Thursday, August 30, 2007

Interesting Article

from Roger Cohen in the NY Times.  Read it for free HERE

The sources of global frustration with the Bush administration have been many and varied, but its refusal over several years to get serious about the Israel-Palestine conflict has ranked high. To dream some path led from Baghdad to Jerusalem was always upside-down foolishness.

So President George W. Bush’s discovery last month that “Iraq is not the only pivotal matter in the Middle East” was encouraging, as was his tacit relegation of the “road map” to nowhere. The Bush endgame, like Clinton’s, is going to see a push for a resolution of the mother of all conflicts.

R. Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state for political affairs, told me a “supreme effort to help Israelis and Palestinians define a framework for Palestinian statehood” is to be made. “We don’t rule out Palestinian statehood, certainly not, within the term of this presidency,” he said.

The convocation of a conference in the United States in November ups the ante and demonstrates that the incremental has been supplanted by a thrust for the finish line.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mideast speeds up nuclear projects

Interesting piece from NCF award winning Yoav Stern in Haaretz


And an excellent op-ed on the subject also in Haaretz


EU resumes fuel payments to Gaza

A welcome development

The EU has resumed payment for fuel shipments to the only power plant in the Gaza Strip on a provisional basis.

The EU cut off funding last Thursday because of concerns over plans by the Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, to tax electricity bills.

The row left hundreds of thousands of Palestinians without electricity but most should now be getting power back.

A senior Hamas leader denied his group had any such tax plans, and said assurances had been sent to the EU.

Three fuel trucks crossed from Israel into Gaza at the Nahal Oz crossing and headed to the power plant.

The resumption of fuel-aid payments to Gaza comes after EU officials held a meeting with the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, in the West Bank.

In a statement on Tuesday, the European Commission said it had agreed with Mr Fayyad that audits would be carried out to ensure that "fuel aid in Gaza remains properly managed".

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Peres meets with Palestinian PM at his Jerusalem residence

From NCF Media Award winning Yoav Stern in Haaretz:

President Shimon Peres last week hosted Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad at his official residence in Jerusalem, it emerged Tuesday.

Peres confirmed that he had met with senior Palestinian officials during an interview to Qatari-based satellite channel Al-Jazeera.

The president also invited Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to meet with him.

Excerpts of Peres' interview with Al-Jazeera were to be broadcast on the channel's Tuesday news edition, and the full interview is to be shown in the coming days.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Japan resumes aid to Palestinians

Japan has resumed direct aid to the Palestinian government for the first time since the Hamas election victory after agreeing a $20m (£10m) package.

The Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso signed the deal with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Aid was suspended after Hamas formed a government in 2006 but it was fired by Mr Abbas in June this year.

Japan wants to boost economic ties between Israel and the Palestinian government to revive the peace process.

Eleven million dollars (£5.5m) will be paid in direct aid, with a further $9m dollars (£4.5m) in humanitarian assistance.

Some of that money will go to Gaza where Hamas violently took control two months ago.

Mr Abbas now heads a Western-backed government led by his Fatah faction in the West Bank.

The BBC's correspondent in Jerusalem, Crispin Thorold, says the Palestinian economy has been in a desperate state for well over a year.

He says the $11m in direct aid which Japan has pledged is not a huge amount but does at least mark the resumption of Japanese financial support.

Israeli and Palestinian officials have welcomed the Japanese government initiative to boost economic co-operation but warned that it was not a replacement for political dialogue.

Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat signed an agreement to build an industrial park to process Palestinian fruit and vegetables.

Under the plan, the products will be shipped to Jordan for sale in the Gulf and Israel will provide security and technical expertise.

Israel allows Gaza fuel delivery

From the BBC:

The Israeli military has said it will open a border crossing with the Gaza Strip for a few hours on Sunday to allow fuel deliveries to the territory.

The announcement comes a day after parts of Gaza were plunged into darkness because of fuel shortages.

The territory relies on Israel for fuel but Israel says it stopped regular deliveries for security reasons.

UN officials have warned unless Israel eases border restrictions, there could be a humanitarian disaster in Gaza.

"Fuel deliveries will resume to the Gaza Strip on Sunday morning via the Nahal Oz crossing," an Israeli military spokesman told the AFP news agency.

The Palestinian electricity company has had to shut down three of the four generators running the area's main 140-megawatt power plant.

Palestinian officials have said up to 400,000 Gaza residents face the possibility of having no electricity.

Israel began cutting off fuel supplies to Gaza after the Islamist group Hamas took over the territory in June.

Hamas and other militant factions have fired thousands of rockets into Israel from Gaza.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Fayad issues conditions for Palestinian peace deal

Rafi Dajani of ATFP sends this item in which The Independent (UK) reports on conditions set by Palestinian PM Fayyad concerning reconciliation with Hamas - interesting eh? a weak non elected government issues conditions for the surrender of a stronger elected government - or have I got it wrong? It would seem that Fayad is deliberately making Hamas an offer it cannot accept. Presumably he does not want any reconciliation - well he'd lose his job wouldn't he?

FAYAD ISSUES CONDITIONS FOR PALESTINIAN PEACE DEAL By Donald Macintyre Independent (UK) August 17, 2007

Hamas has to renounce "any and all" claims to govern Gaza before there can be any reconciliation between the Palestinian factions, Salam Fayad, the Prime Minister of the two-month-old emergency Palestinian administration in Ramallah, said yesterday.
The tough conditions laid down by Mr Fayad will be taken as a clear rebuff for recent international calls for early dialogue between Fatah and Hamas in the wake of June's bloody infighting when Hamas seized internal control of Gaza by force after 100 lives were lost in a single week. A group of European foreign ministers - including those from France, Italy and Spain - as well as the British Foreign Affairs Committee have urged such talks.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Netanyahu wins Likud leadership

Bibi may yet become Prime Minister again... He won his party's leadership with 73%, and opinion polls consistently show he has a chance at the top job...

Full article from the BBC

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee Report

Below, initially for member's reference without comment, I post a link to the 8th Foreign Affairs Committee's report, entitled: Global Security - The Middle East.

Click HERE to view the report in browsable html. Mike Gapes, head of the committee and occasional NCF interlocutor, has written an accompanying piece in the Guardian arguing for engagement with Hamas (HERE). Israel's Ambassador to the UK offered a strong rebuttal of this view in the same paper the next day (HERE).

Israeli Cabinet

In light of the recent reshuffle, I post a link to a table listing the current (and former) cabinet in the Olmert administration.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Saudi reiterates support for Bush's Mideast peace

A Middle East Peace Conference without Hamas or Syria is a bird with one wing - difficult to make it fly. But still worth the attempt!

Agence France-Presse - 08 August, 2007
Saudi Arabia reiterated on Tuesday its support for a Middle East peace conference called by US President George W. Bush, saying it should tackle core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.The holding of an international conference to resolve the Middle East conflict "was an Arab demand," Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Jaweed Al Ghussein

Stephen Desmond sends this item. I wonder how much of the real story his program will tell - of the many trips to Gaza by people like myself and Lord Stone, of the intervention by Herschel and Rabbi Melchior, of the role of Maie Sarraf and of the extraordinary chain of events. I bet you the involvment of the NCF won't be mentioned. But such is life - how much can you do in one short film. It was a terrible time. A real injustice. And representative of many such instances of imprisonment without trial by all sides - commonplace in these days of Guantanamo of course.

Please click here to view a trailer for a new Al Jazeera film about Jaweed Al Ghussein. Mona Bauwens Al Ghussein describes her father's abduction at the hands of Yasser Arafat:


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Riyadh gives talks with Israel cautious welcome

This came in from Rafi Dajani of ATFP and is really very interesting indeed:

The Guardian (UK) looks at Saudi Arabia's cautious acceptance of attending the fall Mideast conference that includes Israel

Saudi Arabia would sit down with Israel at a US-proposed Middle East peace conference, provided it dealt with matters of substance, Saudi officials said today.The Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, said Riyadh welcomed the American initiative after he emerged from talks with the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, who was in the region with the secretary of defence, Robert Gates, to bolster support for Mr Bush's effort to kick-start Middle East peace talks.