1430 GMT: British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has welcomed a truce between Palestinians in Gaza and Israel after recent clashes, airstrikes, and firing of rockets: "The UK welcomes reports that a truce has been reached and calls on all sides to show restraint and prevent further such escalations in future. We urge all parties to prevent civilian casualties and loss of life."
1000 GMT: After Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Investigator for Israel and Palestine, expressed his support for a boycott of companies doing business in Israeli settlements in the West Bank (see 0615 GMT), West Jerusalem has condemned the statement, maintaining that it is biased under UN standards and pushes back the prospect of peaceful negotiations.
0915 GMT: Israel has suggested that any successful bid by the UN to recognise Palestine as a non-member state could result in a new intifada.
With the vote on the issue next month occurring during the run-up to the Israeli General Election, candidates may promote unilateral action by West Jerusalem against the initiative.
0615 GMT: Netanyahu-Lieberman Unity
On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced that their parties, Likud and Yisrael Beytenu, will run together in elections for the 19th Knesset. Netanyahu thanked Lieberman and continued:
We are ahead of difficult challenges and it is timem to unite powers for the State of Israel. One ticket will strengthen the government, it will strengthen the prime minister, and it will strengthen the country.
We are asking the public for a mandate to deal with the security threats, at the top of which is stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and fighting terrorism. We are asking for a mandate from the public to continue the changes in the economy, in education and in the need to lower the cost of living.
The Italians Exalt Israeli "Security"
On Thursday, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, referring to the "Iranian threat", linked Europe's survival with Israel's:
We see Europe's security in Israel's security. We absolutely reject threats to regional stability and denial of the Holocaust. Any threat to Israel is unacceptable.
UN Warns Firms Linked to Israeli Settlements
United Nations Special Investigator Richard Falk has warned that international businesses operating in West Bank settlements may face criminal and civil liability under international law:
My main recommendation is that the businesses highlighted in the report – as well as the many other businesses that are profiting from the Israeli settlement enterprise – should be boycotted, until they bring their operations into line with international human rights and humanitarian law and standards.
In short, businesses should not breach international humanitarian law provisions. Nor should they be complicit in any breaches. If they do, they may be subject to criminal or civil liability. And this liability can be extended to individual employees of such businesses.
The list of businesses include Caterpillar Inc. (US); Veolia Environnement (France); G4S (UK); Dexia Group (Belgium); Ahava (Israel); the Volvo Group (Sweden); the Riwal Holding Group (Netherlands); Elbit Systems (Israel); Hewlett Packard (US); Mehadrin (Israel); Motorola (US); Assa Abloy (Sweden); and Cemex (Mexico).
The US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, condemned Falk’s report and said his boycott call was “irresponsible and unacceptable".
The Palestinians Press for Observer State Recognition in the UN
On Thursday, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton hosted the Palestinian Authority's President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and senior leader Hanan Ashrawi. The Palestinian mission sought the EU's support for a UN vote on upgrading the status of Palestine from an observer mission to a non-member State.
Ashton reiterated the importance of the two-state solution and Abbas pledged to return to the negotiation table following the UN vote.
Ashrawi said in a statament:
Our decision to go to the United Nations is a serious attempt to salvage the peace process and to end the (Israeli) occupation.
We call on the European Union and other members of the international community to join us in our efforts to curb Israeli unilateral policies that violate international and undermine the prospects for a just peace with the creation of a Palestinian state.
Israeli Involvement in Sudan?
Sudan has accused West Jerusalem of carrying out an air strike at an arms factory in Khartoum that led to a huge explosion and called on the UN Security Council to condemn the attack. Announced that two people were killed and one seriously injured, Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman targeted Israel: "Four military planes attacked the Yarmouk plant....We believe that Israel is behind it. Sudan reserves the right to strike back at Israel."
Asked by Israeli Channel 2 news about Sudan's accusations, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: "There is nothing I can say about this subject."
Ongoing Israel-Gaza Conflict
At least 10 mortars and shells were fired from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, leaving three wounded in southern Israel. In response, Israeli jets and tanks bombarded the Palestinian-populated region, killing a Hamas gunman.
Talking to Army Radio, Defense Minister Ehud Barak maintained Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's intimidation policy: "If we have no choice and the fire will continue, then they clearly will be hit harder and nothing is out of the question."
During the tour made to an Iron Dome battery near Ashkelon, Netanyahu's tough line implying a possible Operation Cast Lead II was apparent:
We neither chose nor initiated this escalation but if it continues we are prepared for much more extensive and deeper action. In any case, we will continue with preventive operations. Whoever intends to attack Israeli citizens needs to know that he will bear the consequences.
On the same day, US and Israeli forces launched their largest-ever joint military drill, the Austere Challenge 2012, aimed at consolidating the mutual defensive capacity against rocket attacks.
Despite the informal truce brokered by Cairo, another rocket was launched from Gaza on Thursday. The Israeli side did not respond. Israeli defense official Amos Gilad told Israeli Army Radio;
It can be said categorically that there is no agreement with Hamas, there has never been and there will never be. ... The only thing that has been set and said is that there will be calm. We are not interested in an escalation.