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EU Imposes Sanctions on Syria's Assad - Justyna Pawlak and David Brunnstrom (Reuters)
EU foreign ministers agreed at a meeting in Brussels on Monday to expand restrictions against Syria by adding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and nine other senior members of the government to a list of those banned from traveling to the EU and subject to asset freezes.
Hamas: Palestinians Should Not Settle for 1967 Borders (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said Monday that the 1967 borders, while "sacred," were not the final borders on which the Palestinians should settle.
Speaking to Al-Emirate Al-Youm, Zahar asked, "Why won't we talk about the 1948 borders? Why won't we discuss the  partition plan which was internationally recognized?"
PA Prime Minister Fayyad Suffers Heart Attack in U.S. (Bloomberg)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, 59, underwent an operation in Texas Tuesday after suffering a heart attack.
is expected to be released from the hospital within a few days.
The Gilad Shalit Test - Alan Baker (Jerusalem Post)
The Fatah-Hamas "reconciliation" places the responsibility for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit directly and openly on the shoulders of the merged PA governing body since he would become an official hostage of the new joint administration.
Thus the real test regarding the seriousness of the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas - and proof of a genuine desire for respectability and acceptability in the international community - will be the immediate and unconditional release of the hostage Shalit.
The writer, a former legal adviser of the Foreign Ministry and former ambassador to Canada, is director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Mahmoud Abbas and the Persistence of Palestinian Mythology - Matthew Brodsky (Guardian-UK)
In a May 17 op-ed in the New York Times, PA President Mahmoud Abbas offers his narrative of Israel's independence, which ignores the inconvenient truth that Israel accepted the UN partition plan while the Palestinians and Arab states rejected it and, instead, launched a war against the nascent state of Israel.
If the Palestinians had accepted the November 1947 UN General Assembly partition plan, they could be celebrating their 63rd year of independence alongside Israel. There would have been no war and no Palestinian refugees.
The writer is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center in Washington.
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- Palestinian UN Bid Requires Security Council Approval - Edith M. Lederer and Karin Laub
President Barack Obama threw down a gauntlet this weekend: no UN vote, he asserted, would ever create a Palestinian state. By a strict reading of UN rules, an American veto at the Security Council - which appears likely - would seem to derail any attempt to win recognition of Palestine as a UN member from the General Assembly. The UN Charter states the admission of new members "will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council."
The General Assembly has never admitted a member without a favorable ruling of the Security Council, said John B. Quigley, an international law professor at Ohio State University.
See also On Europe Trip, Obama to Argue Against a Vote for a Palestinian State - Howard LaFranchi
President Obama now has a new task: persuading the Europeans not to support the declaration of a Palestinian state in September. The president said in his Middle East speech last week that plans afoot for the UN General Assembly to vote at its September meeting on a declaration of an independent Palestine would accomplish nothing for the Palestinians. Calling the plan a misguided attempt to isolate Israel, Obama said the U.S. would oppose the effort.
No one expects the declaration to have trouble reaching a majority in the UN General Assembly, given the large number of developing and Islamic countries favorable to the Palestinians. But what the Obama administration wants to head off is a "yes" vote with the added heft of sizable Western support.
(Christian Science Monitor)
- Obama: No Palestinian State via UN - Andrew Marr
President Obama told BBC in an interview Sunday:
"Most observers of the long history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict recognize...that if you're going to have any kind of peace, you're going to have two states side by side....And the basis for negotiations will involve looking at the 1967 border, recognizing that conditions on the ground have changed, and there are going to need to be swaps to accommodate the interests of both sides."
"The security element is going to be important to the Israelis. They will not be able to move forward unless they feel that they themselves can defend their territory, particularly given what they've seen happen in Gaza, and the rockets that have been fired by Hizbullah."
"Our argument is let's get started on a conversation about territory and about security. That doesn't resolve all the issues. You still end up having the problem of Jerusalem, and you still end up having the problem of refugees. But if we make progress on what two states would look like, a reality sets in among the parties that this is how it's going to end up; then it becomes easier for both sides to make difficult concessions to resolve those two other issues."
"The notion that you can solve this problem in the United Nations is simply unrealistic....We've said directly to the Palestinians...that whatever happens in the United Nations, you are going to have to talk to the Israelis if you are going to have a state in which your people have self-determination. You are not going to be able to do an end run around the Israelis. So...whatever efforts they mount in the United Nations will be symbolic."
See also Palestinians Have Problems with Obama's Mideast Speech, Too - Especially Over "Jewish State" (AP-Washington Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu to AIPAC: The Palestinians Refuse to End the Conflict
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the AIPAC conference in Washington on Monday:
"Events in the region are opening people's eyes to a simple truth: The problems of the region are not rooted in Israel....The millions who poured into the streets of Tehran, Tunis, Cairo, Sanaa, Benghazi, Damascus, they're not thinking about Israel....So it's time to stop blaming Israel for all the region's problems....Israel is not what's wrong with the Middle East. Israel is what's right about the Middle East."
"This conflict has raged for nearly a century because the Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept the Jewish state. Now, this is what this conflict has always been about....We can only make peace with the Palestinians if they're prepared to make peace with the Jewish state." (Prime Minister's Office)
See also Video: Netanyahu Addresses the AIPAC Policy Conference 2011 (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- Obama's Land Swap Surprise - Herb Keinon
Perhaps the most stunning element of Prime Minister Netanyahu's Washington trip is the degree to which he was surprised - again - by President Obama.
For all the clarification Obama made during his Sunday speech to AIPAC of what he really meant by saying last Thursday that Israel should withdraw to the 1967 lines with mutually agreed-upon land swaps, in the final analysis Netanyahu was taken completely by surprise. Back in May 2009, during Netanyahu’s first White House meeting with Obama, the president sprang a surprise with his call for an end to settlement construction.
Beyond the whole debate of what Obama truly means when he says "1967 lines with land swaps," the concern in the Prime Minister's Office was that if left unchallenged, the impression would be that U.S. policy now called on Israel to return to those lines. It was in order to alter this perception that the prime minister challenged Obama so publicly.
In addition, mutually agreed-upon swaps presupposes that Israel will have to trade land inside pre-1967 Israel for land retained beyond the Green Line - a principle Netanyahu is opposed to. This idea was part of the proposal that then-prime minister Ehud Olmert put on the table in his talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, part of an overall package that the Palestinians did not accept.
- The President's Peace Proposal Is a Formula for War - Bret Stephens
On Thursday at the State Department, President Obama told Israelis that "the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace." On Friday in the Oval Office, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded that the 1967 border proposed by Mr. Obama as a basis for negotiating the outlines of a Palestinian state was a nonstarter. It isn't often that this or any other U.S. president welcomes a foreign leader by sandbagging him with an adversarial policy speech a day before the visit.
On Sunday, Mr. Obama said "there was nothing particularly original in my proposal" regarding the 1967 line - "mutually agreed swaps" and all. Yet no U.S. president has explicitly endorsed the '67 lines as the basis for negotiating a final border, which is why the University of Michigan's Juan Cole, not exactly a shill for the Israel lobby, called it "a major turning point." In 2009 Hillary Clinton had described this formula as "the Palestinian goal." Now it's Mr. Obama's goal as well.
On Thursday Mr. Obama called for Israel to make territorial concessions to some approximation of the '67 lines before an agreement is reached on the existential issues of refugees and Jerusalem. But the essence of his proposal is that Israel should cede territory, put itself into a weaker position, and then hope for the best. This doesn't even amount to a land-for-peace formula.
(Wall Street Journal)
- An Inauspicious Moment to Announce Changes to Longstanding U.S. Policy - Michael Singh
The president is surely aware that there is little prospect at the moment for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, in part because of the resentments built up over the last two years, in part because of the Palestinians' focus on building support for a unilateral approach, and also because of the recently-announced Hamas-Fatah agreement. Yet he chose this inauspicious moment to announce changes to longstanding U.S. policy on both territorial and security issues, in ways which were widely interpreted as walking back assurances given to Israel by both President Clinton and President Bush.
His latest foray into the issue will further fray U.S.-Israel relations, and encourage the Palestinians to believe that their strategy of unilateralism is paying dividends. If the objective, therefore, was to increase prospects for negotiations, the likely outcome is precisely the opposite. The writer is managing director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council.
Executing the Vision of Israel's Pre-War 1967 Borders Presents Some Serious Logistical Issues - Leland Vittert (Fox News)
For Israel, President Obama's announcement of basing a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders creates not only huge strategic and tactical issues, but practical ones as well.
- About 6% of Jewish Israelis live outside the '67 borders in the West Bank. Of the 350,000 Jews in the West Bank, about 270,000 live in the so-called "settlement blocs," which are on land relatively close to Israel's original borders and would almost certainly be included in the "land swaps" the president touched on in his address Thursday.
- Many of these settlements are far closer to suburban towns in America than outposts on the Wild West. In settlements like Maale Adumim, there are 10-story apartment buildings, schools and shopping centers.
- While it's not impossible to move 80,000 people who live outside the settlement blocs, it will prove to be a very expensive and politically difficult process.
In 2005, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered a unilateral disengagement in Gaza, withdrawing all Israeli troops and forcing 8,000 settlers from their homes. To say it proved a messy process would be an understatement, and six years later it still remains an open wound in Israel.
In addition, the tactical and strategic military situation of the West Bank makes it much more dangerous for Israel to give up than Gaza, as the West Bank is the literal high ground overlooking the country's major population centers.
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