When will President Obama abandon the Bush doctrine of isolating Hamas? During a press conference in Gaza City a few weeks ago, Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, declared: “If there is a real project that aims at resolving the Palestinian cause on establishing a Palestinian state on 1967 borders, under full Palestinian sovereignty, we will support it.” And in an interview shortly after, Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas’s political bureau, welcomed the “new language towards the region” from President Obama.
Hamas is trying to convey to the US its willingness to accept a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that it is willing to play a productive rather than obstructionist role in the peace process. But is the US listening?
It depends on what the US is listening for. If the US is waiting for Hamas to accept its three demands to renounce violence, honour past agreements and recognise Israel’s right to exist, it will probably be disappointed. To expect your opponent to give up all of its leverage before negotiations actually begin is hardly realistic. Rather, the US should interpret Hamas’s statements with two points in mind. [continued…]
There is no sign of a slowdown in the construction of homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank despite Israel’s announcement that it has stopped approving new building, the Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said in a report issued Sunday.
Under U.S. pressure to freeze settlements, Israel indicated last week it had stopped green-lighting new construction projects, part of an attempt to bridge the gap between the two allies. The efforts to achieve an elusive agreement on settlements will continue this week at a London meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell.
But while Peace Now confirms the freeze on approval for new projects, the group’s report says settlement construction is continuing and that settlers can easily build thousands of housing units based on old plans that have already been approved.
There is existing permission for the construction of up to 40,000 housing units, the report said. Construction has begun on around 600 new housing units in 2009, it said. [continued…]