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A Week of Dimming Peace Prospects September 26, 2009

Posted by Helena Cobban in Uncategorized.
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WASHINGTON, Sep 25 (IPS) – Eight months after Barack Obama launched his presidency by promising a speedy push for Palestinian-Israeli peace, that effort has stalled badly. And there are now growing fears that the top levels of Obama’s peace team are torn by internal disagreements that may undermine the whole peace effort.

Some of these problems were on view during two high-level appearances Obama made in New York this week.

On Tuesday, speaking to the media after the three-way meeting he held with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Obama notably avoided saying anything about the failure of the high-profile campaign he and his chief peace envoy, George Mitchell, have pursued to “persuade” the Israeli government to stop building settlement housing in the occupied West Bank.

Obama instead announced a new project: the resumption of the long-suspended negotiations between the parties over the terms of their final peace.

Most observers – in Palestine, Israel, and the U.S. – interpreted Tuesday’s events as marking two distinct victories for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Obama and Netanyahu Still Tussling over Priorities September 18, 2009

Posted by Helena Cobban in Uncategorized.
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NEW YORK , Sep 18 (IPS) – As world leaders prepare to gather here for the all-star “general debate” at the U.N. General Assembly on Sep. 23, two of them – U.S. Pres. Barack Obama and Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu – are still tussling over whether to prioritise their anti-Iran campaign or the push for a Palestinian-Israeli peace.

In recent days, there have been big developments in both areas. On Sep. 11, the Obama administration announced that it will take part, along with the other members of the “P5+1” group, in a major round of nuclear talks with Iran scheduled for Oct. 1.

Then on Tuesday, Judge Richard Goldstone presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council a painstakingly investigated report that accused both Israel and some Palestinian armed groups of having committed war crimes during Israel’s assault on Gaza last winter.

That development, along with Netanyahu’s recent announcement of yet more housing starts for West Bank settlers, increased the international pressure on Obama to announce long-awaited new steps in the Palestinian-Israeli peace diplomacy.

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NGO Reports on Gaza War Belie Israeli Claims September 11, 2009

Posted by Helena Cobban in Uncategorized.
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Analysis by Helena Cobban*

WASHINGTON, Sep 11 (IPS) – This week, two respected human rights organisations – one Palestinian, one Israeli – each came out with very full reports into the extent of the damage caused by the assault Israel waged against Gaza last winter.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), which is based in Gaza, 1,419 Palestinians were killed during the fighting, of whom 252 were combatants and the rest noncombatants, including members of the civilian police. Three hundred and eighteen of those killed were, it said, children.

The Israeli group B’Tselem (“In the Image”) tallied 1,387 Gazans killed by the Israelis, including 320 minors. It assessed that 330 of those killed had taken part in the hostilities. B’Tselem also noted that three Israeli civilians and nine soldiers were killed during the fighting.

The Israeli government earlier claimed that 1,166 Palestinians were killed in the fighting, of whom only 89 were minors under the age of 16, while 60 percent were “members of Hamas and other armed groups”.

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IRAQ: Stormy Times as U.S. Withdraws September 4, 2009

Posted by Helena Cobban in Uncategorized.
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Analysis by Helena Cobban

WASHINGTON, Sep 5 (IPS) – Political violence in Iraq killed 456 Iraqis in August, the highest monthly death toll since July 2008. And with the U.S. showing no sign it plans to reverse the troop withdrawal that is now well underway, numerous struggles for power are shaping up inside Iraq.

They involve both competing factions within the country and also, perhaps more ominously, several neighbouring countries.

These levels of violence are deeply entwined, as was shown by the aftershocks of the most deadly of August’s acts of violence: on Aug. 19, unknown parties, suspected to be disgruntled Sunnis, detonated large vehicle bombs outside three Iraqi ministries, killing 95 people and injuring more than 600.

Shortly afterward, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused Syria of giving safe haven to the men who masterminded the bombings, whom he identified as followers of Iraq’s former Baathist rulers. (Close observers of the Iraqi scene are divided on the authenticity of the televised “confessions” on which he based this charge.)

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