Archive for the USA foreign policy Category

Obama seeks Palestine state on 1967 borders

Posted in Gaza, Hamas, History, International community, Israel, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Peace process, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , on 19/05/2011 by 3071km

Date published: 19th May 2011

Source: Al Jazeera Online

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US president says borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps.
Barack Obama, the US president, has laid out his vision for the Middle East and North Africa during a key speech in Washington.

On the issue of Palestine, Obama said: “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognised borders are established for both states.

“The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

“As for security, every state has the right to self-defence, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat.”

Israeli reaction

Reacting to the address shortly afterwards, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said a Palestinian state should not be established at the “expense of Israeli existence”. He appreciated the US president’s address but rejected any withdrawal tp “indefensible” 1967 borders.

Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from Jerusalem, said: “In different parts of his speech Obama shifted from a view closer to the Israeli approach to negotiations and at other times closer to the Palestinian approach.

“He supported the Palestinian’s idea of territorial contingency – meaning that the Israelis would have to withdraw  from some of the settlement blocks in order for the Palestinian state to be viable and enjoy that contingency.

“He also talked about settlement construction had to stop. That is obviously another thing the Palestinians would like to hear from Obama.

“Obama more importantly talked about the status quo and how it was unsustainable. That is bad news for [Binyamin] Netanyahu [the Israeli prime minister].

“On the other hand, Obama supported other approaches of the Israelis that they share in common.

“In that Jerusalem will be discussed later … refugees will be discussed later … the Palestinian state has to be demilitarized … Israel must enjoy security.”

Obama’s speech came a day ahead of a visit to Washington by Netanyahu.

On Thursday, the Israeli interior ministry requested and received the approval of Netanyahu’s office ahead of his US visit to begin holding hearings on an additional 1,550 housing units in the settlements of Har Homa and Pisgat Ze’ev, both located beyond the 1967 borders.

Obama must take “concrete steps” not issue “slogans,” the Palestinian Hamas movement said on Thursday following the president’s speech.

Hamas response

“What Obama needs to do is not to add slogans but to take concrete steps to protect the rights of the Palestinian people and the Arab nation,” said Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman.

During his address to the US state department on Thursday, Obama said Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, must either lead his country through a democratic transition or “get out of the way”.

Obama said Syria’s brutal crackdown on pro-reform activists was unacceptable.

He said Assad could no longer rule through repression and must change course if he wants international acceptance.

More than 850 people are believed to have been killed in two months of unrest in Syria.

Obama’s speech came a day after he imposed sanctions on Assad and six other officials for human rights abuses during the crackdown.

The president said two leaders in the region had stepped down and that more may follow. The president also said the future of the US was bound to the region.

Iran ‘meddling’

Turning to Bahrain and Yemen, Obama said: “We must acknowledge that our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for change consistent with the principles that I have outlined today.

“That is true in Yemen, where President [Ali Abdullah] Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power. And that is true, today, in Bahrain.

“We have insisted publically and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens, and will not make legitimate calls for reform go away.

“The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail.

“The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.”

The president also said that Iran had “tried to take advantage of the turmoil there”.

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Cairo, said the speech basically translated to “democracy good, repression bad”.

“He slapped a few American allies, saying if people want change you can’t stand in the way,” Fisher said.

Economic investment

Addressing the death of Osama bin Laden, the president said the al-Qaeda leader was a mass murderer, not a martyr, whose ideas were being rejected even before he was killed.

Turning to Libya, he said: “In Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people’s call for help.

“Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed.”

Obama also laid out a major economic initiative in the Middle East to encourage democratic change in the region, beginning with Tunisia and Libya.

The president said the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a US government agency, “will soon launch a $2bn facility to support private investment across the region”.

“And we will work with allies to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development so that it provides the same support for democratic transitions and economic modernisation in the Middle East and North Africa as it has in Europe,” he said,

Joint-Statement: Nakba at 63 – Confronting the Ongoing Nakba

Posted in Activism, Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, History, International community, Israeli occupation, Non-violent resistance, Palestine, Peace process, Siege, USA foreign policy, War crimes, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , on 14/05/2011 by 3071km

Authors: various

Published: 14th May 2011

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After 63 years of the Palestinian Nakba, and despite 20 years of unsuccessful peace negotiations, the Palestinian people continue to be denied their most fundamental and inalienable rights to self-determination, national independence, sovereignty and return to the homes and properties from which they have been forcibly displaced. Living under the Israeli apartheid regime and in forced exile away from the towns and villages, hills and olive groves that they call home, the Palestinian people remain steadfast in their struggle to end the systematic human rights violations committed against them and return to their homes of origin.

Meanwhile, the international community, especially the USA and the dominant member states of the UN continue to shield Israel from accountability and maintain extensive economic and diplomatic ties which finance and subsidize the Israeli regime. This persistent support has taken place under the guise of a ‘peace process’ which has worked to embellish Israeli violations with the facade of peace; a situation Israel has exploited to increase its international and regional economic and diplomatic links. As the pretense of negotiations falls away, so too does the cover it provides Israel to continue its policies, a reality reflected in the growing civil society response insisting upon the application of international law to end Israeli impunity.

An accounting for the collapse of the peace process, a failure now a recognized reality by all parties involved in it for the past 20 years, inevitably leads to the need to establish a strategy which puts the realization of Palestinian rights at its center and focuses on the practical action needed to bring Palestinian rights into reality, combining grassroots, civic struggle on the ground with international pressure on Israel to respect the rights of the Palestinian people.

The latest agreement between the two main Palestinian factions is an encouraging first step towards establishing such a strategy. However, genuine national reconciliation and unity can only come about through the inclusion of the Palestinian people in their entirety in contributing to and deciding upon the way forward for the Palestinian people. It is in this vein that the campaign for direct elections to the highest decision making body of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian National Council (PNC) was relaunched, to ensure that the voice of all Palestinians, including those with Israeli citizenship and refugees living forced exile are included.

These attempts at national unity take place against the backdrop of political transformations in neighboring Arab countries which reassert the power of people to take their fate in their own hands in seeking freedom, justice and equality. In 2011, the year of revolutions, it is as clear as ever that the Palestinian people are at the centerpiece of a regional-wide yearning for rights, denied to them by powers concerned more with geopolitical influence than upholding the rule and values of international law. Ending the particular systematic denial of rights suffered by Palestinians as a result of Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid is therefore intrinsically tied in with fate of the millions of demonstrators on the streets of the Arab world.

On the 63rd commemoration of the Nakba and as part of activities to confront ongoing forcible transfer of Palestinians by Israel, We the undersigned organizations call:

On the Palestinian leadership to:
• To adopt a coherent strategy which places at its forefront a just and permanent solution for Palestinian refugees and IDPs, based on their right to return and in accordance with international law, universal principles of justice and UN resolutions 194 (1948) and 237 (1967);
• Ensure genuine national reconciliation and unity as a matter of urgency, and rebuild the PLO as a legitimate and credible platform representing the entire Palestinian people and its political organizations through initiating direct elections to the PNC;
• Support and activate popular resistance in all forms permitted under international law.
• Establish a consultative mechanism with professional civil society organizations to support the efforts of the PLO in international fora.

On Civil Society, Governments, UN Members States, Organs and Agencies to:
• Support civil society led direct actions in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle such as the Gaza freedom flotilla;
• Build and expand the civil society-led movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and exert stronger pressure on states to implement sanctions and adopt decisions and resolutions which support the global BDS Campaign;
• Redouble efforts for investigation of Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity and prosecution and punishment of those responsible, as well as efforts to prevent Israel’s accession and integration into international and regional organizations.
• Implement international protection standards for Palestinian refugees and IDPs.

————————————————————————–

– BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
– The Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI)
– Defense for Children International/Palestine Section
– Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
– Housing and Land Rights Network: Habitat International Coalition
– Joint Advocacy initiative -The East Jerusalem YMCA and YWCA of Palestine-
– Kairos Palestine
– The Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign

Israel’s blockade of Gaza is cracking

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, International community, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Siege, USA foreign policy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 09/05/2011 by 3071km

Written by: Noura Erakat

Date published: 9th May 2011

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Sealing coastal territory undermines past diplomacy – and siege is likely to be broken by post-revolution Egypt.

Egypt has announced that it will open its border crossing with Gaza on a permanent basis, thereby reversing Egypt’s collusion with Israel’s blockade regime. The interim Foreign Minister, Nabil al-Arabi, has described support for the blockade by the previous Egyptian regime as “disgraceful“. While Israeli officials have responded to this announcement with alarm, they have limited capacity to undermine the new Egyptian government’s prerogative.

Since the capture of Israeli soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit in June 2006, the Rafah crossing has been closed to Palestinians in Gaza, except for “extraordinary humanitarian cases”. In June 2007, after Hamas’ ousting of Fatah, Israel imposed a naval blockade on Gaza and sealed its five border crossings with the territory. Egypt’s closure of Rafah made the siege comprehensive, and effectively cut off the 360sq mile Strip from the rest of the world.

The devastating impact of the blockade on Gaza’s 1.5million population, where food aid dependency has risen to 80 per cent,  has been defined as a humanitarian crisis by a broad range of international human rights and humanitarian aid organisations – including Human Rights Watch, UNRWA, Amnesty International, and the World Health Organisation.

Under the presidency of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak, Egypt only opened the Rafah border in response to exceptional crises, including during Israel’s Winter 2008/2009 offensive against Gaza and in the aftermath of Israel’s fatal raid on the humanitarian flotilla in June 2010. Rafah’s closure demonstrated Mubarak’s shared interest with Israel in undermining Hamas’ leadership.

Egypt’s post-revolution government is eager to reverse this policy – as evidenced by its successful brokering of a unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas and, shortly thereafter, its announcement that it will end its closure of Rafah. Egypt’s decision comports with enduring border-crossing agreements that have been suspended since 2007.

Egypt’s decision is a resumption of the status quo ante

According to the Agreement on Movement and Access(AMA), brokered by the US and the European Union to facilitate the transfer of authority for crossings from the Government of Israel to the Palestinian Authority following Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza, Egypt is authorised to control the Rafah crossing on its side of the border, in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.

Following internecine fighting in 2007, in which Hamas forces were routed from the West Bank but took control of the Gaza Strip, the border crossing agreement, along with Egyptian and EU participation was suspended -but not terminated.

The European Union’s Border Assistance Mission to Rafah (EUBAM), deployed to support a smooth transfer of authority at the border, has conditioned its presence on cooperation with Mahmoud Abbas’ Force 17, or the Presidential Guard.  Since Fatah’s ousting from the Strip the EUBAM has “maintained its operational capability and has remained on standby, awaiting a political solution and ready to re-engage“.

The EUBAM has extended its mission four times since suspending it in 2007, indicating the EU’s willingness to cooperate with the PA, should a political solution be reached between the rival Palestinian political parties. As recently as late March, the EUBAM Chief of Mission reaffirmed to Egypt’s ambassador to Israel the mission’s readiness to resume its tasks at Rafah.

Arguably, the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation removes impediments to EU and Egyptian cooperation at the Rafah crossing.

Vague though it may be, the agreement between Fatah and Hamas stipulates the rehabilitation of Palestinian security forces and a mandate to end the siege and blockade of Gaza. Although hostilities between the rival parties are ongoing, in theory, technical hurdles undermining the opening of the Rafah crossing have been overcome.

Accordingly, Egypt’s decision to open the Rafah crossing is commensurate with existing agreements and signals a resumption of the status quo ante. Israel can do little to challenge this policy on legal grounds and it lacks the political credibility to maintain the comprehensive siege by force.

Israel lacks political credibility to maintain Gaza blockade 

While 29 Democratic Senators have urged President Barack Obama to suspend US aid to the Palestinian Authority should Hamas join the PA government, European and international support for the unity government is robust.

On May 6, the EU announced that it will provide an additional US$85million in aid to support the PA in light of Israel’s withholding of $105million of tax revenue belonging to the Palestinian Authority. Similarly, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon – along with a coalition of donor nations – have urged Israel to release the Palestinian funds. Meanwhile, the United Nations’ envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, has described the unity government as “overdue“, demonstrating general international support for the unity government that includes Hamas.

Similar international support exists for ending the siege on Gaza. Especially since Israel’s raid on the Gaza flotilla in May 2010, support for the debilitating siege has steadily dwindled. In the aftermath of the fatal attack in international waters, even the US described Israel’s blockade as “untenable” and called on Israel to change its policy toward Gaza.

The White House not only supports an easing of the siege, but it also supports Egypt’s post-revolution government. Shortly after Mubarak’s departure, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Egypt to congratulate the new government – and promised it diplomatic support as well as economic aid. Although not impossible, it is unlikely that the US will challenge Egypt’s decision, which reflects the US’ blockade policy as well as the US-brokered AMA, and risk undermining the government’s nascent development.

Finally, within Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lacks the political support necessary to take any significant risks. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni has accused Netanyahu of isolating Israel and stated that her Kadima party would not join a Netanyahu-led coalition even in the face of September’s “political tsunami”. Livni also opposes the Palestinian unity government, but explains “there is a difference between defending Israel and aiding the survival of a prime minister that only damages the country”.

In light of broad support for the Palestinian unity government, frustration with the ongoing blockade, enthusiasm for Egypt’s new government, and Netanyahu’s tenuous domestic standing, it is neither likely that Israel can mobilise significant political opposition to Egypt’s new policy, nor use force to respond to opening of the Rafah crossing.

Buoyed by impunity, the cover afforded by turmoil in the region, and the desire to establish its qualitative military edge in the region, Israel may nevertheless employ a military option to respond to the reopened crossing. Even if it does not use force at Rafah, it may brandish its military prowess by targeting the forthcoming Gaza flotilla, which will set sail for Gaza’s shores in late June. In light of the political balance, Israel’s choice to use force without a tangible military threat will exacerbate its already waning legitimacy.

Escaping this political trapping leaves Israel with little other choice than to urge the US to act on its behalf. Whether the Obama administration is willing to do so (the US Congress has already demonstrated its willingness) remains unclear in light of a fast-transforming Middle East, where US interests continue to hang in the balance.

Noura Erakat is a Palestinian human rights attorney and activist. She is currently an adjunct professor at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies in Georgetown University. She is also a co-editor of Jadaliyya.com.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Palestinian factions in reconciliation bid

Posted in Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, International community, Israel, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 28/04/2011 by 3071km

Date published: 28/04/2011

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Fatah and Hamas agree to form interim government and fix general election date following talks in Cairo.

Fatah, the Palestinian political organisation, has reached an agreement with its rival Hamas on forming an interim government and fixing a date for a general election, Egyptian intelligence has said.

In February, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and a member of Fatah, called for presidential and legislative elections before September, in a move which was rejected by Hamas at the time.

Abbas signalled on Thursday that peace talks with Israel would still be possible during the term of a new interim government formed as part of a unity deal with Hamas.

Abbas said the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which he heads and to which Hamas does not belong, would still be responsible for “handling politics, negotiations”.

He was speaking for the first time since the unity deal was unveiled in Cairo on Wednesday.

The deal, which took many officials by surprise, was thrashed out in Egypt and followed a series of secret meetings.

“The consultations resulted in full understandings over all points of discussions, including setting up an interim agreement with specific tasks and to set a date for election,” Egyptian intelligence said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The two sides signed initial letters on an agreement. All points of differences have been overcome,” Taher Al-Nono, a Hamas government spokesman in Gaza, told the Reuters news agency.

He said that Cairo would shortly invite both sides to a signing ceremony.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Gaza, Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, said: “I think we are optimistic because … there is [an] official agreement between Hamas and Fatah, and I think we now have [an] impressive jump to the Palestinian unity.

“Maybe it does not come as a shock because I think it came as a fruit of long talks and discussion.

“I think that today we became very close to this agreement, we have finished some points. It is like [an] outline draft and I think it will be a good beginning.

“Maybe after that we will start on how to implement this agreement to be translated and practised on the ground.”

‘Geopolitical situation’

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said: “It is important news … the geopolitical situation wasn’t exactly helpful [to reconciliation] and then we went through six months of upheavals, certainly sweeping through Egypt.

“At the end, you could say that President Abbas has lost his patron in Egypt, which is President Mubarak, and Hamas is more on less facing almost similar trouble now, with Bashar al-Assad [Syria’s president] facing his own trouble in Damascus.

“So with the US keeping a distance and Israel not delivering the goods on the peace process and the settlements, it was time for Palestinians to come together and agree on what they basically agreed on almost a year and a half ago.”

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said on Wednesday that Abbas could not hope to forge a peace deal with Israel if he pursued a reconciliation accord with Hamas.

“The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both,” he said.

In his televised statement, Netanyahu said Israel could not accept Hamas as a negotiating partner because it “aspires to destroy Israel, it says so publicly, it fires rockets on our cities, it fires anti-tank rockets on our children.”

He said that the surprise announcement of a reconciliation deal “exposes the Palestinian Authority’s weakness”.

And on Thursday, Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister said the deal marks the “crossing of a red line”.

Lieberman warned that the accord could lead to the militant group’s takeover of the Fatah-run West Bank.

But top Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdaineh said the reconciliation did not concern Israel.

“The agreement between Fatah and Hamas movements is an internal affair and has nothing to do with Israel. Netanyahu must choose between a just peace with the united Palestinian people … and settlements,” Abu Rdaineh said.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reported from Ramallah that “a lot of people would say that this was really an empty kind of ultimatum – what peace process, or what peace deal, is prime minister Netanyahu actually talking about?

“The peace process very much took a hit in the last few months. There has been no peace process taking place between the Palestinian Authority and Israel because of Israel’s insistence on building on land that is being negotiated on.

“So I think many months back, the PA and Fatah decided to take their own route, away from this peace process, away from US mediation and try to really go it alone.”

The US is reviewing further reports on details of the reconciliation, and while it supports Palestinian reconciliation, Hamas remains “a terrorist organisation which targets civilians”, Tommy Vietor, US National Security Council spokesman, said.

“To play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must accept the Quartet principles and renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

Hamas does not recognise Israel as a state.

‘Bitter split’

Fatah holds power in the occupied West Bank while Hamas, which won the last parliamentary election in 2006, routed Abbas’ forces in 2007 to seize control of the Gaza Strip.

Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo, said: “This effectively will be ending a bitter split that Palestinians have been witnessing since 2007.

Rageh said the deal was expected to be signed next week and would be attended by Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who is based in Damascus.

Nicole Johnston, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza, said: “One of the main civil society groups here is calling on all Palestinian factions to head down to the main square in Gaza City, the square of the unknown soldier, to begin the celebrations.

“It seems certainly in Gaza that there’s a need for some good news. It’s been a pretty rough month here in a lot of respects, an escalation of violence with Israel, the kidnapping and murder of a foreigner.

“So really, this kind of news … is a call for celebration.”

Wednesday’s accord was first reported by Egypt’s intelligence service, which brokered the talks.

In a statement carried by Egyptian state news agency MENA, the intelligence service said the deal was agreed by a Hamas delegation led by Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the group’s politburo, and Fatah central committee member Azzam al-Ahmad.

Al-Ahmad and Abu Marzouk said the agreement covered all points of contention, including forming a transitional government, security arrangements and the restructuring of the Palestine Liberation Organisation to allow Hamas to join it.

Speaking on Egyptian state television, al-Ahmad said a general election would take place within a year.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior member of Hamas, said all prisoners with a non-criminal background would be released.

Barak urges end to occupation

Posted in Activism, Everyday life in Gaza, Fatah, Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, Gaza war crimes investigation, IDF, Israel, Israel politics, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine, Peace process, USA foreign policy, War crimes, West Bank on 20/04/2010 by 3071km

Source: Aljazeera English

Israel occupied the West Bank after
the
1967 Middle East war [AFP]

Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, has said that his country must recognise that the world will not put up with decades more of Israeli rule over the Palestinian people.

Speaking to Israel Radio on Israel’s Memorial Day on Monday, Barak acknowledged that there was no way forward in negotiations with the Palestinians other than to meet their aspirations for a state of their own.

“The world is not willing to accept – and we will not change that in 2010 – the expectation that Israel will rule another people for decades more,” he said.

“It is something that does not exist anywhere else in the world.

“There is no other way, whether you like it or not, than to let them [the Palestinians] rule themselves.”

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled since Israeli forces launched a 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip in December 2008.

‘Alienation’

Barak heads the Labour Party, the most moderate member of the government of Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and it was not clear if his remarks were his personal opinion or reflecting a changing attitude within the government.

He said that Netanyahu’s government had “done things that did not come naturally to it”, such as adopting the vision of two states for two peoples and curtailing settlement construction.

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Israel expands settlements
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Map of East Jerusalem housing plan
Focus:
Comments: US-Israel relations
Jerusalem’s religious heart
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Q&A: Jewish settlements
The Arab peace initiative
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“But we also should not delude ourselves. The growing alienation between us and the United States is not good for the state of Israel,” he said.

Washington and its long-time ally have been at odds in recent months over Israel’s continuing settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Barack Obama, the US president, recently issued a pessimistic assessment of peacemaking prospects, saying that his country could not force its will on the Israelis and Palestinians if they were not interested in making compromises.

The Israeli defence minister said that the way to narrow the gap with the US was to embark on a diplomatic initiative “that does not shy from dealing with all the core issues” dividing Israelis and Palestinians.

Chief among these are the status of Jerusalem, final borders and a solution for Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Middle East war.

Meanwhile, in an interview Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America”, Netanyahu south to minimise differences with the US and said he would not accept Palestinian demands that Israel stop building in predominantly-Arab East Jerusalem.

He said that the US and Israel “have some outstanding issues. We are trying to resolve them through diplomatic channels in the best way that we can”.

Later on Monday, Netanyahu told the audience at the national cemetery that Israel is eager for peace, but is ready to confront its enemies.

“We extend one hand in peace to all our neighbours who wish for peace. Our other hand grasps the sword of David in order to defend our people against those who seek to kill us,” he said.

Israel’s Memorial Day, which is dedicated to the nearly 23,000 fallen soldiers and civilian victims of attacks, is observed with a two-minute nationwide siren when people stand at attention, traffic is halted and everyday activities come briefly to a standstill.

At sundown on Monday, the sombre Memorial Day will switch to Israel’s 62nd Independence Day celebrations.

Obama doubtful on Middle East peace

Posted in International community, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Non-violent resistance, Palestine, Peace process, USA foreign policy, West Bank on 15/04/2010 by 3071km

Source: Aljazeera English

Barack Obama, the US president, has admitted that Washington’s power to influence stalled negotations between Israel and the Palestinians in limited.

Speaking to reporters after hosting a nuclear security summit on Tuesday, Obama said he had little hope for swift progress towards Middle East peace, more than a year after taking office and declaring it a high priority for his administration.

US-led peace efforts have been stymied by a dispute over Jewish settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land that has strained ties between Washington and its close ally Israel.

Internal rifts among the Palestinians have also posed challenges to the process.

“The truth is in some of these conflicts the United States can’t impose solutions unless the participants in these conflicts are willing to break out of old patterns of antagonism,” Obama told a news conference on Tuesday.

‘Constantly engaged’

The US president recently acknowledged he had underestimated the obstacles to a renewed peace process, and some critics have called his approach naive.

“The Israeli people, through their government, and the Palestinian people, through the Palestinian Authority, as well as other Arab states may say to themselves: ‘We are not prepared to resolve these issues no matter how much pressure the United States brings to bear’,” Obama said.

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But he said that the US would press on, “constantly present, constantly engaged”.

“It’s going to take time, and progress will be halting,” Obama said. “And there will be frustrations.”

Despite shuttle diplomacy and unusual pressure on Israel, the Obama administration has been unable to reach even the modest goal of reviving talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Last week, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, acknowledged that his government had yet to resolve its differences with the US over Israeli construction in occupied East Jerusalem – a major sticking point that torpedoed indirect talks before they could even start.

Netanyahu said both countries were still working to find a solution but staunchly defended his government’s continued settlement building in Jerusalem as a “long-standing Israeli policy”.

“There are things we agree on, things we don’t agree on, things we are closing the gap on,” Netanyahu said.

“We are making an effort.”

The breakdown in US-Israeli ties began after Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new housing units in occupied East Jerusalem during a visit by Joe Biden, the US vice-president, drawing sharp condemnation from Washington.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state in any two-state solution to the situation and have demanded that all settlement acticity is halted before talks can resume.

Negotiations between Israel and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority have been stalled since Israeli forces began a 22-day military offensive in the Gaza Strip, controlled by the rival Hamas movement, more than a year ago.

Yishai moves to legalize Jewish ownership of East Jerusalem building

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, History, Israel, Israel politics, Israel's separation wall, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, USA foreign policy, War crimes, West Bank on 08/02/2010 by 3071km

Date Published: February 8,2010

Source: Harretz

Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Monday moved toward legalizing Jewish ownership of an East Jerusalem building, authorizing the district planning commission to take on the matter without first notifying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he was not involved in the matter. 

Yishai’s move was exposed by Israel’s Channel 1 hours after the Jerusalem Municipality canceled the distribution of evacuation orders for Beit Yonatan, a residential building erected by nationalist Jews in the heart of an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem. 

   
 

Yishai confirmed the that he had ordered the move and had received assurance that a majority of the council would vote in favor of the move. 

The interior minister also said that the residents of Beit Yonatan agreed to move their occupancy two floors down, making it legal. Yishai added that the council was expected to approve a similar move on other contentious buildings in the area. 

Less than a week ago, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat bowed to pressure from legal officials and said he would uphold the court order to evacuate and seal Beit Yonatan. 

In a letter to State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, Barkat pledged to enforce the court order to evacuate the structure, though he added that he was doing so under protest. Barkat also wrote that the municipality would tear down some 200 Palestinian homes slated for demolition in East Jerusalem. He warned, however, that enforcing the court order fully is liable to trigger a violent response from the Palestinian community. 

The Jewish-owned building, named for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, lies in Silwan, an Arab part of East Jerusalem. A court ruling declared the home was built without the proper permits. 

In his letter to Lador, Barkat said the court orders sabotaged a municipal plan to resolve the matter of illegal construction in East Jerusalem. The plan would have allowed the buildings and their residents to remain in place, he said. 

Barkat also criticized the Jerusalem municipality’s legal consultant, Yossi Havilio, who was the most vocal official in favor of enforcing the court orders. 

Last week, Lador sent a letter to Barkat reprimanding him for his refusal to shutter Beit Yonatan. 

“Acceptance of the situation in which court orders are not carried out expresses a biting failure,” Lador said, adding that “Israel is a law abiding country, and in lawful countries court orders must be carried out.