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Hamas Facing Difficulties with Palestinian Militants - Kifah Zaboun (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
Hamas is facing major difficulties in convincing Palestinian factions in Gaza to adhere to a truce with Israel, informed Palestinian sources have revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat.
They said heated discussions have taken place in recent days between Hamas and the leadership of Islamic Jihad and the PFLP after Hamas objected to the escalation against Israel carried out by these groups, who are responsible for firing rockets into Israel and border clashes with Israel forces.
After Argentina's Recognition of Palestine, Abbas Supports Buenos Aires in Falkland Dispute (Maan News-PA)
The Argentine Foreign Affairs Minister on Jan. 2 thanked PA President Mahmoud Abbas for his support in the country's dispute over the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, occupied by British forces in 1833.
Marking the 178th anniversary of the islands' occupation on Monday, the Argentinean representative to the Palestinian Authority pointed to similarities between the Malvinas Islands and Palestine.
Spain Denies Sponsoring Palestinian Ad to Boycott Israel - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
A "public service" advertisement on Palestinian television calling for the boycott of Israeli goods is not being paid for by Spanish taxpayers, Spanish Ambassador Alvar Iranzo told the Jerusalem Post Wednesday.
An ad which has been running for the last week on PA TV announces at the end that it was sponsored by the Spanish government.
"We are the victims of this fraud," the ambassador said. "The substance of the advertisement is in frontal opposition to the government's opposition to any boycott of Israeli goods," he said.
"Travel Palestine" Ad in National Geographic Blots Out Israel - Jonny Paul (Jerusalem Post)
The Board of Deputies of British Jews said on Monday that it found it "deeply disturbing" that Israel's existence is being denied in a "Travel Palestine" advert in this month's National Geographic magazine. The advertisement appears to blot out the existence of the State of Israel.
"This is not merely an affront to international law but seems to be a step back to the darkest days of rejectionism and confrontation."
The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said Friday that in the last few days it had received 60 complaints about the ad - published by the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
London lawyer David Lewis wrote to the ASA that the ad "implies that Palestine occupies the whole or the bulk of the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan, ignoring the existence of Israel."
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- Lacking Leverage, U.S. Grasps for a Solution in Lebanon - Mark Landler and Robert F. Worth
As Lebanon's government collapsed on Wednesday after a walkout by Hizbullah ministers, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton both threw their support behind Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, as well as reaffirming the work of the international tribunal that is investigating the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
But critics say the administration's engagement in Lebanon has been episodic, in part because it is preoccupied with bigger problems in the region - not only Iran, but also the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the terrorist threat in Yemen. The U.S. also has little leverage over pivotal players in the drama, most notably the Islamist militant group Hizbullah.
(New York Times)
See also No Cut in U.S. Funds for Lebanon, But More Scrutiny - Arshad Mohammed (Reuters)
- Hizbullah's Latest Suicide Mission - Thanassis Cambanis
Hizbullah cannot afford the blow to its popular legitimacy that would occur if it is pinned with the Hariri killing. The group's power depends on the unconditional backing of its roughly 1 million supporters. Its constituents are the only audience that matters to Hizbullah, which styles itself as sole protector of Arab dignity from humiliation by Israel and the U.S.
These supporters will be hard-pressed to understand, much less forgive, their party if it is proved to have killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a leader who was loved by the nation's Sunni Muslims and also respected by Christians, Druze and even many Shiites, who form Hizbullah's core support. That is why Hizbullah denies any role in the assassination.
Leaked evidence based on cellphone records has placed a Hizbullah team at the scene of the assassination.
If it is proved to have taken part in the Hariri hit and assassination campaigns against other moderate Lebanese figures, Hizbullah will look to many like just another power-drunk militant movement.
(New York Times)
- Iran-Backed Shi'ite Group Claims Responsibility for Attack on U.S. Forces in Iraq
In a communique dated Jan. 5, 2011, Kataeb Hizbullah ("Hizbullah Brigades"), an Iran-backed Shi'ite group operating in Iraq, took responsibility for several recent attacks on U.S. bases in the country, and said that these attacks marked a new phase in the war against the American forces.
The communique states that on Jan. 3, 2011, the group carried out coordinated rocket attacks on three U.S. bases in Baghdad.
- Arabs, Israel Take Opposite Sides on Sudan Issue
Diplomatic sources said virtually the entire Arab League has been supporting the Khartoum regime in efforts to prevent secession by southern Sudan. In contrast, Israel has quietly supported efforts by the largely Christian South to establish an independent state.
Sources said Israel has forged links with most of the southern leadership and was prepared to expand trade with any state independent of Khartoum. Khartoum has been designated as a leading backer of the Hamas movement. (World Tribune)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Lebanon Turmoil Unlikely to Descend into Clash - Yaakov Lappin
The political crisis in Lebanon is unlikely to develop into a full-scale civil war, or into a military clash between Hizbullah and Israel, Ilan Mizrahi, former deputy head of the Mossad, and former head of Israel's National Security Council, said Wednesday. "Like always in Lebanon, I believe there will be a deal between the Saudis and the Syrians." "All parties will do their best to avoid civil war, and I think they will succeed in avoiding it by paying a certain price to Hizbullah." "More and more, Hizbullah is the owner and real ruler of Lebanon," Mizrahi added. (Jerusalem Post)
See also IDF Expected Hizbullah's Move in Lebanon - Yaakov Katz
Hizbullah's decision to topple the Lebanese government was exactly what head of the IDF Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot expected would happen with the completion of the UN probe into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
- Israel Irritated at UN Over Lebanese Gas Claims - Herb Keinon
Senior Israeli diplomatic officials expressed annoyance Wednesday with UN Special Coordinator to Lebanon Michael Williams for saying his organization may look into demarcating Lebanon's naval border with Israel. An Israeli official said the Lebanese demands on Israel's gas fields were "fabricated" and a result of internal Lebanese domestic problems.
"They have no legal or cartographic basis." (Jerusalem Post)
- Egypt to Hamas: Stop Gaza Rockets or Face New Israel War
Egypt has told Hamas that Israel might launch a Gaza war to curb rocket attacks, sources said on Wednesday.
"Egypt has told Hamas the Gaza situation was similar to that before December 2008," said one source, referring to the start of the three-week war Israel waged to halt cross-border rocket strikes. An Israeli army spokeswoman said at least 20 rockets and mortars have landed in Israel since the start of 2011.
- Iran Sends a Signal to Obama through Beirut - Shimon Shapira
The Hizbullah leadership is seeking to pre-empt the publication of the decision of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which is expected to charge that senior Hizbullah members were involved in the 2005 assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the current prime minister's father. The STL was established pursuant to UN Security Council Resolutions 1664 and 1757; the latter resolution was adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which is generally reserved for acts of aggression.
There is a tendency in the West to underestimate the Iranian role in Hizbullah decision-making. Iran is signaling to the Obama administration that the main political developments in Lebanon are being decided today in Tehran and not in Washington. Iran is testing U.S. power and determination, and the states of the Middle East are closely following what will be the outcome. Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira is a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Hizbullah's Strategic Skill - Ron Ben-Yishai
Hizbullah quit the Lebanese government because it wants Lebanese public opinion to be preoccupied with the task of forming a new government, thereby diverting its attention from the conclusions of the special UN tribunal in respect to Hizbullah's responsibility for Prime Minister Hariri's assassination in 2005. The U.S. supports the effort to bring Hariri's killers to justice, but shares the concern over the prospect of an ethnic war that may break out in Lebanon as result of such move. At this time it appears that the domestic Lebanese crisis has no direct or immediate bearing on Israel.
- Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Oil Policy - Simon Henderson
During the past three months, world prices for oil have steadily increased, leading to predictions that the $100 per barrel level will soon be breached. In the past, Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, has used its market strength to influence prices.
A particular challenge for the U.S. is that rising oil prices undermine policy on Iran, where sanctions are intended to cause lower oil revenues. Yet figures released last month by the U.S. Department of Energy show that Iran's January-November 2010 revenues were $64 billion, an increase of $11 billion over the full-year 2009 figure. An additional problem is that Iran has been chosen by OPEC members for the cartel's 2011 presidency.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Refugees from Reality - Ingo Way (Cicero-Germany-ElderofZiyon)
- The Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem consists of massive houses and is more like a neighborhood than a camp - not even a slum. For Khouloud Al Ajarma, 23, who according to her business card is the "Arts & Media Center Coordinator" of the Lajee community center, "to remain a refugee is a political decision."
- Hence, for her and the other residents of Aida, it is out of the question to start a new life elsewhere, or to even become ordinary citizens of Bethlehem - because then they lose their refugee status conferred on them by UNRWA.
- "We want no normalization," says Khouloud. "We want to remain refugees to exercise our right of return one day." "Our people do not want a two-state solution. Our leadership is not acting in our name."
- I get a little queasy. Before me is a young woman with a Western education that speaks with a quiet and serene voice of blood and soil as if she were discussing an upcoming business meeting. She speaks of a single state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, in which all Palestinians can return to live.
- Today there are 4-5 million people who hold the status of "Palestine refugees." If it were up to her, they would all be allowed to settle in Israel.
"We can all live together in a democratic state of Palestine" which would, she says, of course, have a "Palestinian majority."
Translated from the German magazine Cicero.
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