Archive for the ‘Mahmoud Abbas’ Category

Obama Launching First Diplomatic Mission To Middle East

January 25, 2009

The day Barack Obama became President of the United States, Israeli tanks were rumbling out of Gaza and Palestinians were piled up awaiting burial. Unitid Nations storehouse were in ruins.  Accusations were flying that Israel had used white phosphorus — a substanced banned for use in populated areas by civilized people.   It would be difficult to make the other top priorities of the world scene more important than the festering and violent disputes of the Middle East. Despite Russia-Georgia, North Korea, disagreements with China, Pakistan, troubles in Afghanistan and other disputes, Barack Obama is squarely and rightly facing the Middle East….


President Barack Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East will come to Israel Wednesday for talks on keeping alive a fragile Gaza cease-fire and reviving Mideast negotiations, an Israeli foreign ministry official said Saturday.

It is the new administration’s first direct move into Mideast peace efforts.

By STEVE WEIZMAN, Associated Press Writer

George J. Mitchell will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and senior Israeli officials, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because Washington has not officially announced the trip.

George Mitchell, US President Barack Obama's newly named ... 
George Mitchell, US President Barack Obama’s newly named Special Envoy to the Middle East.(AFP/Saul Loeb)

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton introduced Mitchell in his new role Thursday. His appointment is seen as signaling a renewed push under the Obama administration for a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Mitchell will also visit Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at their headquarters in the West Bank, the official said.

The official said Mitchell will discuss restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks after Israel’s three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip, and ways to impose an effective arms blockade against the Hamas militants who rule Gaza and have been firing rockets into Israel for years.

The arms embargo and the opening of the blockaded territory’s borders are key to sustaining separate cease-fires by Israel and Hamas.

Tzipi Livni (Left) with Hillary Clinton

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Israel: “Goal Today” Is Unilateral Cease Fire, No Matter What Hamas Says

January 17, 2009

“After three weeks of Operation Cast Lead, we are very close to reaching the goals and securing them through diplomatic agreements,” Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during a visit to the south of the country, according to a statement from his office.

“The goal is to announce, subject to cabinet approval, a suspension of military activities because we believe our goals have been attained,” said an Israeli official, asking not to be named.

“There is no agreement with Hamas,” the Israeli official said, adding that Israel would reserve the right to act if Hamas continued firing or launched rockets across the border.

Read this to mean: we are the victors and can stop the fighting with dignity, honor and security.

Israel’s cabinet will vote on a cease fire late Saturday, says Mark Regev, Prime Minister Olmert’s press spokesman.

But what about Hamas, Israel’s partner in this battle?

“Hamas is not a nation. They are terrorists,” one Israeli official told us.  “They refuse to negotiate and swear an oath to destroy us.  How do we negotiate with them?”Hamas leaders are following the lead of President Ahmadinejad in Iran.  Leaders in Iran and Hamas refuse to say “Israel;” referring only to the “Zionist state.”

Gaza Day 22: Hamas Threatens “We Will Continue Battle,” Meanwhile Israel Talks “Unilateral Cease Fire”

Egypt is at the moment considering whether to organize a summit in the near future in Cairo between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Egypt’s state-run news agency MENA reported on Saturday that Mubarak has invited French President Nicholas Sarzoky and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for talks on how to end the Gaza offensive.

This is shaping up as a peace conference of sorts where one war participant doesn’t even get a seat at the table….

Israel’s Likud Party Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu said in interview, “We must prevent the firing of Hamas rockets and we must seal off the southern corridore so no future rockets can come in and be fired against Israel.”

Netanyahu video:

Jerusalem Post:

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Gaza: Time To End The Fight, “Passed the Point of Diminishing Returns”

January 16, 2009

We agree that Israel had to defend itself against Hamas’s rocket attacks. But we fear the assault on Gaza has passed the point of diminishing returns. It is time for a cease-fire with Hamas and a return to the peace negotiations that are the only real hope for guaranteeing Israel’s long-term security.

New York Times Editorial

We are encouraged that a cease-fire finally seems to be gaining traction. Although not much detail is known, reports have focused on an Egyptian proposal for a phased-in truce, followed by a pullout of Israeli forces and the reopening of border crossings to ease the economic blockade of Gaza.

The sudden diplomatic activity came as Israel unleashed its heaviest shelling of Gaza neighborhoods, including a hit on a United Nations compound where hundreds of Palestinians had taken shelter.

Israeli officials acknowledge that the 20-day offensive has not permanently crippled Hamas’s military wing or ended its ability to launch rocket attacks. It is unlikely that Israel can achieve those aims militarily any time soon. The cost in human life and anti-Israeli fury would be enormous. Already more than 1,000 Palestinians have died in the densely populated Gaza Strip, where an always miserable life has become unbearable. Thirteen Israelis have died.

We also fear that the war is further weakening the palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and his Fatah faction — Hamas’s sworn enemy. We know Mr. Abbas’s limitations, but he believes in a two-state solution. If there is going to be a negotiated peace, he is the best hope.

As part of a cease-fire deal, Israel is right to demand a permanent halt to Hamas’s rocket fire. Israel is also right not to rely on Hamas’s promises. Hamas used the last cease-fire to restock its arsenal with weapons ferried in through tunnels dug under the Egypt-Gaza border.

The best protection would be to place monitors on the Egypt-Gaza border to stop the smuggling that is Hamas’s lifeline. The Israelis also must be ready to ease their blockade of Gaza to allow more food and normal economic activity.

The Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, is expected in Washington on Friday where she will sign a hastily arranged deal to accept United States equipment and technical assistance to help monitor the Israeli-Gaza border.

American and Israeli officials say that Israel would never accept a cease-fire without that help and both are eager to heap praise on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for making it happen. But Washington could have provided that assistance years ago — just as it should have been pressing harder on every aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

President-elect Barack Obama says he will work for a peace deal from Day 1. We hope Israel picks a new leader in elections next month who is truly committed to a two-state solution. With the support of the new American president, he or she must make an early downpayment on peace by ending settlement construction, cooperating seriously with Mr. Abbas and improving the lives of all Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza.

Palestinian Authority is Big Loser in Gaza War

January 15, 2009

“The Palestinian Authority is one of the main losers in this war,” said Ghassan Khatib, an independent Palestinian analyst in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “How can it make gains in a war in which it is one of the casualties?”

Israel is proposing, with the tacit agreement of Egypt and the United States, to place the Palestinian Authority at the heart of an ambitious program to rebuild Gaza, administering reconstruction aid and securing Gaza’s borders. But that plan is already drawing skepticism. Mr. Khatib, for example, called the idea of any Palestinian Authority role in postwar Gaza “silly” and “naïve.”

By Isabel Kershner
The New York Times

But with each day, the authority, its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and its leading party, Fatah, seem increasingly beleaguered and marginalized, even in the Palestinian cities of the West Bank, which they control. Protesters accuse Mr. Abbas of not doing enough to stop the carnage in Gaza — indeed, his own police officers have used clubs and tear gas against those same protesters.

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A look at the Islamic militant Hamas group

January 9, 2009

NAME: Arabic for “zeal.” Is acronym of Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyyah, or Islamic Resistance Movement. Use first was in 1987 leaflet presaging launch of first Palestinian uprising against Israel, 1987-93.

GOAL: To establish Islamic theocracy in Israel, West Bank and Gaza Strip. Does not recognize state of Israel and committed to its destruction.

OPERATIONS: Built grass-roots base through preaching and network of health, education and welfare services in Gaza Strip and West Bank. Preaches armed resistance against Israel and has staged dozens of suicide bombings and other attacks, killing hundreds. Listed as terror group by U.S., European Union and Israel.

FUNDING: Community services financed by Arab agencies and Islamic charities; Israel claims funding for military wing (Izzedine al-Qassam) comes from Iran, Syria and Palestinians living abroad.

HISTORY: Began as offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood in 1970s. Initially supported by Israel as counterbalance to Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization. Early activity concentrated on social and community issues; militant faction took over in 1980s. Entered politics with run for Palestinian parliament in 2006, defeating long-dominant Fatah.

GAZA TAKEOVER: Seized control of Gaza in 2007 during five days of battles with Fatah forces loyal to moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

DECISION-MAKING: Khaled Mashaal, former physics teacher who lives in Syria, considered….

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France’s President Nicholas Sarkozy Seeks Peace in Gaza

January 5, 2009

France’s President Nicholas Sarkozy is no longer President of the European Union, a rotating appoinment that ended on December 31.

But that has not stopped sarkozy from going where he believes he is needed:  during the next few day Sarkozy will be in Egypt, the West Bank, Tel Aviv, Jordan, and Syria, where he will meet with President Bashar al-Assad.


French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, reacts, with Palestinian ... 
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, reacts, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas upon his arrival in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Monday, Jan. 5, 2009 as part of his two-day Middle East trip to seek ‘paths for peace’ in Gaza. Sarkozy left for Israel and the Palestinian territories where he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who lost control of Gaza to Hamas in June 2007.(AP Photo/Francois Mori, Pool)
According to the Christian Sciences Monitor: “Sarkozy hosted Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Paris last week. Sarkozy works well with Washington, and French diplomacy has ties to Arabs, Palestinians, and the Islamist movement. He can talk with Syria. Moreover, Sarkozy’s criticism of Israel’s response to Hamas rockets puts him closer to core EU views than with Prague‘s,” (the Czech President is now in charge of the EU).
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: Can He Regain Gaza?


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: Can He Regain Gaza?

January 5, 2009

With Hamas weakened by Israel‘s Gaza offensive, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is trying to regain a foothold in the territory he lost to the Islamic militants in 2007.

Abbas is backing international efforts to end the violence, particularly an Egyptian proposal to deploy his forces on Gaza’s borders, along with other monitors. Yet he’s lost points at home for not displaying more sympathy for battered Gazans and for being perceived as too soft on Israel.

By KARIN LAUB, Associated Press Writer

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a PLO Executive ... 
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a PLO Executive Committee meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a rival of Hamas who governs from the West Bank, condemned the Israeli invasion to the Gaza Strip as ‘brutal aggression.’ (AP Photo/Fadi Arouri, Pool)

It’s not clear whether Hamas has been weakened enough by Israel’s air and ground attacks to even consider relinquishing some power to Abbas in Gaza. Before the operation, the rivals were on a collision course, with Hamas saying Abbas’ four-year term ends Friday and that it will not recognize him after that.

Abbas is heading to the United Nations in New York on Monday, after meetings with the French president and top European diplomats in the West Bank, to lobby for a ….

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Israel Keeps Gaza Goals Vague

December 29, 2008

Israel has dropped tons of bombs on the Gaza Strip in an unprecedented show of force to make Hamas stop rocket attacks, but it has not said it will try to topple the Islamic militants who have ruled the territory for 18 months.

Such a limited definition of goals gives Israel considerable flexibility in deciding when to end the assault, especially if international pressure mounts, while still calling it a success. But this guarded approach also offers Hamas good survival odds, even if the onslaught leaves it badly weakened.

Israel’s unwillingness to reoccupy Gaza or openly try to install a new ruler there gives Hamas considerable leverage in future cease-fire negotiations.

By KARIN LAUB, Associated Press Writer

In exchange for calm on Israel’s border, Hamas demands an end to the crippling blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Hamas takeover of Gaza 18 months ago. Hamas, which won 2006 parliamentary elections, seized control after a power-sharing agreement with the rival Fatah movement collapsed in violence.

Ending the blockade could help Hamas recover quickly and prolong its rule indefinitely. That, in turn, would all but destroy prospects of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Israel has been negotiating for the past year with Hamas’ rival, moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who controls the West Bank. However, Israel says it cannot implement an agreement as long as the Iranian-backed Hamas, sworn to Israel’s destruction, controls half of what would be a Palestinian state.

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Israel’s Failed Wars: To Lebanon, Add Gaza

December 29, 2008

Israel’s new battle with Hamas in Gaza means that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be remembered for fighting two bloody and wasteful mini-wars in less than three years in power. The first one, in Lebanon during the summer of 2006, punished but failed to defeat or even permanently injure Hezbollah, which is politically and militarily stronger today than it was before Olmert took office. This one will probably have about the same effect on Hamas, which almost certainly will still control Gaza, and retain the capacity to strike Israel, when Olmert leaves office in a few months.

By Jackson Diehl
The Washington Post

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at a cabinet meeting this month.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at a cabinet meeting this month. (Pool Photo By Gali Tibbon — Getty Images)

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