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"UN Peacekeepers Will Not Be Safe If Strife Erupts in Lebanon" (Daily Star-Lebanon)
The UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon (UNIFIL) will not be safe if there is strife following the release of an indictment into the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, former Cabinet minister Wi'am Wahhab, a pro-Syrian politician allied with Hizbullah, has warned.
Wahhab and other leaders in his camp have called for the abolition of the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). The STL is expected to issue its indictment into Hariri's killing this month.
"In the event of strife, UNIFIL troops in Lebanon will not be left in peace," Wahhab said Sunday.
He added that if strife occurs, there will be no need for UNIFIL to stay in south Lebanon, accusing the UN peacekeepers of serving as spies for Israel.
WikiLeaks: Saudi Plan for Anti-Hizbullah Force Revealed (AFP-Ynet News)
Saudi Arabia proposed setting up an Arab force to fight Hizbullah militants in Lebanon with the help of the U.S., UN and NATO, a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable said Tuesday.
In a meeting in May 2008 with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq David Satterfield, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said a "security response" was needed to the "military challenge" posed to Beirut by the Iran-backed militants which, unchecked, would lead to an eventual Iranian takeover of the country.
Satterfield responded that there were real questions about the "political and military" feasibility of such a scheme, and winning a new mandate for UNIFIL would difficult.
WikiLeaks: Hizbullah Involved in Attack on Israeli Convoy in Jordan - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told UN envoy to Lebanon Michael Williams on Jan. 29, 2010, that Israel holds information that Hizbullah was involved in the Jan. 14 attack on an Israeli diplomatic convoy in Jordan, according to a newly released WikiLeaks cable.
Hamas Court Orders Execution of "Collaborator" (AFP)
A Gaza military court has convicted three men of collaborating with Israel, sentencing one to death and two more to prison terms, the Hamas Interior Ministry said on Monday.
Human Rights Watch says Hamas killed at least 32 alleged informers and political opponents during and after the 2008-2009 Gaza war with Israel and maimed dozens of others.
The "Islamophobia" Myth - Jeff Jacoby (Boston Globe)
"Is America Islamophobic?" the cover of Time asked in August. The FBI's latest compendium of U.S. hate-crimes data suggests far more plausibly that the answer is no.
As Time pointed out, "there are now 1,900 mosques in the U.S., up from about 1,200 in 2001." Even after 9/11, in other words, and even as radical Islamists continue to target Americans, places of worship for Muslims in the U.S. have proliferated.
In 2009, there were 1,376 U.S. hate crimes motivated by religious bias. Of those, 9% were committed against Muslims, while 70% were committed against Jews.
Year after year, American Jews are far more likely to be the victims of religious hate crime than members of any other group.
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- U.S. Abandons Push for Renewal of Israeli Settlement Freeze - Karen DeYoung
The Obama administration has abandoned its effort to persuade Israel to renew a settlement construction freeze, which U.S. diplomats had hoped would invigorate moribund peace talks with the Palestinians. U.S. officials said Tuesday that the administration had taken off the table a package of political and security incentives offered to Israel in exchange for a 90-day freeze on West Bank settlement construction.
The U.S. decided not to comply with an Israeli request to put its offer in writing, including $3 billion worth of jet fighters, a commitment to object to anti-Israel resolutions in international organizations, and an agreement never again to ask for a suspension of settlement construction.
An Israeli official said that while negotiations over the package had embroiled Israel and the U.S. in a time-consuming effort, the proposal hadn't really moved the Palestinians and thus was fruitless.
U.S. officials said talks next week would move directly to "core issues," including land boundaries. "We are going to immediately engage with both sides on substantive negotiations," said a U.S. official.
Isaac Molcho, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's special envoy to the talks, arrived in Washington on Tuesday, and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat will be here later in the week. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are scheduled to attend a conference this weekend of the Saban Forum at the Brookings Institution, where Secretary of State Clinton will speak Friday. (Washington Post)
See also U.S. Drops Bid to Sway Israel on Settlements - Mark Landler
"Wisely, in my view, the administration is bending to reality," said Robert Malley, a peace negotiator in the Clinton administration. "The most likely scenario is that this moratorium was going to buy them a short reprieve, and was then going to plunge them into the same crisis they were in before." David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said, "It’s the end of a phase for the administration: 'We’re not focusing on the appetizers anymore; we’re focusing on the main course.'" (New York Times)
- A Resurgent Syria Alarms U.S., Israel - Janine Zacharia
Syria's fresh interference in Lebanon and its increasingly sophisticated weapons shipments to Hizbullah have alarmed American officials and prompted Israel's military to consider a strike against a Syrian weapons depot that supplies the Lebanese militia group, U.S. and Israeli officials say.
The evidence of a resurgence by Syria and its deepening influence across the region has frustrated U.S. officials who sought to change Syrian behavior.
"Syria's behavior has not met our hopes and expectations over the past 20 months and Syria's actions have not met its international obligations," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Lebanese daily an-Nahar on Nov. 10.
Israel has complained to the UN about long-range missiles and shorter-range rockets that are flowing freely from camps inside Syria to a transit site along the Syrian border with Lebanon and on to Hizbullah.
The Obama administration's efforts at dialogue with Syria have done little to stop the flow of weapons, end Syria's practice of sheltering Palestinian leaders of militant groups, or counter Syria's interference in Lebanon, which has undermined the U.S. effort to promote Lebanese independence from external actors. Abdul Hadi Mahfouz, a Lebanese government official and writer, says Syria is more effectively managing Lebanese affairs from afar than when it had 15,000 troops inside the country.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- WikiLeaks: Syria Refused to Join Iranian War Against Israel
Syria refused to fight on Iran's side in case of a military stand-off between Tehran and Israel following an attack on its nuclear facilities, an American document published by WikiLeaks revealed on Wednesday. The statements in the document, dated December 20, 2009, were probably made by a diplomatic source who spoke with American Embassy officials in Damascus.
Damascus told the Iranians not to expect Syria, Hizbullah or Hamas to take part in this war.
According to the source, Syrian officials replied by saying that Iran was strong enough to develop its own nuclear program and fight against Israel. The Iranians, on their part, were not so pleased with the response. (Ynet News)
See also U.S. Embassy Cables: Strains Show in Iran-Syria Ties (Guardian-UK)
- PA Journalists Support Author of Western Wall Report - Khaled Abu Toameh
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in the West Bank on Monday expressed its solidarity with Al-Mutawakel Taha, the senior PA Ministry of Information official who recently published a "study" denying Jews' rights to the Western Wall. The document, which first appeared on the official website of the ministry, has been strongly condemned by Israel and the U.S.
The journalists' syndicate, which is controlled by Fatah, rejected U.S. and Israeli protests.
The document concludes that the Western Wall is a Muslim-owned structure and an integral part of the Aksa Mosque.
- Israel Calls for Regional Fire Fighting Force - Herb Keinon
Following the international assistance given to Israel to help put out the Carmel Forest fire, Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to a number of leaders Tuesday in an effort to establish a regional fire fighting force to provide assistance where needed.
"The assistance that was given to Israel last week should serve as a model for additional cooperation in our region....By pooling our resources and knowledge of our countries we can better prepare and respond to natural disasters that hit our region," he told Greek Prime Minister Papandreou, Russian President Medvedev, Egyptian President Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah II and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
- WikiLeaks Contradicts Obama Administration on Iran - Alan M. Dershowitz
There are good reasons for Israel to reach an agreement with the Palestinians leading to a two-state solution, but garnering Arab support against Iran is not one of them. The WikiLeaks proved beyond any doubt that Israel's Arab neighbors have a strong, independent basis for wanting to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons power.
In an op-ed in Sunday's New York Times, Chas Freeman - the anti-Israel zealot whose nomination to become Chair of the National Intelligence Council was withdrawn under pressure - argues that the only country that ever says no in the Middle East is Israel, forgetting that Israel has on several occasions offered to end the occupation and accept a two-state solution. Freeman conveniently forgets that when the occupation first began, Israel offered to return the land captured in a defensive war in exchange for peace with its Arab neighbors. All the Arab states convened in Khartoum and issued their three famous "nos": No negotiation, no recognition, no peace.
The truth is that the Palestinians have marginalized themselves in the Middle East by rejecting offers that the Arab states have urged them to accept. (Hudson Institute-New York)
- King Abdullah's Illness and the Saudi Succession - Joshua Teitelbaum
If King Abdullah dies, the Saudi succession will go smoothly, with Prince Nayif most likely becoming crown prince after current Crown Prince Sultan assumes the throne. Although every ruler brings his own nuance, the West can be assured that Saudi Arabia will experience no major upheavals as a result of a succession to the throne.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
See also A Family Affair: Generational Turnover and the Stability of the Saudi Kingdom - Yoel Guzansky (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
Obama Ends Push for Israeli Settlements Halt - Eli Lake and Ben Birnbaum (Washington Times)
See also Obama's Settlement Freeze Fold Is Blow to President, Not to Peace - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)
President Obama has abandoned a two-year policy of trying to persuade Israel to stop some settlement construction as a condition for negotiations with the Palestinians, a major recalibration of the administration's strategy for brokering a deal for a Palestinian state.
- A senior Israeli official said the decision to end the settlement freeze was based on a calculation that the Palestinians had expected too much from the Israelis just as a condition of their participation in peace talks.
"First of all, the mutual understanding with the Americans was that we could go on forever with this package, it would still not get the Palestinians back to the negotiations table," a senior Israeli official told the Washington Times. "They wanted Jerusalem, they wanted more than three months, they wanted a freeze until negotiations are concluded."
- Elliott Abrams, a senior director for Near East and North African affairs for President George W. Bush's National Security Council, said, "We are not seeing a new approach. We are seeing the end of the old approach."
He added, "One has to remember the Arabs had not ever insisted on such a precondition. This was something that was added by the administration and it proved to be disastrous." One of the first things the Obama administration did with regard to the peace process was to inform the Israelis that understandings forged under Mr. Bush that limited settlement expansion were no longer U.S. policy.
- The announcement that the Obama administration has given up on its effort to force Jerusalem to extend a construction freeze of Jewish settlements in the West Bank will be predictably denounced by those who have always equated progress toward peace with Israeli concessions. But the problem with Obama's push for a freeze had little to do with any actual chance for peace and everything to do with the administration's obsession with trying to corner Netanyahu.
- While stating his willingness to accept a two-state solution,
Netanyahu has been able to balance his obligation to protect Israel's vital security interests on the ground with a need to avoid an open conflict with his country's only ally.
- This is no blow to peace. Sensible observers have been saying all along that the Palestinians' lack of interest in a final-status agreement, as well as the split between Hamas and Fatah, ensured the failure of Obama's initiative no matter how much Netanyahu was willing to give up. The blame for the lack of peace belongs to the Palestinians.
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