“Hamas is very close on recognition of Israel,” says Ahmed Yousef, the Islamist movement’s deputy foreign minister, speaking from the top floor of a high-rise building in Gaza City. “We show all sorts of ideological flexibility on this.” That does not, alas, mean he can unequivocally accept the three conditions the Quartet (the United States, the European Union, the UN and Russia) laid down three years ago if Hamas is to join international negotiations. But he comes close to doing so, sounding almost desperate to stretch the semantic elastic to satisfy the doubters. It is a formulation that sticks closely to the enunciations of both Khaled Meshaal, the movement’s Syria-based leader, and Ismail Haniyeh, its prime minister in Gaza.
Hamas “honours” all previous agreements of the Palestine Liberation Organisation [with Israel], which include recognition, provided the other side abides by all its reciprocal promises. Hamas is ready to extend its present “unilateral ceasefire” if the other side formally agrees to one: not exactly the Quartet’s demand for a definitive disavowal of violence. And when it comes to recognising Israel, “the issue is not Israel’s right to exist. We know Israel is there. It’s not a matter of recognition.” The distinction, it seems, is a semantic but nonetheless ticklish one: between acceptance and recognition. Some diplomats draw an analogy with the Irish republicans of Sinn Fein, who engaged in negotiations with Britain over Northern Ireland after disavowing violence, but still refused to accept the province’s legitimacy as part of the United Kingdom. [continued…]
Saudi Arabia praised the Obama administration Friday for its “early and robust focus” on the Middle East while rebuffing its efforts to push Riyadh to take confidence-building steps toward Israel.
“Incrementalism and the step-by-step approach has not, and we believe will not, achieve peace,” said the visiting Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at his side. “Temporary security, confidence-building measures will also not bring peace.”
Former Senate majority leader George J. Mitchell, President Obama’s special envoy for Middle East peace, has traveled almost monthly to the region, seeking to coax the Israelis and Palestinians into peace talks while also encouraging Arab states to offer incentives to Israel to take bold steps, such as a freeze on settlement growth in the Palestinian territories. [continued…]
Police on Sunday submitted a recommendation for the state prosecution to indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on charges of bribery, fraud, money laundering, witness harassment and obstruction of justice.
A police source has said the investigation is “practically over,” and the body of evidence is sufficient to support an indictment on the charges.
Last month, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz met with police investigations division head Yoav Sigalovich, national fraud squad head Shlomo Ayalon and detectives involved in the investigation. [continued…]
It has been nearly a decade since the Jewish settlement of Migron appeared on the hilltop opposite this Palestinian village, beginning with a communications tower and followed by a cluster of homes and a fence around approximately 90 acres of land.
Data tucked onto the hard drive of anti-settlement activist Dror Etkes’s computer indicates that the land belongs to the residents of Burqa and nearby Deir Dibwan, and Etkes said he expects that information will one day force the settlers to leave.
The compulsion won’t come from Israel’s politicians, world public opinion or the Obama administration, Etkes contends, but from Israel’s Supreme Court, where local advocacy groups are having increased success challenging settlements with simple property claims. [continued…]