Addict (drugaddict) wrote,

Mideast News: World Press Roundup

*Editor's Picks:*

The Christian Science Monitor presents the second in its 3-part series
on the effect of Israel's Jerusalem wall on Jerusalem's Palestinian
inhabitants (1.) looks at the new Jewish-American alliance
meant as a counterweight to AIPAC (3.) Junge Welt (Germany) interviews
Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Meshaal (5.) Agence France Presse (France)
examines the reasons for Hamas' political confidence (6.) In
BitterLemons (Israel/Palestine), former Palestinian minister of planning
Ghassan Khatib analyzes the impact of regional and international
politics on the internal Palestinian scene (7.) A Haaretz (Israel)
opinion by Uzi Benziman looks at the burying in Israel of the Peace Now
report on Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land (9.)

*R. Dajani.*


*1. The long walk to class*
By Ilene R. Prusher
Christian Science Monitor
December 20, 2006
2. Reiterating the Keys to Peace*
By Jimmy Carter
Boston Globe
December 20, 2006
3. The other Israel lobby*
By Gregory Levey
December 19, 2006

*4. US threatening Hamas rule, says Haniyeh*
By Rory McCarthy
Guardian (UK)
December 20, 2006,,1975699,00.html

*5. Hamas Leader: We'll Accept Israel Within 1967 Borders*
By Rainer Rupp
Junge Welt (Germany)

*6. Confident Hamas stares down Abbas, West*
Agence France Presse (France)
December 20, 2006
7. The reentry of regional rivalries*
By Ghassan Khatib
Bitter Lemons
December 20, 2006
8. O.K. from a declining America?*
By Gideon Samet
December 20, 2006

*9. Moving on to the next scandal...*
By Uzi Benziman
December 20, 2006


*1. The long walk to class*
By Ilene R. Prusher
Christian Science Monitor
December 20, 2006

Ahmed Malhi is just 25 feet from school when Israeli soldiers stop him
and demand ID. It's the third checkpoint he's encountered during a
commute that takes him from one side of Jerusalem's security barrier to
the other.

The soldiers wave Ahmed and other students through. He's relieved. He's
got a history test on World War I, and the last thing he needs is to be
late again.

"I'm at an important stage right now," Ahmed says later. "If I'm not
able to be there on time, how can I pass the graduation exam?"

This day he made it to class after about an hour's walk and a
five-minute taxi ride. Prior to barriers being built, he would arrive in
20 minutes. But the new reality for Ahmed's family, and many other
Palestinian Jerusalemites, is that a range of measures designed to
increase Israeli security and a demographic majority mean they're being
left outside Israel's barrier despite Israeli-issued IDs that identify
them as legal residents of Jerusalem entitled to services similar to
those offered to Israeli citizens.

Now, in many cases, receiving healthcare or an education or going to
work can be a long, complicated process for Palestinians who have to
cross through the barrier - which runs through Shuafat and is being
transformed from a fence into a concrete wall - to reach the rest of the

It's an ordeal that human rights groups such as Btselem say is an unjust
burden on Palestinian Jerusalemites. They say Arab residents are being
increasingly cut off from basic services with political goals in mind:
increasing security for Israelis, and decreasing numbers of
Palestinians, including those with Israeli-issued residency.

Of course, this new reality was not chosen by Ahmed or his family. He
didn't ask to attend school in Dahiyet el-Barid, a neighborhood that
straddles the barrier, but was assigned to study here by an educational
wing of the Jerusalem municipality, which oversees all schools
throughout the city.

Though his school and home are both part of the capital city, they're
now wedged between a maze of checkpoints. The area where the school is -
past several security checkpoints - has become a bottlenecked, almost
mysterious passageway.

The policies of who can pass and when seem to change almost by the hour.
Other areas here and in the West Bank have "flying checkpoints," as
Palestinians have dubbed them - here one day and gone the next.

A year ago, life wasn't like this. That was before the wall began
winding through this area, drawing landscape-altering lines between who
is and is not able to enter Jerusalem. That was also before Ahmed's
father, Omar Malhi, died at a checkpoint near their house. His family
says he died from complications related to a heart attack because he
couldn't reach the hospital soon enough. Witnesses say his ambulance was
delayed at the checkpoint.

Thereafter, Ahmed's father was declared a shahid il-mahsom, or
checkpoint martyr.

Ahmed's commute

Most days, Ahmed sets out sometime around 6:45 a.m. On this morning,
running a little late, Ahmed downs his tea (he eats breakfast at school,
he says), kisses his mother goodbye (he's a good crammer, she boasts)
and heads down the stairs close to 7 a.m.

Just down the narrow main drag of the camp, Ahmed stops to meet his
cousin, Thaer, who is in the same grade. They begin to trudge along,
discussing the best of three ways to go based on the delays they've
encountered in recent weeks.

"If it's a tough day getting through checkpoints, I start feeling bad
early in the day, and I stop concentrating," says Ahmed, who is slim and
tall with a serious mien.

Ten minutes into the walk, they're on the Anata Road, which looks almost
like a small highway: It leads into a tunnel and is surrounded on both
sides by high walls. The left one is made of corrugated metal, shielding
the enormous site for a rail system that is being built.

Overhead, the high-rise buildings of Neve Yaakov, a Jewish neighborhood
added after Israel annexed East Jerusalem, tower over the road. Thaer
points up to a security camera perched on a pole high above the road,
noting that a friend of his got caught throwing stones because of it.

They traipse with other school kids, some teenagers and some hardly
bigger than tots, all with backpacks and some in uniforms, past the
second checkpoint of the day.

Seeing others their age up ahead, they continue walking down the road. A
soldier holds out his arms to stop them, and redirects them to a
single-file line of smaller kids off to the side.

"There?" Ahmed asks.

"Yes, go!" the soldier replies. "It's closed here."

Ahmed obeys, following the younger schoolchildren. "If I had said
another word," he whispers, "I would have been arrested."

Always have a Plan B

It's 7:43. Thaer and Ahmed have just reached the main road into northern
Jerusalem - in the neighborhood of Shuafat, which is different from the
refugee camp where they live.

Now that it's a straight shot to school, at least as the crow flies,
they decide to hop into a servis - a van which serves as a taxi - to
ferry them closer. This checkpoint, Ahmed explains, is sometimes closed
to traffic altogether. When it is, they double back and tuck into the
hilly underside of these neighborhoods, through an area called Imarat
Nuseibeh, to sneak around the checkpoint and reach the school.

"I go through the mountains, through the houses, in order to get to the
school," Ahmed explains. "But the Israelis now use jeeps to chase out
the West Bankers who try to use these paths to get to Jerusalem.
Sometimes we are met by the soldiers and they don't believe us that the
gate was closed, and they make us go back."

Only a few minutes late

By 8:06, they're in front of Sakhnin Boys School, only a few minutes late.

Near the school gate, Ahmed and his classmates point to the other side
of the checkpoint with concern.

"Hey look," says one. "They're not letting in the ustaz," Ahmed says,
using an honorific term for an educator. The students watch as Siam
Samer, their religion teacher, argues with the soldiers, who are
refusing to let him through the checkpoint.

But after some negotiating with the soldiers and pointing at the school
entrance where the boys stand, watching, they let him through. "Things
like this happen everyday," the wide-bearded ustaz complains as he heads
into class. "Too many students don't manage to come on time. The first
period is always wasted. I'm constantly repeating myself for the
students who missed something."

Fuad Al-Ayam, the principal, claps briskly, urging the students to get
to class. " Yalla, yalla," he yells, urging the pupils strolling through
the gate late to hurry up. He's fearful of being quoted saying anything
to a reporter, critical or otherwise; he doesn't want trouble. Students
pour into the jampacked classrooms. Outside, latecomers in their
backpacks are still shuffling toward the door.

Some 15 feet from the front door of the school, a dark-green military
jeep idles. Beyond that, the gray and slightly curved security wall
rises above the neighborhood blocking out the view of much else, as
though this were a cul-de-sac at the end of the world.

Fighting the wall's path

At home on a different afternoon, Ahmed and his family talk about their
concerns and conjecture why everything is changing.

"This is what I'm afraid of - I'll be like a prisoner here," Ahmed says.
"When the wall closes around us, all the benefits of being a
Jerusalemite will be taken away from us. Any minute, they can take our
residency status away."

Khaled Malhi, Ahmed's uncle, posits his theory, a popular one here.
"Shuafat Refugee Camp is between several [Israeli] settlements and is
preventing them from connecting to each other, so they want to squeeze
it out."

He faces a similar challenge every day to get to his job in the kitchen
of an East Jerusalem hospital. It used to take him five minutes to get
to work; now he leaves himself an extra hour.

Not everyone here accepts the future with resignation. Some of the
residents are trying to fight the path of the wall making its way past
their homes.

In Ras Hamees, a neighborhood adjacent to Shuafat that is also slated to
be left outside of the wall, activists have submitted a petition to the
Supreme Court, with the help of Israeli lawyers, to change the route of
the barrier.

Jamil Sandouki, the head of the local neighborhood committee, takes some
flack from others for even bothering to mount a legal challenge: They
charge that it legitimizes the wall's existence. But Mr. Sandouki didn't
see any other way. Just in the past year, he says, everyday life has
been getting more unbearable.

"Now, we need to spend hours in the morning standing in line, and with a
car, you're in line for at least an hour just to get out of Shuafat," he

While waiting on a high court decision, he watched from his window here
a few weeks ago as huge cranes dropped sections of the wall into place,
surround by a group of soldiers. The ash-colored barrier now cuts
through the land outside his window - which had afforded a rather
pastoral view - and then suddenly stops, waiting for new pieces to be
put into place.

The huge cement blocks landed on the ground as he looked out from his
living room. "I suddenly felt like someone was taking away my breath.
It's like someone taking away your oxygen. My son kept saying, 'Daddy,
look, they're bringing another block.' "

Sandouki pulls five-year-old Mohammed between his knees. "My son asked
me, 'What mistake did we make that we are having this wall built around
us? What did we do?' And what can I answer him?"

All anyone here talks about, he says, including the women and children,
is the wall.

Moving to the 'inside'

Meanwhile, the price of his house is now about a fifth of what it was
before the last intifada started in September 2000. People who can
afford to are scrambling to move to other, "safer" Arab neighborhoods of
Jerusalem, while people from the West Bank, hoping that this address
will afford them some measure of access to Jerusalem or a coveted
Jerusalem ID card, are arriving in their place.

The barrier, many say, is wreacking havoc on the local real estate
market. Families who can are willing to pay higher prices to make sure
they're inside, a crunch that leaves the working class out. Others fear
that being inside the wall will cut them off from relatives or work
outside the barrier, and are contemplating whether it would be better to
be on the Palestinian side instead, or at least maintain an address there.

Sandouki sees the proverbial writing on the wall. He recently bought a
house in Bet Safafa, an Arab neighborhood that has been part of
Jerusalem since 1948 and is in no danger of being cut off from the city.
He's already had his official address changed - one's neighborhood is
printed on the ID card that everyone must carry - and when it gets bad
enough, he plans to escape.

Sandouki raises his eyebrows at his window, where the winter sky is
growing dark just after 4 p.m. and breathes out a lungful of
frustration. "I'm going to die if I have to live here with this wall."

2. Reiterating the Keys to Peace*
By Jimmy Carter
Boston Globe
December 20, 2006

MY BOOK "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid" was published last month,
expressing my assessment of circumstances in the occupied territories
and prescribing a course of action that offers a path to permanent peace
for Israel and its neighbors. My knowledge of the subject is based on
visits to the area during the past 33 years, my detailed study and
personal involvement in peace talks as president, and my leadership role
in monitoring the Palestinian elections of 1996, 2005, and 2006.

Some major points in the book are:

Multiple deaths of innocent civilians have occurred on both sides, and
this violence and all terrorism must cease.

For 39 years, Israel has occupied Palestinian land, and has confiscated
and colonized hundreds of choice sites.

Often excluded from their former homes, land, and places of worship,
protesting Palestinians have been severely dominated and oppressed.
There is forced segregation between Israeli settlers and Palestine's
citizens, with a complex pass system required for Arabs to traverse
Israel's multiple checkpoints.

An enormous wall snakes through populated areas of what is left of the
West Bank, constructed on wide swaths of bulldozed trees and property of
Arab families, obviously designed to acquire more territory and to
protect the Israeli colonies already built. (Hamas declared a unilateral
cease-fire in August 2004 as its candidates sought local and then
national offices, which they claim is the reason for reductions in
casualties to Israeli citizens.)

Combined with this wall, Israeli control of the Jordan River Valley will
completely enclose Palestinians in their shrunken and divided territory.
Gaza is surrounded by a similar barrier with only two openings, still
controlled by Israel. The crowded citizens have no free access to the
outside world by air, sea, or land.

The Palestinian people are now being deprived of the necessities of life
by economic restrictions imposed on them by Israel and the United States
because 42 percent voted for Hamas candidates in this year's election.
Teachers, nurses, policemen, firemen, and other employees cannot be
paid, and the UN has reported food supplies in Gaza equivalent to those
among the poorest families in sub-Sahara Africa, with half the families
surviving on one meal a day.

Mahmoud Abbas, first as prime minister and now as president of the
Palestinian National Authority and leader of the PLO, has sought to
negotiate with Israel for almost six years, without success. Hamas
leaders support such negotiations, promising to accept the results if
approved by a Palestinian referendum.

UN Resolutions, the Camp David Accords of 1978, the Oslo Agreement of
1993, official US Policy, and the International Roadmap for Peace are
all based on the premise that Israel withdraw from occupied territories.
Also, Palestinians must accept the same commitment made by the 23 Arab
nations in 2002: to recognize Israel's right to live in peace within its
legal borders. These are the two keys to peace.

Not surprisingly, an examination of the book reviews and published
comments reveals that these points have rarely if ever been mentioned by
detractors of the book, much less denied or refuted. Instead, there has
been a pattern of ad hominem statements, alleging that I am a liar,
plagiarist, anti-Semite, racist, bigot, ignorant, etc. There are
frequent denunciations of fabricated "straw man" accusations: that I
have claimed that apartheid exists within Israel; that the system of
apartheid in Palestine is based on racism; and that Jews control and
manipulate the news media of America.

As recommended by the Hamilton-Baker report, renewed negotiations
between Israel and the Palestinians are a prime factor in promoting
peace in the region. Although my book concentrates on the Palestinian
territories, I noted that the report also recommended peace talks with
Syria concerning the Golan Heights. Both recommendations have been
rejected by Israel's prime minister.

It is practically impossible for bitter antagonists to arrange a time,
place, agenda, and procedures that are mutually acceptable, so an
outside instigator/promoter is necessary. Successful peace talks were
orchestrated by the United States in 1978-79 and by Norway in 1993. If
the American government is reluctant to assume such a unilateral
responsibility, then an alternative is the International Quartet (United
States, Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union) -- still
with American leadership.

An overwhelming majority of citizens of Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt,
and Palestine want peace, with justice for all who live in the Holy
Land. It will be a shame if the world community fails to help them reach
this goal.

3. The other Israel lobby*
By Gregory Levey
December 19, 2006

This past June, on my last day working as a speechwriter for the Israeli
government -- first at the United Nations and then in the prime
minister's office -- I met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in his
private office at the Israeli parliament to discuss a speech he had just
given to the U.S. Congress. The speech, which I helped write, was
largely about the future of U.S.-Israeli relations, and we discussed how
it had gone over. Also at the meeting was a high-ranking official in the
Israeli Foreign Ministry, and when we left the building together, he
told me that the next day officials from the American Israel Public
Affairs Committee, the powerful lobbying group, would be visiting. He
asked if I had any suggestions about what to tell them about how they
could more effectively help Israel in Washington.

"Some people would say that maybe the best thing would be for them not
to be so reflexively pro-Israel on every issue," I said.

He laughed. "Well, I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon,"
he said. I suggested that such a rebalancing might be beneficial for all
who were interested in supporting Israel, and he conceded that, yes,
"just maybe" it would.

Many American Jews, it seems, have similar feelings. Eighty-seven
percent of them voted Democratic in the recent midterms -- the highest
number since 1994 -- belying the oft-repeated claim that the Bush
administration's staunch support for Israel would move the traditionally
Democratic Jewish vote toward the Republicans. The fact is that most
American Jews, and many other American supporters of Israel, do not see
eye-to-eye on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the most hawkish,
knee-jerk Israel supporters in the U.S. government -- even if their
presumed leadership, represented by AIPAC, often appears to do so.
Moreover, AIPAC's influence in Washington may soon begin to decline, as
a powerful new alliance of left-leaning friends of Israel has begun to
emerge, with the express aim of reshaping U.S. strategy on the region's
most intractable problem.

If the Bush administration decides to seriously reevaluate its strategy
in the Middle East in the wake of the Iraq Study Group's recent report
-- and among its recommendations is prioritizing a solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- it will have to deal with a minefield of
interest groups. That will surely include AIPAC, a juggernaut that the
New York Times has called the "most important organization affecting
America's relationship with Israel."

In "The Israel Lobby," their highly controversial article earlier this
year, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer argued that AIPAC, along with a
very wide array of allies, pushes American foreign policy inflexibly in
a pro-Israel direction. The article was criticized as simplistic, sloppy
and above all reductive, but in its core suggestion that AIPAC often
hinders the American government's ability to freely maneuver in the
Middle East, it is difficult to argue with. As AIPAC itself proudly
reports, the organization is "consistently ranked as the most
influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill," and
it uses this influence to very successfully push a viewpoint that its
critics claim puts Israel's total military dominance above efforts to
broker Middle East peace.

AIPAC suffered a relatively small but symbolic defeat this past year --
one that may prove to have been a turning point. Earlier in the year,
AIPAC put all its muscle behind a congressional bill called the
Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, which even some pro-Israel observers
called "draconian." Going beyond even the Bush administration's own
hard-line stance on the Hamas-led Palestinian government, it would have
essentially cut off all American contact with any element of the
Palestinian leadership, and hampered the U.S. government's ability to
strengthen Palestinian moderates.

A group of small, left-leaning Jewish lobby groups, including the Israel
Policy Forum, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace and the
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, banded together to battle
AIPAC on the issue, and in the end were successful. A watered-down
version of the bill was passed, with what they saw as the problematic
language stripped away. An AIPAC official recently told me that AIPAC
was satisfied with the softer bill's passage -- but it is quite clear
that the incident represented a defeat for the organization.

It was, in fact, an impressive demonstration of what political
cooperation and grass-roots advocacy can do. However, for these groups
to replicate that success on a larger scale and with more of a
substantive effect on U.S. foreign policy, there is a key missing
element: real money.

That is where billionaire financier George Soros may come in, along with
a group of other left-leaning philanthropists, many of them Jewish. In
the relatively close-knit Middle East lobbying community, it is
something of an open secret that this past September, Morton Halperin,
who served in both the Nixon and Clinton administrations and is now
director of U.S. advocacy for Soros' Open Society Institute, met with a
group of lobbyists, political strategists and former politicians who are
seeking to create a new well-funded, well-organized, left-leaning Israel
lobby, as an alternative to AIPAC.

Several key figures in this group had been active in the effort to quash
the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, and include Jeremy Ben-Ami, a former
advisor to President Clinton, and Daniel Levy, a former special advisor
to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and now a senior fellow at the New
America Foundation in Washington.

The group's first meeting was exploratory and unfocused, according to
several attendees who spoke with me. But in late October, Soros himself
attended a follow-up meeting, along with liquor magnates Edgar and
Charles Bronfman, former Democratic Rep. Mel Levine and others. The idea
-- by this point labeled the "Soros Initiative" -- now began to gain
traction and substance, with large sums of money being pledged by
several parties. Several people involved have told me that there is now
almost enough money firmly on the table to launch the new organization
-- an eight-figure dollar amount, they say, and that's just for
starters. Several people have told me that there is already work in
progress to establish the organization's core structure and operations.

What exactly would the new organization do? According to Diane Balser, a
board member of the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, one of the
small left-wing groups involved in the discussions, the goal is clear:
"Organizing systematically to affect U.S. foreign policy." Levy, the
former Barak advisor, explained that the movement is "coming from a
place where inside the mainstream Jewish community, people are
increasingly confused about something that describes itself as
pro-Israel, but is so out of sync with what they believe are good
politics for the U.S. or Israel."

"The right-wing orientation in the community is losing people by the
droves, particularly young people," M.J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy
Forum, one of the main groups involved, added. "Most U.S. Jews support
peace in the Middle East, and don't want to shoot down doves anytime
they appear."

The point of the initiative, Levy told me, is not to "turn American
policy against Israel. It is to reach out to groups of philanthropists
to get better resources and better focus and to translate this into a
political statement," so that members of Congress will know that they
"will have cover if they seek to do what we and many in the American
Jewish Community think is right."

There has been talk before about establishing an alternative to the
status quo represented by AIPAC, but the added element of money from
Soros and others could prove the pivotal difference now. There is also
the possibility that a connection to Soros could itself be problematic.
Soros has never been at all friendly to Israel, and his involvement
might scare off others who are left-leaning but still support Israel. He
is also one of the major funders of and other left-wing
causes, and Republican lawmakers, and even some centrist Democrats, may
not want to be associated with him. An AIPAC insider repeatedly stressed
to me that one reason this new group will never be able to compete with
AIPAC is because AIPAC is bipartisan, while what he called the "Soros
connection" shows that the new group will not be.

Levy, meanwhile, said that it is "a misnomer" even to call it the "Soros
Initiative," because, as one of his allies said, it's not "Soros' baby.
He doesn't want to be out front on it."

The AIPAC insider said that he believes the "Soros Initiative" is little
more than a fundraising drive to raise money for some impoverished
organizations that "have to define themselves in opposition to
something." In fact, say those involved, a contentious issue in the
discussions is exactly how much the new organization would allow itself
to be seen as being in direct opposition to AIPAC. At least four of the
players involved have told me that they intend to be an "alternative,"
but not an "opposition." Still, one of those present at the early
meetings said that he sees his organization as "the anti-AIPAC." Levy,
meanwhile, said simply that if "there are differences in policy, those
will be expressed in one group advocating one thing and another
advocating another thing." This would at least be an improvement, he
said, over the past, when Israeli leaders who honestly sought to make
peace "pulled their hair out because of the lack of support from the
Jewish community in the United States."

I can attest from personal experience that Levy likely picked up this
sense of frustration from working in the Israeli government. Once, when
I was still a speechwriter for the Israeli government at the U.N., I sat
in on a meeting with a group of right-leaning American Jewish lobbyists
who were discussing how harshly to react to the International Court of
Justice's ruling that Israel's separation barrier was illegal.

Afterward, a senior strategist for the Israeli government said to me,
"See, people inside the Israeli government who are sincerely looking for
peace have no choice but to wait. This prime minister is not going to
bring peace. This ambassador is not going to bring peace." He added,
"And those people that we just met are sure as hell not going to bring

*4. US threatening Hamas rule, says Haniyeh*
By Rory McCarthy
Guardian (UK)
December 20, 2006

The Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, last night accused the
US of trying to bring down the elected Hamas government and called for
calm after at least four people were killed in a day of heavy fighting
between rival factions in Gaza.

"There was a direct decision to bring down this government and make it
collapse, and the Americans are behind this policy," Mr Haniyeh said in
a speech on Palestinian television.

His words came only a day after Tony Blair travelled to Ramallah, in the
occupied West Bank, to give his backing to Mr Haniyeh's rival, the
Palestinian president and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas. Mr Abbas issued a
challenge to Hamas on Saturday when he called for early presidential and
parliamentary elections.

Nine days of gun battles, kidnappings and murders have brought Gaza to
the brink of civil war, as gunmen on the street play out a struggle for
power between the two Palestinian leaders.

A ceasefire between the factions called late on Sunday night lasted only
a few hours. Early yesterday morning there was shooting at Gaza's Shifa
hospital when Fatah gunmen tried to bring in an injured man for
treatment. After an hour-long gun battle one Hamas gunman was dead and
several other people were wounded.

Five children were injured in other fighting and schools were quickly
closed across Gaza. An office of the Fatah-run intelligence service was
attacked by mortars and grenades. Two Fatah security officers sitting in
a parked car were shot dead, and another Fatah official was kidnapped
and killed. Gunmen shot at the car of the governor of northern Gaza,
Ismail Abu Shamallah, a prominent Fatah figure. Hamas gunmen set up
makeshift checkpoints in many places. In total 18 people were injured.
Since the latest round of clashes began last Monday at least 13 people
have been killed in what has now become the most serious infighting
between the Palestinian factions.

Mr Haniyeh called for calm. "I am calling on everyone to calm down and
ease the tensions and end the armed displays that worsen tensions." In a
statement from Ramallah, Mr Abbas also called for an end to the clashes.
"I emphasise that dialogue is the only way to achieve our national
goals," he said.

In Jordan, King Abdullah tried to intervene by inviting Mr Abbas and Mr
Haniyeh to meet him in Amman. However, it was unclear last night if
either was willing to take up the offer. The invitation came after the
Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, made a surprise visit to Amman
where he met the king to talk about the Middle East.

The crisis among the Palestinians developed after Hamas won an election
in January. In the face of an economic boycott on the Palestinian
Authority from Israel and the west, Fatah has tried to establish a
coalition government with Hamas. Talks have repeatedly broken down and
then Mr Abbas threatened early elections.

He has won the support of the US and Britain, who both refuse to talk to
the Hamas government. Yesterday, Mr Haniyeh dismissed the call for early
elections as "unconstitutional".

In a separate incident, a Palestinian girl, 13, was shot by Israeli
troops near the West Bank barrier in the town of Tulkarem yesterday. The
Israeli military expressed regret and said a platoon commander and a
soldier had been suspended until an investigation was completed.

*5. Hamas Leader: We'll Accept Israel Within 1967 Borders*
By Rainer Rupp
Junge Welt (Germany)

Khaled Meshaal is the political leader of the Palestinian Hamas
movement, which earlier this year came to power with a large majority in
the free and democratic election in Palestine. In summer 2006, Israeli
Minister of Justice Haim Ramon publicly confirmed his government's order
to kill Khaled Meshaal. In 1997 in Amman, Jordan, Meshaal survived a
assassination attempt by Israel's secret service Mossad by a narrow
margin. Currently, the Hamas leader lives in Syrian asylum in Damascus
under strong security. Khaled, a physicist, is married and has three
daughters and four sons. He was interviewed by Rainer Rupp (RR), a
German journalist for the daily Junge Welt, published in Berlin with
nationwide distribution.

RR: Mr. Khaled Meshaal, as a leading politician of Hamas you are on the
assassination list of the Israeli intelligence service. How did you
become a member of the Islamic resistance movement against Israeli

KM: Actually, I am one of the founders of the Hamas movement. Inside
Hamas, the most prominent figure was the late Sheik Ahmed Yassin. When
the Hamas movement was established in the year 1987, I was 31 years old.
I was among the people who had built up branches inside and outside
Palestine. But the very idea of Hamas started already at the end of the
Seventies. The internal dialogue and deliberation lasted for more than
10 years in order to establish a movement against Israeli occupation.
But the very project of the movement had already been in my heart and in
my mind when I was still at Kuwait University. At the age of 21, I
represented the Islamic movement in the students' general union at

RR: For many years there has been the suggestion in the Western media
that Israeli intelligence was instrumental in the creation of Hamas. I
suppose you know about this story?

KM: Unfortunately this tale is told by some Arabs, Palestinian Arabs. It
is an attempt to distort the image of our movement. We consider this
charge as something so ridiculous, that we don't even bother to deny it.
It is so illogical. How come, that Israel should establish an
organization that will combat Israel, how is that possible?

RR: The argument is, the Israelis helped to create Hamas in order to
divide the Palestinian resistance and weaken the Fatah movement.

KM: Indeed, during the Seventies, the main Palestinian force that was
combating Israel was the Fatah movement. Consequently, Israel
concentrated its fighting against Fatah and the other, smaller groups of
Palestinian resistance, which existed in this period. At that time,
however, Hamas was not yet properly established. We were only starting
to build our social base in Palestinian society, by focusing entirely on
social affairs, organizing help, building hospitals and schools, looking
after the sick and deprived. In that era, we were only involved in
peaceful actions. This is why Israel did not do anything against us.

Because they did not know at the time what was going on in our minds.
But, while we were focussing outwardly only on social and educational
work, at the same time we were secretly already training and preparing
for our future resistance projects. Because the Israelis did not see
this danger, they concentrated their actions against other brigades, not
against us. And it is this Israeli inaction against us which some
Palestinian Arab elements unfriendly towards Hamas present as "proof"
that Israel was supporting the creation of Hamas.

RR: Recently, Hamas' relations with the Fatah movement have been very
strained. Is there still a chance for a national unity government?

KM: There is a positive atmosphere between the movement of Hamas and
Fatah to create a unity government. Since month one we have agreed in
principle on the creation of such a unity government. Recently, however,
some obstacles have started to appear. The first obstacle was that there
were efforts to bring us back to a "government of technocrats," not
forward to the national unity government. This is how they want to
remove Hamas from the government. And the second obstacle is that the
guarantees for lifting the blockade are still not sufficient.

RR: Guarantees? Guarantees from the West?

KM: Yes, from America.

We made an agreement, that once we have formed a government of national
unity, the siege shall be lifted. Hamas is very serious about this. We
are keen to end the suffering of the Palestinian people. But as our
movement got the majority of votes and has the most seats in parliament,
we also have the right to have the major influence in this government.
The main dilemma now is that there are forces which deny us this right.

RR: One of the key issues is the so-called recognition of "Israel's
right to exist." Is Hamas prepared to change its position on this
matter? Especially as the West has made this issue a condition sine qua
non for the lifting of the blockade against a Hamas-led Palestinian

KM: I think the Western world has understood by now that Hamas will
never recognize Israel. How can I recognize the one who occupies my
land? It is illogical that it is demanded of Hamas to recognize Israel.
I am the victim. I am the man who is not free. I am the man living in
the Diaspora away from my land. Israel has got a kind of a nation that
was imposed as a fait accompli by the United Nations. We don't have a
nation. More than half of the Palestinian people are living in the
Diaspora, mostly in camps, and they can't go home. Because of Israel
they can't go home – and we should recognize Israel? Who is actually in
the wrong, us or Israel?

RR: But the two-state theory which the Americans are promoting envisages
a Palestinian state next to an Israeli state. Is this also absolutely
unacceptable for Hamas?

KM: No. No. Let me say that the Hamas movement will only establish a
Palestinian state within the borders of 1967; that includes East
Jerusalem and the West Bank. Up till now, Israel does not recognize this
right for us. All the Palestinians are demanding is this right. But
Israel keeps violating Palestinian rights, and the West is unwilling to
force Israel to recognize the Palestinian rights.

Even when President Bush talked about a Palestinian state, it was not
clear cut. And Ariel Sharon and recently Ehud Olmert have made a lot of
reservations about Bush's proposal. They are rejecting the idea of an
Israeli state within its 1967 borders. They want an Israeli state, which
includes parts of the West Bank. Actually, President Bush had even
agreed to Sharon's proposal for Israel to keep all of Jerusalem. And he
agreed with Sharon to choose the right Palestinian leader who would
accept all this.

RR: Have I understood you correctly that you would be prepared to
negotiate with Israel and accept it within its borders of 1967, before
it started its wars of aggression, stealing Palestinian land?

KM: Good, that has been made clear.

RR: In the West, Hamas is generally depicted as being absolutely against
talks with Israel and [it's believed] that Hamas only wants to drive the
Israeli Jews into the sea.

KM: This is not correct. Killing Jews is not our aim. For centuries we
have lived in Palestine peacefully with Jews and Christians of all
kinds. We are fighting Israel because it occupies our land and oppresses
our people. We are fighting Israel to finish this occupation. We want to
live freely on our land just as other nations. We want to have our own
country just like other people. But the Zionist movement came from all
over the world to occupy our land. And the real owner of the land has
been kicked out. This is the root of the problem.

Because of many factors, we now accept to build a Palestinian state
within the borders of 1967. But that doesn't mean that we recognize
Israel. But we are prepared to make a long-term truce with Israel.
Accepting the status of Israel without recognizing it.

RR: But no recognition? Doesn't that mean continued tensions and war?

KM: No. There are plenty of examples where no recognition does not mean
war. China and Taiwan, for example, have not recognized each other, but
they trade and cooperate with each other. By withholding a formal
recognition, we just don't want to give Israel the legitimacy for having
taken our land in the first place.

RR: It is no secret that for many years under the Fatah government the
Palestine security services have been trained and equipped by the
Americans, namely the CIA. Is it therefore not reasonable to assume that
a whole lot of people in the movement of the Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas are secretly working for the Americans and Israelis, some
possibly in top positions? How far could you trust Fatah if you were to
build a national unity government together?

KM: This problem is well-known for us and for the rest of the
Palestinians. But not all of the people of Fatah are of this kind. There
is a huge motivation within Fatah, which is "nationality." They are our
partners in the resistance. But there are others, the people you spoke
about. That is a fact. We know the problem quite well and we are dealing
with it. Moreover, the relationship is not, by necessity, always based
upon trust.

RR: Do you think that this problem is also at the root of the
difficulties you are having right now with Fatah in creating a unity

KM: Yes, that's right. This is one of the problems. Unfortunately, there
are these factors and pressures which are following foreign agendas that
influence negatively the Palestinian arena. But the patriotic forces are
the ones that are going to win. The Palestinian people have confirmed
this in the latest democratic elections.

RR: Is Hamas a movement of religious fanatics, as it is portrayed in the
West? A movement with which one cannot deal? Yet Hamas has been accepted
and invited to Moscow by the Russian government and here (in Syria) you
are guests of a secular state. Is this all a disguise? Which is the true

KM: Well, let me give you an example. We have, for instance, good
relations with Christians

RR: Are you actually working together with the Christians in Palestine?

KM: Yes, with some of them.

This image of religious fanaticism has been fabricated by Israel and the
American administration. It is an image that does not reflect the facts.
You know that the American administration gives itself the right to
classify people just the way they like. But how can respectable states
in Europe, like Britain, Germany, or France, be influenced by this
propaganda? Should they not search for the truth themselves? Should they
not form their views on the basis of reason instead of rumors and hearsay?

But how should the West discover the truth about Palestine and Hamas?
First, the Western journalists should come here to meet the people and
see the facts with their own eyes. Go to Palestine and see how the
people live. Listen to what the people have to say. Listen to leaders of
Hamas and other Palestinian movements. You should learn the truth
through direct contacts and not through others. And if you want to know
about Hamas, then go and meet the people from Hamas. We are ready for

If you are looking for reasons why Hamas won the election, then it is
because the Palestinian people trust us and because Hamas reflects the
feelings and the aspirations of the Palestinian people. And if you
scrutinize Hamas closely, then you will not find any corruption
whatsoever. But you will find that Hamas is very close to the people,
that it is really serving the needs of the people. And if the people of
Palestine elected Hamas, then the will of the people should be respected
also by the West.

RR: But what about the reproach of religious fanaticism?

KM: That is easy to refute. If Hamas was a movement of religious
fanatics, it wouldn't have been elected by the Palestinian people,
because in Palestine there are many groups. And there are also
Christians, who work together with us. For instance, one of the members
of parliament in Gaza who was elected on the Hamas list is a Christian
doctor. And the majority of Muslims and Christians gave him their vote.
The fact is that the ideas of Hamas are moderate. We practice tolerance
with everybody. And we deal with Muslims and Christians at the same
level. And on this level we deal with everybody, either religious,
liberal, or secular, either inside or outside of Palestine. And we have
relations within the Middle East but also in Europe and Africa. Hamas is
an open movement. We do not combat Israel because they are Jews but
because they are occupying our land.

RR: The West is reproaching you that in this fight against Israel you
are committing acts of terrorism.

KM: No. There is a major difference between terrorism and resistance. We
are against terrorism. Resistance is not terrorism. What Israel is doing
is terrorism. What we are doing is resistance. Because it is a reaction
against the Israeli aggression and a reaction against the Israeli
occupation of our land. The resistance is the legal right to defend

*6. Confident Hamas stares down Abbas, West*
Agence France Presse (France)
December 20, 2006

With the US entangled in Iraq and Israel still licking its wounds from
its war in Lebanon, the ruling Palestinian movement Hamas feels more
confident than ever in its showdown with moderate president Mahmud
Abbas, analysts and officials say.

A months-long standoff between the radical Islamists and the moderate
Abbas spilled over into deadly violence this week after the Palestinian
leader called for early elections, a move virulently rejected by Hamas.

Eleven people, including two teenagers caught in crossfire, have been
killed in Gaza since Abbas’s call on Saturday for early polls.

Despite the violence -- and a nine-month freeze on direct Western aid to
the Palestinian government imposed after Hamas formed a cabinet -- the
Islamists show no sign of caving in to Western demands that they
renounce violence, recognize Israel and agree to past peace deals.

“The changes in the region are beginning to turn in our favor,” exiled
Hamas political supremo Khaled Meshaal said in a statement posted on the
website of the group’s armed wing this week.

“Nobody will force Hamas to change its policies using the siege, the
provocations and the chaos,” Meshaal said.

“The American defeat in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Lebanon and in
Palestine has left an impact on the United States, as we saw with the
Baker-Hamilton report,” he said.

He was referring to a high-level US panel that urged Washington to
jumpstart efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict if it wanted to
achieve its goals in the region, including in Iraq.

“Today, Israel is no longer in the Gaza Strip ... then Israel was
defeated in Lebanon and now Israel is unable to quell the intifada,” or
Palestinian uprising, which began in September 2000.

Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya offered a similar analysis after
returning last week from a tour of Arab states and Iran.
7. The reentry of regional rivalries*
By Ghassan Khatib
Bitter Lemons
December 20, 2006

One of the most prominent features of Palestinian politics after the
election victory of Hamas is the return of the influence of regional
forces on the internal Palestinian scene.

Such influence was one of the major problems in Palestinian politics
until the departure of the PLO from Beirut and later its return to the
Palestinian territories. Since then, regional influence waned in favor
of growing influence of the Palestinian public on the politics of the
different factions.

The election of Hamas with its regional and Islamic agenda opened the
door to the influence of countries like Syria and Iran. In turn, this
development is likely to bring other factions, especially Fateh, closer
to rival countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and their ally, the US.
In other words, competing Arab, regional and international forces have
made their reentry into Palestinian politics.

The sharp increase not only in the rhetorical involvement of Iran in the
Palestinian cause, but also its substantial financial support of Hamas
and its government, is evidence of that new and dangerous development.
Syria, which has been under growing American pressure, has in turn found
in its relations and influence on Hamas yet another card to add to Iraq
and Lebanon in maneuvering out from under this pressure.

The growing influence of the external Hamas leadership, which is based
in Syria and financially supported by Iran, also complicated the
internal Palestinian political scene and contributed to the deadlock in
the internal dialogue. It is ironic and interesting that the main
response to the initiative of President Mahmoud Abbas for early
elections came from Damascus, where the opposition factions led by Hamas
met. Only after that did Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh reject Abbas'
initiative. It is also interesting to note that the deputy prime
minister presented a milder reaction to the initiative.

In general the regional agenda, which partially influences the political
positions and behavior of Hamas, has contributed to the growing tensions
and confrontations between Hamas and Fateh.

The unfortunate conclusion is that the Palestinian cause and Palestinian
politics have been caught up in the regional and international
polarization. This has been at the expense of a genuine Palestinian
agenda and in contradiction to the desire and interest of the
Palestinian public.

The idea of early elections, regardless of the motives behind it, might
help bring back to the attention of Palestinian politicians and
political parties--religious or nationalist--the priorities of the
public and consequently reduce the influence of foreign, regional and
international forces, in favor of the priorities of the people.

But there are also lessons for international powers. This new and
complicated political situation is another example of the interaction of
the different conflicts in the region. This realization is finally
dawning in the centers of power in Washington and was articulated by US
officials in the Baker-Hamilton report, which encouraged the US
administration to deal more seriously with the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict in order to neutralize the radicalization process in the Arab
8. O.K. from a declining America?*
By Gideon Samet
December 20, 2006

Behind Ehud Olmert's fuzzy talk about hewing to the American opposition
to negotiations with Syria hides a sorry pretext used by an agenda-free
prime minister, but also one of the most important issues for the future
of Israel.

Not only "bloated putzes in the media," as Olmert so rudely put it
recently, are criticizing the prime minister for refusing to talk with
Damascus and for waiting for the O.K. from Washington. Amos Oz, for
example, joined them yesterday. And it is not true that Olmert has no
agenda. He has a full agenda, stuffed to bursting with "no"s. No, to
Syria, following his no to talking with the Palestinian leadership, no
to removing outposts that laugh at the law, no to any measures that
would reduce the suffering of the entire population in the Gaza Strip,
no and no again to changing the prime minister's arrogant style.

Together with all these negatives is one big yes: Olmert, nodding in
agreement with George Bush's no-no's. With Syria, Olmert grasps the
pretext, because he will not admit the real reason: He does not want to
come down from the Golan Heights. In one of his recent awkward
declarations, Olmert stated that "as long as I'm prime minister, the
Golan Heights will remain in our hands for eternity." We will find out
soon enough just how eternal is Olmert's rule. In the meantime, he will
avoid getting caught up in a political move that poses such danger to
him, such as agreeing to evacuate tens of thousands of in the north and
withdrawing to Lake Kinneret.

Yet, unlike Olmert, however, the U.S. is not what it once was, when
President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion
immediately to leave Sinai in 1957; when Secretary of State Henry
Kissinger declared, in 1975, a "reassessment" of U.S. policy on Israel
because of its refusal to agree to an interim arrangement in Sinai; when
President Bill Clinton dragged Israel and the Palestine Liberation
Organization to Camp David. In the past decade, bookshelves and columns
of top commentators have been filled with descriptions of the weakening
of the American giant. It has become almost banal to talk about the
decline of the Empire.

Discussing this historical process, illustrated pointedly by the
abortive attempt to reeducate the Middle East, aimed at proving that the
world's only superpower can no longer act unilaterally, because its
power has waned too much. In his 2002 masterpiece, "The Paradox of
American Power," Professor Joseph Nye, Dean of Harvard's Kennedy School
of Government, foresaw serious consequences for the U.S. internationally
and domestically if it insisted on an "unrealistic imposition" of
schedules and of forceful intervention.

As in Israel, despite the differences, critics of declining American
imperialism point to an overly narrow focus on the national interest.
This is also the claim of the Baker-Hamilton Report. The U.S. is still
motivated by some sense of being divinely chosen, which is rooted in the
moralistic thinking of the country's early history. There is opposition
even within the national consensus to this impulse toward hegemony and a
unipolar world that is leading the U.S. to disasters. Among other
things, this impulse deepens the hatred of American culture. Some here
might compare this by-product with the rise in anti-Semitism in the West
as a result of the Israeli occupation.

I once suggested, in these pages, that the power-drunk behavior of the
Bush era be termed the "Israelization of America." Now Olmert believes
he will be doing a favor to Israel by means of its Americanization. It
won't work. The "illusion of control" and the "end of the American
epoch" - key terms to the critical discussion of the past several years
in the West - require sensitive Israeli attention. Equally to be noted
is the almost obsessive talk in the U.S. of the imminent end (again, as
happened six and a half years ago) of the bull market on Wall Street.

Such sensitivity invites, at the very least, a reshaping and updating of
Israeli politics in accordance with what appears to be an obvious
Israeli interest: a rational agenda instead of a slothful slouching
after a wandering and habitually goring American bull.

*9. Moving on to the next scandal...*
By Uzi Benziman
December 20, 2006

A month ago, Haaretz ran a sensational story on its front page: Reporter
Nadav Shragai gave a detailed description of the findings of a Peace Now
report, which said that close to 40 percent of the land under the
control of West Bank settlements is privately owned by Palestinians. The
report was based on an official state database that Peace Now leaked.

Haaretz was the only Israeli media outlet that adequately covered the
report. The Maariv daily gave a synopsis of the report on page six;
Israel Radio announced it in its midday broadcast; and it stayed on
various electronic news sites for about a day. The remaining media
outlets, including Yedioth Ahronoth, the television stations and Army
Radio, completely ignored it.

The media was not alone in underplaying the findings of the report and
avoiding its implications (except for Haaretz, which ran follow-up
analyses by Shragai, Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff). The key subjects
of the report also adopted a tactic of minimizing it: No official
government response was issued, the Civil Administration put out a
statement saying, among other things, that "an initial review of the
report shows that it suffers from serious inaccuracies," and the Yesha
Council of settlements claimed that there was nothing new in the report
and that Peace Now would use any means to fight Jewish settlement.

In contrast to the low-profile response to the report offered by the
state and the Israeli media, it received a great deal of attention
abroad: The New York Times published it as its lead story, and other
large newspapers followed suit; and the report's authors, Dror Etkes and
Hagit Ofran, were interviewed by dozens of radio and television stations
throughout the world. Etkes and Ofran estimate that their findings were
covered by hundreds of media outlets. Etkes was also interviewed by
Israel Radio - along with Benny Kashriel, mayor of the Ma'aleh Adumim
settlement - but only as a result of a report by the station's
Washington correspondent, Yaron Dekel, about the buzz that the findings
had produced in the United States.

What is more interesting than the extent of the coverage that the report
received in Israel is the impression it left on Israeli public opinion:
A day after the modest announcement of its findings, the report
disappeared entirely from public discourse, except for one more
announcement by the Yesha Council challenging its reliability. The
parties on the left did not address it, the Knesset did not deliberate
it, the press did not deal with it, the government ignored it, and the
justice, defense and prime ministers were not asked to explain the
findings that it exposed.

What the Peace Now researchers found is that state organs stole private
lands from Palestinians living in the West Bank. The report found that
state bodies broke the law, ignored Supreme Court decisions and behaved
dishonestly, and certainly unethically. Peace Now claimed that 130
settlements were established, fully or partially, on private lands.
Note: These are properties that the state recognized as private land,
not private properties that were declared to be state land. This
involved the systematic and blatant violation by state agencies of the
property rights of thousands of Palestinians. This is the same
repugnant, underhanded and apparently criminal modus operandi that
attorney Talia Sasson detailed in the report she wrote on the
establishment of the illegal outposts.

Israel's conscience is entirely black. Scandal follows scandal, and
today's injustice wipes away yesterday's injustice in our consciousness.
Israeli society's heart is so hard when it comes to Palestinians in the
territories that it remains unmoved even when confronted with a scene of
continuous injustice that strips individuals of their property.

The malice, deception and aggression embodied in the way the state took
over lands belonging to private individuals, even if they are
Palestinians, ought to stir up every honest person, even if he is a
settler. This method has nothing to do with the ideological dispute over
the establishment of the settlements: The issue at stake is that
individuals have been stripped of their basic rights. The settlements
could have been set up solely on state land. However, a society that is
not shocked by the killing of innocent Palestinians will also not be
moved even slightly by the sight of land stolen from any individual
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