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March 29, 2013

President Obama in the Middle East

March 25, 2013 by

  • President Barack Obama meets National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, left, and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, in the conference room aboard Air Force One en route to Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama pauses as the national anthem of the United States is played during the official arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. The President is flanked by Israeli President Shimon Peres, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk with members of the Israeli Defense Forces in front of an Iron Dome launcher unit at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. Chuck Kennedy/White House

  • President Barack Obama shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the official arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. Israeli President Shimon Peres stands at left. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama walks across the tarmac with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • Kelly Adams-Smith, Executive Secretary for NSS, left, and Danielle Crutchfield, Director of Scheduling and Advance, wait aboard a helicopter at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, before departing for Jerusalem, March 20, 2013. Air Force One is seen in the background. Chuck Kennedy/White House

  • President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres approach the stage for a joint press conference at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013. Chuck Kennedy/White House

  • President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres participate in a press conference at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama greets members of Hora, a local children’s dance troupe, before departing Israeli President Shimon Peres’ residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama talks with senior advisors before a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013. Pictured, from left, are: National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; Pete Rouse, Counselor to the President; Press Secretary Jay Carney; Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer; and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before a press conference at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama participates in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama, along with members of the American and Israeli delegations, listen to a musical performance following a working dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk the grounds at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama views the Dead Sea Scrolls at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, views the Dead Sea Scrolls at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama talks privately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after viewing the Dead Sea Scrolls at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority pause as the national anthem of the United States is played during an official arrival ceremony in the courtyard of the Mugata Presidential Compound in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority participate in a bilateral meeting at the Mugata Presidential Compound in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • Secretary of State John Kerry talks with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority at the Mugata Presidential Compound in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama participates in a press conference with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority at the Mugata Presidential Compound in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama watch a dance performance at the Al-Bireh Youth Resource Development Center in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013. Dr. Samih Al-Abed, Chairman of the Board, Al-Bireh Youth Resource Development Center, left, and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority are seated with the President. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority at the Al-Bireh Youth Resource Development Center in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama participates in a youth roundtable at the Al-Bireh Youth Resource Development Center in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama departs aboard Marine One from the landing zone in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama walks on stage before delivering remarks at the Jerusalem Convention Center in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Jerusalem Convention Center in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. Chuck Kennedy/White House

  • Members of the audience listen as President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Jerusalem Convention Center in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama waves to the audience after delivering remarks at the Jerusalem Convention Center in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama shakes hands during a meet and greet at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama receives the Medal of Distinction from Israeli President Shimon Peres during a State Dinner at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. Chuck Kennedy/White House

  • President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres toast during a State Dinner at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama listens to a musical performance during a State Dinner hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama talks with guests before departing the President’s residence in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. Secretary of State John Kerry talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres at left. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama signs a guestbook after visiting the grave of Theodor Herzl during his visit to Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres stand with the President. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama pauses after placing a wreath at the grave of Yitzhak and Leah Rabin, during his visit to Mount Herzl, in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013. Standing with the President, from left, are: Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau; Israeli President Shimon Peres; Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu; and Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama visits the Hall of Names during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013. Standing with the President, from left, are: Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau; Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu; Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate; and Israeli President Shimon Peres. Chuck Kennedy/White House

  • President Barack Obama visits the Hall of Names during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013. Standing with the President, from left, are: Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau; Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu; Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate; and Israeli President Shimon Peres. Chuck Kennedy/White House

  • President Barack Obama pauses after adjusting a wreath placed in the Hall of Remembrance during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013. Standing behind the President, from left, are: Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau; Israeli President Shimon Peres; Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu; and Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate. Chuck Kennedy/White House

  • President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look out a window before their lunch at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • Phil Gordon, White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region, left, Ambassador Dan Shapiro, center, and Prem Kumar, Acting Senior Director for Middle East and North Africa, confer in a hallway as President Barack Obama has lunch with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority enter the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the West Bank, March 22, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama lights candles as he tours the crypt containing the birthplace of Jesus during his visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the West Bank, March 22, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama tours the crypt containing the birthplace of Jesus during his visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the West Bank, March 22, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority talk following their tour of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the West Bank, March 22, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • Clergy watch as the President’s motorcade prepares to depart the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the West Bank, March 22, 2013. Chuck Kennedy/White House

  • President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres embrace during a departure ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 22, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • A motorcycle escort accompanies President Barack Obama’s motorcade as it arrives at the Al Hummar Palace n Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama is greeted by King Abdullah II of Jordan upon his arrival at Al Hummar Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • Members of the White House press corps pass in front of Jordanian soldiers mounted on camels during the official arrival ceremony at Al Hummar Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013. Chuck Kennedy/White House

  • President Barack Obama and King Abdullah II of Jordan inspect the honor guard during the official arrival ceremony at Al Hummar Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013. Chuck Kennedy/White House

  • President Barack Obama and King Abdullah II of Jordan stand at the dais as the honor guard is dismissed during the official arrival ceremony at Al Hummar Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • Jordanian guards prepare to open a door at the Al Hummar Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama and King Abdullah II of Jordan participate in a bilateral meeting at Al Hummar in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013. Secretary of State John Kerry is seated at left. Chuck Kennedy/White House

  • President Barack Obama and King Abdullah II 0f Jordan participate in a joint press conference at Al Hummar Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama shake hands during a meet and greet with U.S. Embassy staff at the Four Seasons Hotel in Amman, Jordan, March 23, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • A United States Secret Service agent stands watch as Marine One descends towards a landing zone near Petra, Jordan, March 23, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama views the area near the Treasury during a walking tour of the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, March 23, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama watches as a vendor writes a name using colored sand in a bottle during a walking tour of the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, March 23, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama and Dr. Suleiman A.D. Al Farajat, a University of Jordan tourism professor, jump from a ledge of the Nabataean Amphitheater during a walking tour the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, March 23, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • A Jordanian soldier stands watch from a portion of the Nabataean Amphitheater as President Barack Obama and Dr. Suleiman walk through the ancient city of Petra, Jordan, March 23, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

  • President Barack Obama’s motorcade departs the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, March 23, 2013. Chuck Kennedy/White House

  • King Abdullah II of Jordan waves to President Barack Obama as he boards Air Force One at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, March 23, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

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Gimme Shelter: Jordan’s Refugee Past Makes for an Unsure Future

March 23, 2013 by

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter meets with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the Royal Palace compound in Amman, Jordan, Feb. 5, 2013

President Barack Obama rounded out his recent visit to the Middle East with a quick stopover in Jordan. Over the course of the Arab Spring, Jordan has remained the peaceful outlier in Middle Eastern politics, but recent events have put that position in grave peril.

As governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Syria underwent violent upheaval or regime transition over the past two and a half years, Jordan has thus far defended itself against all challengers. Surrounded by conflict on all sides - Iraq to its east, Syria to its north, and Israel and Palestine to its west - Jordan now may be rightly viewed as the eye of the storm rather than its safe harbor.

Decades of war have resulted in a deluge of Palestinian, Iraqi, and Syrian refugees taking up residence and valuable resources in the capital, Amman, and across the country. Already lacking sufficient supplies of water and having to import all of their gas and oil, Jordanians are not prepared to spare what little they have, according to the International Monetary Fund.

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President Obama’s Jerusalem Speech

March 22, 2013 by

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Turkey’s Limited Options with Israel

February 27, 2013 by

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Kuwaiti Prime Minister Nasir al-Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah attend a Turkish-Arab Relations Conference in Kuwait in 2011. Image via Kuwait-Ra’ed Qutena

An Israeli-Turkish rapprochement is unmistakably underway, but unlike the heyday of their political alignment of the 1990’s, the revamped relationship is likely to be more guarded and will pose a greater challenge to Turkey rather than to Israel. Israeli media referenced a report by the Turkish newspaper Radikal with much interest, regarding secret talks between Turkey and Israel that could yield an Israeli apology for its army’s raid against the Turkish aid flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, which was on its way to Gaza in May 2010. The assault resulted in the death of 9 Turkish activists, including a US citizen.

The attack wrought a crisis unseen since the rise of the Turkish-Israeli alliance starting in 1984, followed by a full blown strategic partnership in 1996. But that crisis didn’t necessarily start at the Mavi Marmara deadly attack, or previous Israeli insults of Turkey. Nor did it begin with the Israeli so-called Operation Cast Lead against besieged Gaza in Dec 2008, which resulted in the death and wounding of thousands of Palestinians, mostly civilians.

According to the Radikal report (published in Feb 20 and cited by Israeli Haaretz two days later), Israel is willing to meet two of Turkey’s conditions for the resumption of full ties: an apology, and compensation to the families of the victims. “Turkey has also demanded Israel lift the siege,” on Gaza, Haaretz reported, citing Radikal, “but is prepared to drop that demand.”

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Conditions Ripe for a Palestinian Spring?

February 27, 2013 by

Activists gathered in Gaza for a rally to show disapproval of Palestinian governance by both Hamas and Fatah. Issam Rimawi/APA via The Electronic Intifada

The waves of mass demonstrations that swept through Tunisia and Egypt have so far passed the people of the Palestinian territories by. But those events have inspired a youth movement which may have a chance at mobilizing the masses in the first entirely nonviolent Palestinian resistance.  There is today a significant amount of frustration across a broad segment of Palestinian society. The peace process with Israel appears incurably stalled, and there is deep anger at the continued failure of Fatah and Hamas, the disputing political factions, to deliver on their promise of reconciliation.

“I’ve never seen the West Bank like this before, it’s a ticking time bomb,” says Fadi Elsalameen, a youth leader based in Hebron. “I’m predicting very soon you’ll see every sector of society join in a mass peaceful protest in Palestine.”

The leaders of Palestine’s “March 15” youth movement, a number of whom were interviewed for this article, have attempted to leverage growing discontent into large-scale protests. So far, they have been unable to replicate the success of their Cairo counterparts. The largest demonstration on 15 March 2011, from which the movement takes its name, saw only a couple of thousand turn out in Ramallah, and around 10,000 in Gaza City. “In Palestine, there’s protest fatigue,” says Robert Blecher, director of the Arab-Israeli project at the International Crisis Group. “It’s not going to catch fire until there’s a clear goal”.

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Benjamin Netanyahu weakened following Elections

January 24, 2013 by

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement at his office in Jerusalem, 23 January 2013. Netanyahu narrowly won an election in which disgruntled voters catapulted a new centrist challenger into second place. Darren Whiteside/EPA via The Conversation

It was the incalculable element – would Israel veer more broadly to the right, or would that course be checked by various political elements to the centre? The money was on a good showing by orthodox and nationalist forces that would push Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition into an even more extreme position on compromise (or non-compromise) with the Palestinians.

Instead, the political commentators were baffled. Benjamin Netanyahu won the narrowest of victories for his right-wing bloc (his own Likud-Biteinu grouping getting 31 seats), assailed by a good showing by Yesh Atid, party whose slogan is “We’ve come to make a change.”

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Articulating ‘Palestine’ Despite Israeli Hasbara

January 10, 2013 by

President Obama with Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office. Pete Souza/White House

What does a Palestinian farmer who is living in a village tucked in between the secluded West Bank hills, a prisoner on hunger strike in an Israeli jail and a Palestinian refugee roaming the Middle East for shelter all have in common? They are all characters in one single, authentic, solid and cohesive narrative. The problem however, is that western media and academia barely reflect that reality or intentionally distort it, disarticulate it and when necessary, defame its characters.

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Tragedy of Syria’s Palestinians and Centrality of Right of Return

December 26, 2012 by

Syrian Independence Flag behind a Free Syrian Army fighter. Image via Freedom House

It must have been 2007, although I cannot remember the exact date. I do recall getting lost in what seemed like a futile search for the headquarters of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in Rome. There was a meeting of NGOs and some General Assembly body, consisting of several UN ambassadors, dedicated to the ‘Question of Palestine’. I was asked to attend on behalf of one NGO. Timidly, I agreed.

Knowing in advance how such meetings often conclude – reiterating old statements, rehashing old text, reaffirming this and reasserting that – I still attended. The subject of the discussion was the Palestinian refugees, who, for most Palestinians, aside from Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, still represent the core of any just solution to a decades-long Palestinian struggle for freedom and rights. I was compelled by a greater sense of urgency than the need to restate and reconfirm official UN text. A few days earlier in London, I had received a worrying call.

The caller was a young Palestinian man named Hossam who was stranded at the Jordan-Iraq border. Two of his brothers had been killed in Iraq in recent months. One was executed in the Baladiat neighborhood in Baghdad, which then hosted mostly Palestinian refugees. The other was killed by US forces.

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The Role of the ICC in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

December 10, 2012 by

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the UN General Assembly. Marco Castro/UN

“Yes, the occupation will continue, the settlements will continue, the crimes of the settlers may continue, but there will be consequences.”

– Saeb Erekat, Palestinian negotiator.

To the delight of many states and the dismay and indignation of some, Palestine has made a step forward on the international stage. Last week, the UN General Assembly accepted the request which granted Palestine the status of a “non-member observer State”. Palestine’s role at the UN will not undergo a drastic change, but the International Criminal Court might be mentioned more often in the future when we read about the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Palestine is now eligible to sign the Rome Statute of the ICC with possible consequences for Israel. These consequences might appear in the form of Palestinian demands to investigate and prosecute alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes conducted by Israel.

Palestine recognized the ICC’s jurisdiction already in 2009, albeit unsuccessfully as the ICC rejected the unilateral declaration on the grounds that Palestine does not fulfill the basic prerequisite of being a state. Importantly, the ICC claimed that in the case of a dispute about the question whether an applicant does meet the requirements attributed to statehood, the UN Secretary General, who receives the instrument of accession, would follow the advice of the UN General Assembly. The Assembly has now spoken and decided in favor of Palestine. The ICC was established by the Rome Statute and is tasked to hold individuals accountable for crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, aggression, and genocide. Palestine is likely to address crimes on its territory such as forced displacement and persecution. Israel, which is not a state party to the Rome Statute of the ICC, would struggle to justify these alleged crimes as military necessity.

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Palestine’s New Status: A Rerun or a New Strategy?

December 6, 2012 by

Palestine has become a “non-member state” at the United Nations as of Thursday November 29, 2012.  The draft of the UN resolution beckoning what many perceive as a historic moment passed with an overwhelming majority of General Assembly members: 138 votes in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions.

It was accompanied by a passionate speech delivered by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. But decades earlier, a more impressive and animated Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat sought international solidarity as well. The occasion then was also termed ‘historic’.

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The Art of the Possible: Recognizing Palestinian Statehood

November 30, 2012 by

Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian delegation applaud after the vote on a resolution to upgrade Palestine’s status in the UN. Andrew Gombert/EPA

The road of history is a pot-holed one. But that doesn’t mean, despite the crashes and stutters, that we don’t eventually get past them. The UN vote over upgrading the Palestinians to non-member observer status within its claims to the 1967 borders is one example of that. The vote was passed today with the 193-member assembly voting 138-9 and 41 abstentions.  By no means does the vote suggest that Palestinian sovereignty is a foregone conclusion. Israel has done its best to curtail such efforts over the years since the Oslo Peace Process, and it does have a group of diminishing allies in that quest.

The Palestinians have not done themselves any favours in the broader quest for statehood either. These problems go back to 1947. Israel, in one of history’s cruel tricks, might be a Goliath presiding over matters of territory and control, but there are deadly divisions in their opponent’s effort to seek recognition.

Hamas, for one, refuses to compromise with Israel, seeing it as an entity that deserves obliteration. For that reason, any bargain on statehood that is ever struck with Israel is potentially sunk before it even sails. Israel reciprocates with a crippling blockade and retaliatory strikes against the Gaza strip for their limp efforts at military prowess, though there are a few suggestions that compromise might be possible – in the future. Fatah, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, has been sidelined in the broader debate, and will find hope in this vote.

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Long-term Peace in Gaza Depends on Egypt

November 26, 2012 by

The newly elected President of Egypt, Muhammad Morsi, confronted his greatest challenge to date in brokering a cease-fire between Hamas and Gaza last week – and by almost all accounts, he passed with flying colors.  The agreement ended nearly two weeks of intense violence on both sides, which resulted in more than one hundred and fifty deaths and thousands of wounded. Conducted under the auspices of the Egyptian government, the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel will provide welcome relief to both sides of the conflict. However, it still remains only a temporary measure.

The issues at the heart of the conflict – the Israeli imposed siege of Gaza and the rampant smuggling operations caused thereby – have not yet been addressed.

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Netanyahu’s High-Stakes Game in Gaza

November 24, 2012 by

President Obama with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Martin H Simon/EPA

Many key phrases have been presented to explain Israel’s latest military onslaught against Gaza, which left scores dead and wounded. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is flexing his muscles in preparation for the Israeli general elections in January, suggested some. It is Israel’s way of testing the administration of Egyptian President Mahmoud Morsi, commented others. It was a stern message to Iran, instructed few. Or that Israel is simply assessing its ‘deterrence’ capabilities. And so on.

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Gaza Ceasefire Leaves Unclear Picture of the Prospect for Peace

November 22, 2012 by

The conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is far from over. Ali Ali/EPA

Israeli air-raids on Gaza have stopped. Palestinian rockets are not being fired at Israel. The cease-fire seems to be holding. After seven days of war, and 157 Palestinian deaths (the great majority of whom were hapless civilians), international leaders are congratulating each other for achieving an end to hostilities. But the obvious question is, how long will it last?

The war and the ceasefire negotiations highlighted a number of factors that are less than reassuring for the prospects of peace.

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Operation Pillar of Defence: Death via Social Media

November 19, 2012 by

Social media has become a fixation for those dying the slow lonely life in suburbia to residents of frenetic inner metropolises. It galvanises political movements and enables groups to challenge mummified structures of power. But what is often forgotten is that it can just as well be used by those in power against those out of it.

Nothing has illustrated this better than the Israeli use of social media even as the IDF pummels positions on the Gaza Strip in Operation Pillar of Defence. Peter Kafka of All Things Digital sums up the effect of this strategy. “The idea is familiar to anyone who had a message to push in 2012: Instead of relying on middlemen like the press to convey your story, you can go over their heads, and right to your target audience.”

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