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Entries in Palestine (41)


The Latest on Israel-Gaza-Palestine (14 February)

shalit2:15 p.m. Finally, some confirmation on the state of the Israel-Gaza negotiations, albeit not a very positive development. Tel Aviv says it will not accept any proposal unless it is linked to the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (pictured).

Morning Update (7:45 a.m. GMT; 9:45 a.m. Israel/Palestine): No overnight news on the possibility of an Israel-Gaza cease-fire agreement. Hamas' public promotion of a likely deal is not being matched by Tel Aviv, although there is a type of negotiation going on through the leaks of details, often conflicting, of an arrangement.

Meanwhile, Israel is maintaining its pattern of periodic strikes to show a tough line in response to any rocket and mortar fire. Several people were injured in Israeli airstrikes late on Friday. Either in respone to the strikes or to cover the diplomatic obstacles to an agreement, Hamas political director Khaled Meshaal said the Israeli action had caused a "hitch" in discussions.

Anticipating the New Israeli Government: Netanyahu or Livni?

israel-electionsAccording to the Associated Press, the Obama Administration has praised the Israeli elections and has called the voting by millions of Israelis the sign of a strong democracy. The White House spokesman Robert Gibbs stated that the President Obama was excited to work with the new Israeli government, and on Wednesday, Obama called Israeli President Shimon Peres to express his gratitude for American and Israeli model democracies and to emphasise his personal efforts for a two-state Israel-Palestine solution.

The question is how much room there is for such a solution. While relatively moderate Tzipi Livni, the leader of the Kadima Party is ready to pursue peace talks with the Abbas Government, Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Likud, considers the US-backed negotiation process as a waste of time.

Meanwhile, Livni has demonstrated her "hawkish" reflexes in the name of "Israeli interests" during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. This was reminiscent of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's 2006 Lebanon War when there were serious questions in Israelis' minds whether the inexperienced Olmert was able to handle the weight of the Israeli politics after his predecessor Ariel Sharon's illness. The only difference is that Olmert had to prove himself after Sharon was no longer able to be the Prime Minister, while Livni had to sharpen her position against Hamas, "the common enemy" of all Israelis, to increase Kadima`s votes. Waging war against Hamas while giving priority to the peace process with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas --- including giving up land, dismantling settlements in West Bank, and sharing Jerusalem --- indicate the balance of her expected policies. Livni`s position is closer to peace when compared to that of Netanyahu, but the Iron Lady offers no concession on the most sensitive notion of the Israeli society: "security".

For Netanyahu, as we see in his election motto (“Likud: Because the state needs to be run”), Kadima has been incompetent in its rule, including its conduct of the Lebanon War and the most recent Gaza War. Netanyahu has criticized the government for being insufficiently strong against Hezbollah and Hamas in these two wars and insisted on the continuation of Operation Cast Lead. Netanyahu`s "security pack", which includes toppling Hamas in Gaza, keeping the Golan Heights, and expanding current settlements in the West Bank, is much more important than giving priority to the peace process.

It is clear that a peace agreement is unlikely to come under an Netanyahu administration, but his agenda is wide enough to keep peace proponents busy, at least in the mid-term. What is missing in this analysis, however, are the Obama Administration`s regional policies the application of these to Israel and its new Gvoernment, as it seeks a "secure" Israeli society and/or "strong" steps for peace.

The Latest on Israel-Gaza-Palestine (13 February)

Related Post: Anticipating the New Israeli Government - Netanyahu or Livni?


1:55 p.m. An Israeli airstrike has killed one Gazan militant and critically wounded another. Two other people reported injured.

1:45 p.m. It looks like a prisoner swap involving Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is part of the cease-fire package. Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk (pictured) is quoted by an Egyptian news agency, ""We want the release of our detainees in exchange for Shalit. If Israel agrees to our list, we will make the deal."

Hamas has submitted a list of 1400 prisoners; diplomatic sources say Israel is willing to free closer to 1000.

10:20 a.m. A series of details, some of them conflicting, are emerging over the possible Israel-Gaza cease-fire arrangement.

All accounts agree the time period is 18 months but the status of border crossings is unclear. Hamas has demanded a full opening, but the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot is reporting that Israel will only about 80 percent of goods to pass. Prohibited items would include "pipes, machines and other raw materials liable to be used to manufacture rockets and explosives", and the two sides are still at odds over cement, concrete and construction iron.

Reuters is reporting that the crossings will have international monitors and also some Palestinian Authority guards. Turkish forces may also be involved.

There are also differences in reporting on a possible prisoner swap involving kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Hamas has denied any arrangement involving Shalit, but Reuters, citing "Western and Palestinian officials", says a prisoner exchange is part of the deal.

7:40 a.m. Three Qassam rockets have hit the western Negev in Israel.

Morning Update (5:55 a.m. GMT; 7:55 a.m. Israel/Palestine): Hamas' declaration that a cease-fire agreement with Israel can be reached within 72 hours, which we noted in our last update yesterday, continues to be the top development. Moussa Abu Marzouk (pictured) says the proposal is for an 18-month cease-fire with opening of all border crossings.

The key question, of course, is whether Tel Aviv has indeed signalled its readiness that it will sign or whether Hamas is taking this public line to press the Olmert Government into acceptance.

Elsewhere, Egypt has seized 2200 tons of food and medical supplies that the Doctors' Syndicate was trying to take into Gaza and arrested two members of the aid committee. The seizure is both part of Egypt's general campaign to keep pressure on Hamas by limiting aid and part of Egyptian internal politics. The committee and the arrested men are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Egypt.

The Latest on Israel-Gaza-Palestine (12 February)


9:35 p.m. A member of the Hamas negotiating team in Cairo says a cease-fire agreement with Israel will be announced within 72 hours. Israeli officials have offered no comment on the claim.

9:30 p.m. Evening Update: Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit says US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend an international donors' conference for Gaza next month in Cairo. Gheit met Clinton in Washington to urge a more "even-handed approach" to Israel and Palestine than that shown by the Bush Administration.

12:30 p.m. Interesting and little-noticed development in Cairo. High-ranking Fatah officials met the Hamas delegation on Tuesday, raising the possibility of a reconciliation. Hamas had earlier said that it would not attend a 22 February meeting in Cairo to discuss Palestinian unity, but Fatah's Azzam el-Ahmed says that the Gazan leadership is now considering attendance.

10:30 a.m. I Heart You from Tel Aviv: "Israel temporarily eased its blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Thursday to allow Palestinian flower growers to export 25,000 blooms to Europe ahead of Valentine's Day."

Morning Update (8 a.m. GMT; 10 a.m. Israel/Palestine): No significant movement overnight on either the formation of the new Israeli Government or the Israel-Gaza cease-fire talks. There could be some development in Cairo today, at least in Hamas' position, as its delegation is meeting Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Washington, after the high profile of the George Mitchell mission, is standing well back at the moment. Its token move yesterday was to welcome an Egyptian confernce on aid for Gaza, which will not take place until 2 March. Still, the US Government can't let go of its "Mahmoud Abbas Good, Hamas Bad" political approach: the US hopes the conference will "support the Palestinian Authority's plan for the reconstruction of Gaza as an integral part of a future Palestinian state".

Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Forces have carried out an airstrike against a target in southern Gaza.

The Latest from Israel-Gaza-Palestine (11 February): The Israeli Election

marzouk9:45 p.m. Still pursuing a cease-fire agreement with Israel, a senior Hamas delegation led by Moussa Abu Marzouk will hold talks on Thursday with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman on Thursday.

9:40 p.m. Philip Rizk, the protestor detained by Egyptian authorities after his walk raising money for Gazans, has been released after more than four days of round-the-clock interrogation.

9:30 p.m. A bit of proxy battling over the Palestinian movement in Ankara today. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak represented the Palestinian Authority side of the talks, pressing for confirmation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization as the legitimate umbrella group. Turkey was more muted in its statements but continues to press for greater Hamas participation.

4:25 p.m. The Hamas government in Gaza has ordered international and local aid organisations providing emergency assistance to coordinate relief efforts with it, claiming "supplies brought in from abroad were being sold on the market".

3:55 p.m. Senior Israeli officials have insisted that talks on an Israel-Gaza cease-fire, mediated by Egypt, will continue despite uncertainty over the next Government: ""The current government headed by Ehud Olmert has full authority until a new government is sworn in. You cannot have a power vacuum."

3:45 p.m. Kadima leader Tzipi Livni has met Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the "far-right" Israel-Beitenu party, to discuss a possible coalition. Kadima has a projected 29 seats in the Knesset; Israel-Beitenu is a surprise third with 15.

Benjamin Netanyahu, head of Likud (28 seats) has met leaders of the ultra-orthodox Shas party (11 seats).

8:15 a.m. The Palestinian Authority has asked the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate allegations of war crimes by the Israeli military in the Gaza conflict.

8 a.m. On Tuesday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon criticised Israel's continued blocking of aid into Gaza. Ban said one million Gazans needed relief supplies, but Tel Aviv was only allowing one crossing to open with aid for about 30,000 people.

Ban also confirmed that a survey team would be investigating Israeli attacks on UN facilities during the Gaza conflict.

Morning Update (6 a.m. GMT; 8 a.m. Israel/Palestine): Now the real politics begins in Israel.

Little change overnight in the forecast of results. Out of 120 seats in the Knesset, Kadima (Tzipi Livni) is projected to take 28 and Likud (Benjamin Netanyahu) 27. Each of the two leading parties has claimed a mandate to govern, but each faces the reality of trying to forge a coaliation with the participation of other parties.

Of those parties, the "far-right" Israel-Beitenu of Avigdor Lieberman has emerged in third place with 15 projected seats, putting Labor --- the founding party of Israeli politics --- into fourth with 13.

With little resolved in Tel Aviv, perhaps the most significant reaction has come from Hamas. Spokesman Osama Hamdan has claimed that, with Israeli politics moving "to the right", the new Government will be led by "extremists". No surprise there, but Hamdan's follow-up is politically notable: he says the US Government's intervention is now essential for any political resolution.
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