December 4, 2009
Marwan Barghouti to be released?
Talk in the Middle East is that long-time palestinian activist and leader Marwan Barghouti will be among those to be released in a swap for SGT. Gilad Shalit, taken by Hamas during the last invasion of Gaza. barghouti has alreadey announced che will run for president of the palestinian Authority even if he stays in jail. An interesting twist if it happens.
The freeze in settlement-building in the West Bank - Reality or politics?
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, announced a moratorium in further settlement building in the West Bank, but has run into opposition from the settlers already there. The current settlers have been organizing to prevent governmnet inspectors from viewing the building that continues to go on in the face of the moratorium.
The real question, though, is what Netanyahu's intent was in the first place. Did he do it to placate Obama while knowing that stopping all building was simply not going to happen? The Israeli PM is not a stupid man--he knows his people well, and what they will do when pressed for action. So, announcing a moritorium that cannot be enforced without violence against the settlers is a far easier way to say you are dsoing something without actually having to do it. A great play when you can do it. Time will tell, but I'm betting on the side of the settlers.
Immigration to Israel and the Palestinian-controlled areas is increasing
Most of the major Middle East news Bureaus are reporting significant increases in both immigrants to Israel and returning Palestinians to their own native land areas. Even the economic downturn is helping as costs become more reasonable in relation to other countries' economies. nearly 4000 American jews have made the journey as new immigrants to Israel this year--the largest jump since 1973. Similar gains are occuring among the palestinians, and new villages and towns are bei ng built to house and support them. On particularly interesting article is in Yesterday's (12-3) Milldle REast Edition of the Wall Street Journal.
Israeli UN Ambassador criticizes the General Assembly's Day of Solidarity with Palestinians
Gabriela Shalev, Israeli Ambassador to the UN crticized the celebrations and speeches in the Assembly as one-sized and overly critical of Israel, which the Assembly,created by Resolution 181 in 1947.
"How can it be, then" said Ambassador Shalev "That the debate in these halls embraces a one-sided narrative that promotes and maintains an obsessive and condemnatory focus on Israel?" she asked.
"Today's debate undermines the endorsement of the two-state solution. It reflects the reality of an automatic majority that ensures that any debate on the situation in the Middle East shall be unfruitful, destructive, cynical and hateful."
These two day events have been held since 1977, and are often the only public forum in which palestinian issues are freely debated without the ever-present veto of the US.
A Final Note - President Abbas to visit Lebanon
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will shortly be visiting Lebanon to discuss the refugee camps and the reestablishment of one destroyed in fighting during past years. Some organizations count as many as 250,000 Palestinian refugees in lebanon, although the Lebanese Government provides a much lower figure. Abbas, who has announced in retirement and will not seek reelection has exp-ressed earnet desires to lessen the burden on refugees in nearby countries.