Gambling with conflict: How a neocon casino king from California funds the Israeli settler movement

The Israeli government has repeatedly announced plans to forge ahead with plans to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank in direct opposition to President Barack Obama’s demand for an absolute settlement freeze. On May 27, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leveled strong criticism at Israeli policy, telling reporters that President Barack Obama “wants to see a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not ‘natural growth’ exceptions.” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev responded by declaring that “normal life” in the settlements would continue, using a phrase that is code for continued construction. [continued…]

Obama talks of being ‘honest’ with Israel

President Obama indicated on Monday that he would be more willing to criticize Israel than previous administrations have been, and he reiterated his call for a freeze of Israeli settlements.

“Part of being a good friend is being honest,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with NPR News. “And I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory, in the region is profoundly negative, not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests.

“We do have to retain a constant belief in the possibilities of negotiations that will lead to peace,” he added. “I’ve said that a freeze on settlements is part of that.” [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — Honesty is good but it’s not enough. Obama and Netanyahu are now in a power struggle. If the US does not back up its position on settlements in some kind of punitive way, then in the eyes of the world in spite of all the fine talk and refreshing honesty, nothing will actually have changed in the US-Israeli dynamic — the Israelis will have demonstrated yet again that their ability to be unyielding and the fact that they suffer no consequences for their obstinacy, continues to be an effective political tactic.

UN: Israeli buffer zone eats up 30 percent of Gaza’s arable land

Israel’s warning came from the sky, as it often does in the Gaza Strip. But this time warplanes dropped neither bombs nor missiles on the impoverished Palestinian territory, but thousands of tiny leaflets warning Gaza’s residents to keep away from the 30-mile-long border they share with Israel.

Stay at least 300 meters (1,000 feet) from the border, the May 25 pamphlets advised Palestinians, or risk being shot by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

Once a plush scene of rolling olive, citrus, and pomegranate groves, much of the border region is now just a barren landscape, marked only by the presence of IDF tanks, military watchtowers, and the occasional pop of gunfire. [continued…]

Hezbollah spices up Israel-Iran mix

Where Iran has Hezbollah, Israel has Jundallah, given Israel’s apparent efforts to destabilize Iran by playing an “ethnic card” against it. This, by some reports, it is doing by nurturing the Sunni Islamist group Jundallah to parallel Tehran’s support for Lebanon’s formidable Shi’ite group, Hezbollah, that is favored to win parliamentary elections on June 7.

Should the Hezbollah-led coalition win as anticipated, the result will be even closer military-to-military relations between Iran and Lebanon, reflected in Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrollah’s recent statement that he would look to Tehran to modernize Lebanon’s army.

Rattled by the prospect of an even-stronger Iranian influence in Lebanon in the near future, the Israeli government, which is on the defensive internationally over its stance on the Palestinian issue, has gone on the offensive. It is upping the ante against Iran by focusing on covert activities inside Iran, according to a recent report in the Washington Post, to “disrupt Iran’s nuclear program” – so far without much success. [continued…]

Inside Lebanese Hezbollah militia

Ahead of key elections in Lebanon, BBC News has gained rare access to a fighter of the powerful military wing of Hezbollah, which stands a strong chance of making political gains via the ballot box.

As President Barack Obama prepares to address the Arab world in Cairo this week, one dilemma that his administration will face is the growing political clout of Hezbollah.

In the US and Britain, the group is proscribed, but in Lebanon, Hezbollah and its allies stand a strong chance of winning the upcoming parliamentary election. [continued…]

Pakistan releases ‘top militant’

Pakistani court has ordered the release of the leader of an Islamic charity suspected of being a front for a group accused of the Mumbai attacks.

The court ruled the continued house arrest of Jamaat-ud-Dawa founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed was unconstitutional.

The charity is accused of being a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group India says was behind the attacks. Jamaat-ud-Dawa denies any links with militants. [continued…]

No winner seen in Somalia’s battle with chaos

Somalia is once again a raging battle zone, with jihadists pouring in from overseas, preparing for a final push to topple the transitional government.

The government is begging for help, saying that more peacekeepers, more money and more guns could turn the tide against the Islamist radicals.

But the reality may be uglier than either side is willing to admit: Somalia has become the war that nobody can win, at least not right now.

None of the factions — the moderate Islamist government, the radical Shabab militants, the Sufi clerics who control some parts of central Somalia, the clan militias who control others, the autonomous government of Somaliland in the northwest and the semiautonomous government of Puntland in the northeast — seem powerful enough, organized enough or popular enough to overpower the other contenders and end the violence that has killed thousands over the past two years. [continued…]

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