Palestinian civilians in the recent Gaza fighting highlights a debate here about the rules of war. But it also exposes something else: the clash between secular liberals and religious nationalists for control over the army and society.

Several of the testimonies, published by an institute that runs a premilitary course and is affiliated with the left-leaning secular kibbutz movement, showed a distinct impatience with religious soldiers, portraying them as self-appointed holy warriors.

A soldier, identified by the pseudonym Ram, is quoted as saying that in Gaza, “the rabbinate brought in a lot of booklets and articles and their message was very clear: We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the non-Jews who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land. This was the main message, and the whole sense many soldiers had in this operation was of a religious war.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Israel, Middle East, Religion & Culture, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, War in Gaza December 2008--

Soldiers' accounts of Gaza killings raise furor in Israel

In the two months since Israel ended its military assault on Gaza, Palestinians and international rights groups have accused it of excessive force and wanton killing in that operation, but the Israeli military has said it followed high ethical standards and took great care to avoid civilian casualties.

Now testimony is emerging from within the ranks of soldiers and officers alleging a permissive attitude toward the killing of civilians and wanton destruction of property that is sure to inflame the domestic and international debate about the army’s conduct in Gaza. On Thursday, the military’s chief advocate general ordered an investigation into a soldier’s account of a sniper killing a woman and her two children who walked too close to a designated no-go area by mistake, and another account of a sharpshooter who killed an elderly woman who came within 100 yards of a commandeered house.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Middle East, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, War in Gaza December 2008--

ACNS: Young Muslims raise funds for Church Gaza appeal

They have raised more than £1,000 for a mobile dental clinic delivering frontline medical aid around the bombed out streets of Gaza. The clinic, which has been funded totally by the Church in Wales since 2000, is part of the work of family health centres in Gaza run by the Near East Council of Churches.

Members of the Young Muslim Community Organisation in Newport, South Wales, held a bazaar to raise money following an appeal by the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, for urgent aid for the work of the NECC clinics. The appeal was intensified after a direct missile attack destroyed one of the family centres in Shij’ia last month.

Ifthir Ahmed, chair of the YMCO, said the group was pleased to support a Welsh appeal for humanitarian aid.

He said, “We read about the destruction of the family clinic and the invaluable service the mobile dental clinic provides for so many people in the strip. We felt that some of the money we raised had to go to this very noble cause.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Church of Wales, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Middle East, Other Faiths, War in Gaza December 2008--

Alaa Al Aswany: Why the Muslim world can't hear Obama

Our admiration for Obama is grounded in what he represents: fairness. He is the product of a just, democratic system that respects equal opportunity for education and work. This system allowed a black man, after centuries of racial discrimination, to become president. This fairness is precisely what we are missing in Egypt.

That is why the image of Obama meeting with his predecessors in the White House was so touching. Here in Egypt, we don’t have previous or future presidents, only the present head of state who seized power through sham elections and keeps it by force, and who will probably remain in power until the end of his days.

Accordingly, Egypt lacks a fair system that bases advancement on qualifications. Young people often get good jobs because they have connections. Ministers are not elected, but appointed by the president. Not surprisingly, this inequitable system often leads young people to frustration or religious extremism. Others flee the country at any cost, hoping to find justice elsewhere.

We saw Obama as a symbol of this justice. We welcomed him with almost total enthusiasm until he underwent his first real test: Gaza.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Foreign Relations, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Office of the President, Other Faiths, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, Religion & Culture, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, War in Gaza December 2008--

Thomas Freidman on the Middle East Mess

How did this conflict get so fragmented? For starters, it’s gone on way too long. The West Bank is so chopped up and divided now by roads, checkpoints and fences to separate Israel’s crazy settlements from Palestinian villages that a Palestinian could fly from Jerusalem to Paris quicker than he or she could drive from Jenin, here in the northern West Bank, to Hebron in the south.

Another reason is that every idea has been tried and has failed. For the Palestinians, Pan-Arabism, Communism, Islamism have all come and gone, with none having delivered statehood or prosperity. As a result, more and more Palestinians have fallen back on family, clan, town and tribal loyalties. In Israel, Peace Now’s two-state solution was blown up with the crash of the Oslo peace accords, the rising Palestinian birthrate made any plans to annex the West Bank a mortal threat to Israel’s Jewish character, and the rockets that followed Israel’s withdrawals from both Lebanon and Gaza made a mockery of those who said unilateral pullouts were the solution.

All of this has led to a resurgence of religiosity. According to Haaretz, the following questions were posed by a well-known rabbi in one of the pamphlets distributed by the Israeli Army’s Office of Chief Rabbi before the latest Gaza fighting: “Is it possible to compare today’s Palestinians to the Philistines of the past? And if so, is it possible to apply lessons today from the military tactics of Samson and David? A comparison is possible because the Philistines of the past were not natives and had invaded from a foreign land.”

Who in the world would want to try to repair this? I’d rather herd cats….

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, Israel, Middle East, Terrorism, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, War in Gaza December 2008--

Anglican bishop denied entry to Gaza

The Rt Rev Suheil Dawani, the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem and Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem that includes Gaza, after two hours of waiting was denied entry into the Gaza Strip at the Israeli EREZ security Crossing Point this morning along with Lutheran Bishop Mounib Younan.

A spokesman for the Anglican diocese said that both Bishops were on a pastoral visit to include the al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza, an institution of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, and to members of their communities as part of a five-member delegation of the Jerusalem Heads of Church. The decision for the pastoral visit was apparently made two weeks ago and negotiations for the permits were begun with the Israeli authorities for that purpose. They had been informed that their request to enter Gaza had been granted.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Israel, Middle East, The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, War in Gaza December 2008--

Israel vows "disproportionate" response to rockets

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert threatened on Sunday a “disproportionate response” to the continued firing of rockets into Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

There have been sporadic rocket attacks by militants on southern Israeli communities and several Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip since a truce came into effect on Jan. 18 following a 22-day Israeli offensive in the territory.

At least two rockets struck southern Israel on Sunday, causing no damage or casualties. A wing of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a group belonging to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction, claimed responsibility.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Defense, National Security, Military, Israel, Middle East, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, War in Gaza December 2008--

Gaza Violence Complicates Mitchell Mission

A day after President Obama’s special Middle East envoy called for a consolidation of the fragile Gaza cease-fire, the truce came under new strain Thursday when the Israeli military said Palestinians fired a rocket into Israel at dawn and Israel launched an air attack into southern Gaza.

On his first visit to the region in his new role, the envoy, George J. Mitchell, traveled to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian leaders on Thursday after discussions with Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert on Wednesday. In those talks, Mr. Mitchell said, he spoke of “the critical importance” of consolidating the cease-fire that ended Israel’s three-week offensive against Hamas.

As Mr. Mitchell prepared to travel to Ramallah, Israel said it launched an air attack in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis against a “known terrorist” accused by an Israeli military spokesman of being part of a squad responsible for a roadside bombing on Tuesday that killed an Israeli soldier on the Israeli side of the border.

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Posted in * International News & Commentary, Middle East, The Palestinian/Israeli Struggle, War in Gaza December 2008--