The Latest from Israel-Palestine (9 October): Watching Syria, Downing a Drone, and Skirmishing with Gaza
1935 GMT: With no reference to his earlier demand on a halt to settlement freeze as a condition of returning to peace talks, Palestinian Authority's leader Mahmoud Abbas said that he could resume talks following the UN vote on a Palestinian request for "nonmember state" status.
1900 GMT: PM Netanyahu announces early elections.
1730 GMT: Israel's daily YNET claims that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will announce his early elections decision tonight.
1720 GMT: A Kassam rocket fired from Gaza exploded in an open area in the Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council. No injuries reported.
1530 GMT: In a letter sent to the U.S. Congress by the leaders of the Lutheran, Methodist, UCC churches, and the National Council of Churches; the military aid to Israel was asked to be reevaluated. The letter says:
As Christian leaders in the United States, it is our moral responsibility to question the continuation of unconditional U.S. financial assistance to the government of Israel. Realizing a just and lasting peace will require this accountability, as continued U.S. military assistance to Israel -- offered without conditions or accountability -- will only serve to sustain the status quo and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories.
The Jewish organisations such as the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Rabbinical Assembly and the American Jewish Committee crticized the letter.
1420 GMT: Regarding the possibility of an Israeli strike, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said:
The possibility of an attack against Iran cannot be ignored but it can be said that Iran's response to any aggression will be crushing.
1345 GMT: Senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad told Israel Radio that whoever sent the unmanned aerial vehicle failed in both retrieving intelligence data and harming the image of Israeli air defense.
1300 GMT: Following his meeting with PM Netanyahu, United Torah Judaism leader Ya’acov Litzman said Netanyahu prefered passing the 2013 state budget to holding early elections.
It is reported that Shas, Yisrael Beytenu and Habayit Hayehudi leaders have advised Netanyahu to initiate early elections so far.
1235 GMT: Kuwait's Al-Jarida claims that the security service Shin Bet pinpointed Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz as the source of the leak on classified discussions on Iran held in a security cabinet meeting in September. As known, following the incident, PM Netanyahu said: "A leak from the cabinet discussions… someone severely damaged the trust that Israel's citizens have in this forum."
The Shin bet denied the report immediately.
1155 GMT: Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the Palestinian bid for non-member status at the United Nations which is likely to come in mid-November is the only way to stop the expanding Israeli settlement enterprise in the West Bank. If Palestinians can get the majority of the votes of 193 member states, their status will be upgraded from that of an observer mission, to one of a non-member state.
1100 GMT: The economic activity in the occupied Golan Heights, where around 4,000 settlers have been integrated in 32 rural settlements in the last five years, is booming.
For instance, only for the Bnei Yehuda Industrial Park in the southern Golan Heights, the allocation of areas for six plants has been approved.
The Golan Regional Council deputy head and as chairman of the Bnei Yehuda Industrial Park, Gabriel Hamo, says the expansion of the industrial park has been promoted thanks to the attractive conditions offered to entrepreneurs, including tax breaks and markedly low development costs.
1025 GMT: Before the Knesset returns from its extended summer recess on October 15, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will announce early elections, his associates say.
Rather than passing 2013's economy budget at a time while the rift between Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Ehud Barak (due to the latter's recent visit to Washington) is still deep, Netanyahu is thinking of holding elections before February.
1000 GMT: Mahmoud Aloul, a member of the Fatah central committee and former Palestinian Authority governor of Nablus, says a popular resistance against occupation is what Palestinians agreed on. Aloul adds: "When there is a new atmosphere for conducting the negotiations, we will return."
0900 GMT: Despite of Defense sources stating that Iran has diverted much of its enriched uranium to scientific research which is in harmony with the International Atomic Energy Agency's lastest report; a Foreign Policy report by David Rothkopf published Monday claims that Israel is likely to carry out a joint "surgical strike" against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Rothkopf adds that such a small-scale attack would not only send the so-called Iranian nuclear program back many years, but also contribute to "saving Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, reanimating the peace process, securing the Gulf, sending an unequivocal message to Russia and China, and assuring American ascendancy in the region for a decade to come".
The response came from Tehran. After Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi had stated that Israel would have attacked long ago if they wanted, former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani reminded Washington's "red lines" to Israel and said that Israelis would need Washington's permission to attack!
Against Syria with Turkey?
Al Arabiya news network has claimed that Syrian officials sought military support from Israel in securing their borders, basing the assertion on unverified cables reportedly leaked by the Syrian opposition.
Scepticism is needed here, as the same source claimed last week that the two pilots of a reconnaissance jet downed by Syrian forces this summer were captured alive and executed on the direct order of Moscow.
Meanwhile, Israeli officials appear to taking a clearer line in support of Turkey, despite recent friction between the two countries. After a Syrian mortar falling on town in southeastern Turkey killed five civilians. Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor criticised the attack on a NATO member and said the situation inside Syria was “horrible”.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle?
Israel jets downed an unmanned drone last Saturday. No official statement so far has confirmed from where it came or who sent it. However, most Israeli experts and commentators see the main suspect is as Lebanon's Hezbollah with the drone based on Iranian technology. Israelis claims Hezbollah tried to attack Israel with drones before the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
Israel's politicians and media focused more on the speed of the operation which they claimed saved many lives. The drone was hit near the Dimona nuclear reactor and, possibly, some of Israel's stockpile of more than 200 nuclear warheads.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office declared, "We will continue to protect our land, sea and air borders on behalf of the citizens of Israel.”
Another Exchange of Fire with Gaza
Last Sunday, an Israeli aircraft killed one Palestinian fighter and injured another, as well as at least five bystanders, including three children. Around 50 mortars and rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel's western Negev the following day, with Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. No injuries reported.
The Israel Defense Forces carried out a retaliatory strike which injured another 11 Palestinian civilians.
Romney’s Israel Card
On Monday, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney accused US President Barack Obama of distancing Washington from Israel. Romney said:
The relationship between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Israel, our closest ally in the region, has suffered great strains.
The President explicitly stated that his goal was to put daylight between the United States and Israel. And he has succeeded. This is a dangerous situation that has set back the hope of peace in the Middle East and emboldened our mutual adversaries, especially Iran that is closer today to nuclear weapons capability and is less deterred by America.
He also gave a further message to Israelis through Iranians nuclear issue:
I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability.