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Entries in White House (2)


Israel-Palestine: Washington's New Strategy for Talks 

Neither the "proximity talks" nor the proposal to start negotiations on core issues have worked for the Obama Administration. So, what is left?

Looks like Washington's next ploy is to press Israel to give concessions on East Jerusalem in return for direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Indeed, after the recent US-Israeli tension, hints both from the Palestinian Authority and the Netanyahu Government indicate this may be the best option for President Obama and his advisors.

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Middle East Inside Line: Gaza Border Death, Britain to Review Arms to Israel, Obama’s Passover Message
Palestine Video & Analysis: Saeb Erekat’s Speech at Birmingham (Yenidunya/Baghdady)

On Monday, an official in Jerusalem said the U.S. administration is demanding a four-month construction freeze in all parts of East Jerusalem including Jewish neighborhoods such as Neveh Yaakov, French Hill, and of course Ramat Shlomo in return for pressure on PA leader Mahmoud Abbas for direct talks.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that the status of Jerusalem is to be evaluated:
Again, our view on this, as, again, the view of many administrations prior to ours, are that the issues around Jerusalem are important and they’re final status issues. We think that coming to the table, coming back to the table, developing the type of confidence and trust that both sides need in these proximity talks, is important to building a process to getting to those final status issues.

On Tuesday, in an interview with MSNBC, Obama said:
I think Prime Minister Netanyahu intellectually understands that he has got to take some bold steps. I think politically he feels it. But it's not just on the Israeli side. I've been very clear that the Palestinians have to take steps.

On the same day, following a meeting in White House, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Paris stands with the US in condemning Israeli settlement activity in East Jerusalem and added that the "absence of peace" in the region "is a problem for all of us", feeding terrorism around the world.

A U.S. State Department official has denied an earlier report saying the United States will consider abstaining if the United Nations votes on a resolution condemning Israel's housing construction in East Jerusalem. The U.S. official said that "there is no such initiative before the Council, and we are not pursuing or encouraging any such action."

Middle East Inside Line: Gaza Border Death, Britain to Review Arms to Israel, Obama's Passover Message

Tension Rises on Gaza Border: A 15-year-old Palestinian, Mohammad Zeid Al Farmawi, trying to cross from Gaza into Israel was shot dead by Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday. The Palestinian news agency Ma'an said Tuesday that Al Farmawi was killed as he attempted to join demonstrations marking the 34th Land Day, commemorated annually by thousands of Israeli-Arabs. (The demonstration's aim is to protest a 1976 incident in Sakhnin, where in six Israeli Arabs were killed in clashes amidst protests against a government decision to expropriate Arab lands in the Galilee.)

Army Radio reported that the IDF had confirmed firing into the air to deter Palestinians but claimed Al Farmawi did not heed the warning.

British-Israeli Relations Strained: Despite a significant drop in British arms exports to Israel following Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, a group of British lawmakers are expected to call Tuesday for the re-evaluation of arms deals with Israel after a recently published report by the House of Commons committee on strategic export controls claiming that British weapons were "almost certainly" used in the offensive in Gaza.

British Foreign Minister David Miliband, after the operation, told the Commons that all future applications for arms-related exports to Israel "will be assessed taking into account the recent conflict".

The MPs say they welcome the government's subsequent decision to revoke five export licences for equipment destined for the Israeli navy but "broader lessons" must be learned from a review to ensure British arms exports to Israel are not used in the occupied territories in future.

Obama's Passover Message: In a statement released by the White House, President Barack Obama said:

This evening, Jewish individuals, families, and their friends in America, Israel, and around the world will gather around the Seder table to celebrate the sacred festival of Passover.

With rich symbols, rituals, and traditions, they will tell the story of the Exodus – the journey of the children of Israel from slavery to freedom, from grief to joy, from darkness to light, and from suffering to redemption.

The enduring story of the Exodus teaches us that, wherever we live, there is oppression to be fought and freedom to be won. In retelling this story from generation to generation, we are reminded of our ongoing responsibility to fight against all forms of suffering and discrimination, and we reaffirm the ties that bind us all.