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Palestine Papers: Britain's MI6 Drew Up Plan for Crackdown on Hamas - Ian Black and Seumas Milne
British intelligence helped draw up a secret plan in 2004 for a wide-ranging crackdown on Hamas which became a security blueprint for the Palestinian Authority, leaked documents reveal.
The bulk of the British plan has since been carried out by the West Bank-based PA security apparatus which is increasingly criticized for authoritarian rule and human rights abuses, including detention without trial and torture.
The PLO's chief spokesman, Saeb Erekat, is recorded as telling senior U.S. official David Hale in 2009: "We have even killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law."
In a meeting with Palestinian officials in 2009, U.S. security coordinator Gen. Keith Dayton is recorded praising the PA's security: "The intelligence guys are good. The Israelis like them. But they are causing some problems for international donors because they are torturing people."
Digging Completed on Tunnel Linking City of David and Western Wall in Jerusalem - Nir Hasson (Ha'aretz)
The Israel Antiquities Authority has completed an archaeological dig of a tunnel dating back to the Second Temple that links the City of David with the Archaeological Park near the Western Wall.
It will enable visitors to cross under the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, but does not come near the Temple Mount.
The digging had been going on for seven years. Even though no opening was made giving access to the Western Wall, there are plans to do so in the future.
See also 2,000-Year-Old Channel Cleared under Jerusalem's Old City - Melanie Lidman (Jerusalem Post)
See also Video: Ancient Tunnel Discovered beneath Jerusalem (Fox News)
Israel Summons Irish Ambassador over Palestinian Envoy Upgrade - Mark Weiss and Mary Fitzgerald (Irish Times)
The Irish Ambassador to Israel, Breifne O'Reilly, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem Wednesday to hear Israeli displeasure over Dublin's move to upgrade the status of the Palestinian delegation to Ireland to a mission.
Israel's ambassador to Dublin, Boaz Modai, also visited Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs to express the Israeli view that the diplomatic upgrade announced Tuesday will only hinder Middle East peace efforts.
Gaza Flotilla Resources (Conference of Presidents)
Information resources about the Gaza Flotilla: links, articles, congressional initiatives.
Report: Syria among Worst for Rights Abuses (Reuters)
Syria's authorities were among the worst violators of human rights last year, jailing lawyers, torturing opponents and using violence to repress ethnic Kurds, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.
The report said Human Rights Watch received "credible reports that security agencies arbitrarily detained dissidents and criminal suspects, held them incommunicado...and subjected them to ill-treatment and torture. At least five detainees died in custody in 2010."
Syria's Kurds, who number about 1 million out of a population of 21 million, were subjected to "systematic discrimination," including refusal to give citizenship to an estimated 300,000 Kurds born in Syria.
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- Egypt Cracks Down on Protests
Egyptian security forces turned water cannons and tear gas on protesters early Wednesday to try to break up unprecedented anti-government demonstrations, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday. The clampdown comes after thousands of protesters spilled into the streets of Egypt on Tuesday in an unprecedented display of anti-government rage inspired in part by events in Tunisia. Three people died in the clashes. Protesters expressed their anger over the rising cost of living, failed economic policies and corruption, concerns that were distilled into one overriding demand: the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, in power for three decades.
See also Protesters Call for Second Day of Unrest in Egypt - Kareem Fahim and Mona El-Naggar (New York Times)
- U.S. Condemns Hizbullah "Intimidation" in Lebanon
The U.S. accused Hizbullah on Tuesday of using intimidation to gain government control in Lebanon and vowed that the work of the UN-backed Hariri tribunal would continue regardless.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier that the fact that Lebanon's government was now Hizbullah-controlled would "clearly have an impact" on ties with the U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said, "The work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is of vital importance to stability, security and justice in Lebanon: Its work will continue."
Asked whether Washington would continue to offer financial aid to the Lebanese government if Hizbullah had a prominent role, Crowley said on Monday, "that would be difficult for the United States to do." (AFP)
See also In Lebanon, Sunnis Stage Angry Protests Against Hizbullah-Backed Prime Minister - Leila Fadel
See also New Lebanese Prime Minister a Friend of Syria - Zvi Bar'el
The incoming Lebanese prime minister is Najib Mikati, 55, a Sunni native of Tripoli and a close personal friend of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
France also proposed Mikati for the premiership, after it became clear that the compromise prime minister suggested by Saudi Arabia and Syria had been rejected.
But he knows why he was tapped for the job: to halt Lebanon's funding of and the return of Lebanese judges to the tribunal investigating Rafik Hariri's assassination.
Hizbullah doesn't need Mikati to demonstrate its control over Lebanese politics. Any prime minister that meets its demands - including Saad Hariri - is good from its perspective.
Lebanon will not suddenly become more Iranian or more "Hizbullian" than it was two days ago. It will primarily be more Syrian, as Syria does not want Iran to seize control in its traditional sphere of influence.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Leaks Show Palestinians Are Not Prepared for Compromise - Herb Keinon and Gil Hoffman
The release of the Palestine Papers highlights the "unfortunate reality" that the Palestinian leadership "has not prepared its people for peace, reconciliation, and the compromise required," an Israeli diplomatic official said Tuesday.
- Two Palestinians Arrested for Murdering U.S. Hiker - Yaakov Katz
Two Palestinians from West Bank villages near Hebron have been arrested for murdering American tourist Christine Logan on Dec. 19 in a forest near Beit Shemesh, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) revealed on Wednesday. The suspects were arrested on Dec. 21.
Susan Wilson, who was hiking with Logan and was found with her hands bound and several stab wounds to her chest and back, succeeded in stabbing one of the suspects in the arm with a small pocketknife. This enabled the ISA to identify one of the suspects, who was imprisoned in Israel in the past, through DNA samples that were found at the scene.
One of the suspects, Kafah Animat, also confessed to murdering Neta Blatt, a teacher, last February near Beit Shemesh. The suspects also confessed to perpetrating additional stabbing and shooting attacks with the declared goal of murdering Jews.
- The UN Gangs Up on Israel - Again - Alan M. Dershowitz
I strongly believe that the United States should veto a resolution currently before the UN Security Council that would declare illegal "all Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory."
The very Security Council resolution on which proponents of the condemnation rely makes it clear that the legal status of Israel's continued occupation isn't settled.
Passed in 1967, Resolution 242 (which I played a very small role assisting then-UN Ambassador Arthur Goldberg in drafting) calls for Israel to return "territories" captured during its defensive war of 1967. The words "all" and "the" were proposed by those who advocated a complete return, but the U.S. and Great Britain, which opposed that view, prevailed.
Even partial return of captured territories is conditioned on "termination of all claims of belligerency" and "acknowledgment of the sovereignty...of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force."
It would be wrong for the Security Council retroactively to rewrite Resolution 242, which is the foundation for a two-state solution - Israel and Palestine - 44 years after it was enacted.
The writer is a law professor at Harvard.
(Wall Street Journal)
- UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Seeks to Implement the Goldstone Report - Anne Bayefsky
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has
appointed "independent experts" closely connected to an NGO that told the UN Human Rights
Council that Israeli legal processes "failed to meet international standards of effectiveness and independence."
Pillay's office also selected South African lawyer Ahmed Motala as the in-house contact to serve as the facilitator for the new Goldstone follow-on committee charged with determining "the independence, effectiveness, [and] genuineness" of Israel's response to the Goldstone report on the Gaza war and its "conformity with international standards."
Motala doubles as an anti-Israel blogger who had written in the middle of the Gaza war that Israel targeted Palestinian civilians in order to impress voters.
The Goldstone follow-on committee in its September 2010 report repeated the claim that Israel engaged in "violence against civilians as part of a deliberate policy" and criticized Israel's legal system for failing to hunt down "officials at the highest levels." (Weekly Standard)
U.S. Says UN Expert Should Be Fired for Sep. 11 Remarks
A UN expert on Palestinian human rights who suggested there was a cover-up over the September 11 attacks should be fired, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said on Tuesday. U.S. academic Richard Falk wrote in a blog this month that there had been an "apparent cover-up" by U.S. authorities over the 9/11 attacks. "In my view, Mr. Falk's latest commentary is so noxious that it should finally be plain to all that he should no longer continue in his position on behalf of the UN," Rice said. (Reuters-New York Times)
See also UN Chief Ban Ki-moon Condemns Rights Expert's 9/11 Comments (Reuters)
- Tehran Isn't Talking - Editorial
The administration's theory has been that Iran would respond to sanctions by agreeing to serious negotiations about its nuclear program. Consequently, last weekend's meetings in Istanbul between Iranian representatives and a six-nation coalition can only be seen as a serious setback. Far from softening its long-standing refusal to suspend its enrichment of uranium, Iran refused to bargain with the United States and its allies.
By doing more to support the Iranian opposition, the United States could press the regime where it actually feels threatened. It could also send an important message to Iranians: that the international coalition seeks not to punish them but to weaken the government they despise.
- Wailing over the Palestine Papers - Benny Morris
In the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations of 2008, Palestinian leaders were unconciliatory on the refugee issue. Only a mass return would satisfy them. The fact that Abbas and company (not to mention their Islamist rivals, Hamas) steadfastly refuse to give up the "right of return" in the negotiation with Israel (and it does not matter what one or another of them may have said at some point in internal Palestinian discussions) is the surest indication that they have no intention of making peace with Israel. Another indication is Abbas' consistent refusal to recognize Israel as a "Jewish state." (National Interest)
The Selling of the "Palestine Papers" - Jackson Diehl (Washington Post)
Anyone familiar with Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over the last decade will find nothing surprising about the supposed revelations in the "Palestine Papers."
Since at least the time of the 2000 Camp David talks brokered by President Bill Clinton, Palestinian leaders have accepted that Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem will be annexed by Israel in a two-state settlement, and that only a handful of Palestinian refugees will "return" to the Jewish state.
- What's sensational about the leaked documents, which appear to come from advisors to the Palestinian negotiating team, is the way they are being marketed and how Palestinians are reacting to them. According to Al Jazeera, the negotiating positions on Jerusalem and refugees are shocking betrayals of the Palestinian cause. For Britain's Guardian, they demonstrate the intransigence and the perfidy of Israel and the United States - for supposedly failing to embrace such far-reaching concessions.
- These are gross distortions. The reported Palestinian compromise positions have been widely (if quietly) accepted by Arab governments. Israel, for its part, responded with far-reaching compromises of its own: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Abbas a Palestinian state with sovereignty over Jerusalem and all but 6% of the West Bank. It was Abbas, not Olmert, who refused to go forward during those 2008 talks.
- The leak of the documents seems motivated by a desire to bury the already moribund peace process. "Al Jazeera is trying to destroy Abbas, and the Guardian wants to get Netanyahu," an Israeli official observes.
- For years the Palestinians have systematically failed to prepare their public opinion for the concessions that will have to be part of any two-state settlement. Is it really conceivable that Israel would or could tear down east Jerusalem neighborhoods where 190,000 of its citizens now live, or allow hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees to move inside its pre-1967 borders? No one seriously engaged in Middle East diplomacy - American, Arab or European - thinks so. But that has never been explained to most Palestinians.
- In fact, Abbas and his Palestinian team are currently refusing to negotiate with Netanyahu in part because he has refused to freeze construction in east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods - the same neighborhoods that the Palestinians have agreed that Israel will keep.
See also Death By a Thousand Leaks - Aaron David Miller
At no point in the last ten years have Israelis and Palestinians been close to an agreement. The Palestine Papers documents reflect a particularly fertile period of exchanges between PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. But no agreement was reached.
(Los Angeles Times)
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