Sunday, September 27, 2009

If you want to visit Palestine

Sara writes from Ramallah:

Thought you would be interested in this article from Israel's New Visa Rule for Foreigners: If You Want To Visit Palestine, Stay There - TIME,8599,1917917,00.html?artId=1917917?contType=article?chn=world

Comments: luckily I got a visa for both...but this is what I was telling you about before I left.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Israel Media Clips

Sara sent these - from her new home in Ramallah. We miss her:

Key Issues
* Barak to authorize 500 housing units in settlements
Israel's plan to build up settlements before moratorium on building put in place is underway. Defense minister slated to authorize building of 450 to 500 housing units in the coming day. Building said to be concentrated in six or seven settlements in larger blocs. MK Shalom: What will we discuss in peace negotiations,7340,L-3772963,00.html

* Settlers: Barak move a mockery
For smaller settlement blocs, Barak's decision to green light 500 housing units does not come as good news. Yesha Council Director General Pinchas Wallerstein, 'No new tenders will be issued.' Corner-stone laying ceremony will be held Monday in E1 area,7340,L-3773036,00.html

* Ariel mayor: Building is matter of life and death
A settlement freeze is "stupid," Ariel Mayor Ran Nachman told a three-person research team from the State Department that toured a number of Jewish communities in the West Bank on Thursday… But [Netanyahu's] announcement on Thursday, which came in reaction to the US demand for a complete freeze in settlement activity, did not assuage settler leaders, including those within his own Likud Party such as Nachman and Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shaul Goldstein.

* New settlement being built in Jordan Valley
Construction begins on 20 housing units in Maskiot settlement, intended for Shirat Hayam - Gush Katif evacuees, moments before planned freeze ; The new settlement, Maskiot, was the site of an IDF outpost established in the '80s. In 2002 it was abandoned and a number of religious students began living there…In December of 2006 Defense Minister Amir Peretz approved the construction of 100 housing units in the new settlement. The approval was condemned by many in the international community, and Peretz eventually rescinded his decision.,7340,L-3772706,00.html

* Corner-stone laying ceremony for E1 neighborhood downgraded
Maaleh Adumim Municipality, police agree ceremony intended as 'act of protest against US' opposition to construction plan' to include only burial of vase, scroll,7340,L-3772969,00.html

* Netanyahu 'unfreezes' settlement terminology
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instructed his aides and Likud ministers over the weekend to stop referring to Israel's commitments in a deal with US President Barack Obama as a "settlement freeze." Instead of a freeze (hakpa'ah in Hebrew), it will be referred to as a suspension (hash'ayah), a waiting period (hamtana), or even a cutback (tzimtzum) of Jewish construction in the West Bank. In English, the word freeze that Netanyahu used just two weeks ago in Europe will be replaced by the sanitized word "moratorium."

* Outposts will probably be removed in late October, say defense officials
The evacuation of illegal outposts in the West Bank will likely take place after the High Holy Days, in late October, defense officials said on Sunday. An official order to evacuate the outposts has yet to be issued by the Defense Minister Ehud Barak… The postponement was due to Barak's preference to first exhaust negotiations with the settlers before ordering a forced evacuation… Barak will also likely wait for Ramadan to end and for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to return from his meeting with US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly later this month before carrying out the evacuations.

* Netanyahu: Israel to reach deal with U.S. on settlements this week
…Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak was expected Sunday night to sign partial approval for 500 new housing units to be constructed in the West Bank, and authorize the rest the following morning. The new units were to be constructed in six settlement blocs, including Har Gilo, Upper Modi'in and Ariel.

* Leftist filmmaker urges Israeli artists to boycott Toronto Festival
Left wing Israeli filmmaker Udi Aloni has called on top Israeli artists to step out of their "political closet" and boycott the upcoming Toronto Film Festival over its spotlight on Tel Aviv… Aloni urged the filmmakers to choose sides, stipulating that if they were to choose opposition to West Bank occupation, they should also sign the petition to boycott the Toronto Film Festival… "The reason I chose to address you directly and publicly is, among others, the aggressive 'outing' campaign which you decided to run against Israeli celebrities during the large LGBT support rally in Tel Aviv last month," Aloni wrote in his appeal to Uchovsky and Fuchs. "Following the rally, I decided it was time for the political 'outing' of you two, addressing you once and for all with the question: Are you with us or with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs?"

* Arab League, Hamas slam Israel over settlements
During joint press conference with Hamas leader Mashaal in Cairo, Moussa says normalization of ties impossible as long as Israel 'persists in its intransigent position' concerning settlement freeze,7340,L-3772954,00.html

Poll: Hamas approval rating extremely low
While the numbers indicate ongoing, deep hostility toward Israel in the Arab world, the poll also shows signs that powerful players in the region, such as Hamas, are in deep trouble at home, and that the people living under their direct rule are becomingly increasingly vocal in their criticism….Hamas's approval rating has sunk to significantly low levels in the West Bank and even lower levels inside the Gaza Strip, according to a recent poll for The Israel Project that gathers Arab public opinion on a number of key issues…The poll, conducted by Stan Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, included face-to-face interviews with hundreds of adults in Egypt, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza, along with a series of focus groups in Cairo and Ramallah.

Female Gaza lawyers not obligated to wear head scarf
Gaza Strip's Supreme Justice Council announces that its decision to impose traditional dress on female lawyers not issued as government decree, but personal opinion of justice council chairman.,7340,L-3772882,00.html

Hamas commander threatens Schalit
A dispute between Hamas's political leaders and military commanders is hindering mediation efforts to reach a prisoner exchange agreement with Israel, sources close to Hamas revealed over the weekend.

Hamas warns Arabs: Don't rush toward normalizing Israel ties
Hamas on Sunday warned Arab states to be wary of Israel's proposal to temporarily halt settlement construction in exchange for normalization of ties, describing it as a "dangerous equation".

Internal Israeli, regional and Int'l affairs
Cabinet: No settlement freeze debate before UN session
'We cannot sit idle while prime minister determines the fate of the settlements,' Habayit Hayehudi chairman Orlev says,7340,L-3772886,00.html

Report: Jane Fonda joins boycott of Toronto film festival over homage to Israel
Jane Fonda, Danny Glover and Eve Ensler have joined the growing list of artists who are boycotting the Toronto film festival over a program honoring Tel Aviv's 100th anniversary, gossip blogger Perez Hilton reported on Friday. The three have added their names to a letter aimed at festival officials claiming that Tel Aviv was built on violence, ignoring the "suffering of thousands of former residents and descendants," Hilton reported.

Analysis and op-eds
Yossi Saris/ Netanyahu's creativity a slap in the face
…After all, Netanyahu is known in America as someone who deceives the entire world, the Israeli public and perhaps even himself. Successive Israeli governments have specialized in deceiving governments in Washington, out of loyalty to the deeply rooted Diaspora tradition that it's a good deed to cheat the tyrant…But Washington shouldn't worry. Instead, it should adopt Netanyahu's golden rule: If the Israelis give, they will get. And everyone already knows what is liable to happen if they don't give.

Akiva Eldar / Vision of 9/11
Whoever runs away from a compromise solution with his neighbors in September 2009 should not be surprised to find himself at the 1967 borders on September 11, 2011.

Y. Ben Meir / The real threat to the settlements
The real danger to this important enterprise and the main threat to its future is not Peace Now nor any other left-wing organization, but rather the far right in the guise of Women in Green or the hilltop youth and their ilk. Israel's unwillingness to restrain them, and the unwillingness of the settlements to vomit them out, fuel the fire of opposition to the whole ideal. The Israeli government must announce a one-year freeze on the settlements outside Jerusalem, and during this period must impose order in the West Bank once and for all. This is vital for the settlement movement.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Horse-trading the two-state solution

The “movements in the right direction” taken last week by Benjamin Netanyahu and the new US stance seem to be positive developments. There is an apparent agreement over the two-state solution and necessary steps towards it becoming a reality are being taken. But how much of it is in earnest?

Netanyahu’s yielding attitude is an obvious outcome of US pressures; Israel needs its ally and Netanyahu cannot afford to refuse. On the other hand, Obama has vowed to make a change and (especially given his disappointing progress elsewhere) can not fail to deliver, and for results he needs Netanyahu.

Netanyahu’s promise to ‘freeze’ settlement building comes on the conditions that current building be carried through and that America take a firmer stance with regard to the threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

On the Palestinian front people may be toying with the idea of recognition of Israel – a perpetual pre-condition for talks. It looks, however, like a growing attraction to Hamas as a potential partner for peace talks and a risk of Israel being pressured into inclusion of Hamas has given Fatah little choice but to appear more obliging merely to avoid being side-lined.

The chance of Israel-Palestine talks at the UN General Assembly later in the month is slim and in my opinion, even if talks do take place, progress towards peace will continue to be impeded as long as concessions are only made on the basis of self-interested horse-trading.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Iran and Bahrain in Media Spat

An article by the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Sheikh Salam bin-Hamad al Khalifa, in the Washington Post in July has sparked a low-key row between Iran and its nearest Gulf neighbour.

In his article of the 26th of July, the Crown Prince adopted a conciliatory tone towards Israel, advocating “reaching out to the Israeli people” as a means of bypassing the current deadlock over Palestine.

It is unclear what the Crown Prince himself meant by “reaching out”, but according to a Guardian article of August 26th it appears that the USA, and possibly some Western European states, have done so by linking the two contentious issues of Iran’s nuclear disarmament and Israel’s steady encroachment into the West Bank. Over the last two weeks, Netanyahu has courted Western Europe with personal visits to the UK and Germany, and has implemented a form of de facto settlement freeze by refusing to approve new building permit applications in settlement areas. There is even talk of progress within the consistently fractious Israeli political establishment of a more formal year-long moratorium on settlements, in preparation for resuming direct talks with Palestinians.

The concessions given to Israel in return for such co-operation, however, may be harsh for Iran. A Telegraph article of August 25th, for example, suggests the possibility of a petroleum embargo, which would be devastating to a country which relies on up to 40% imported petroleum to keep its economy even in its current state.

It is no wonder that Iran is purportedly nervous. Israel has never been known to give away something for nothing, and the Iranian government must be wondering just what has been promised by western leaders to Netanyahu to extract even the current limited concessions. It is possible, though conjectural, that the Crown Prince of Bahrain’s offering in the Washington Post may have been seen by some Western foreign policy decision-makers as an Arab mandate to use the Iranian nuclear issue as a means of bargaining in the Middle East peace process.