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Pedro Gonçalves

AFP: Hamas hails US policy change, ready for new unity talks - 0 views

  • "We hail the new line from Barack Obama towards Hamas. It is the first step towards direct talks without preconditions," Meshaal said from his base in the Syrian capital Damascus.
  • Meshaal said Hamas would "work swiftly to end the rifts in Palestinian ranks and achieve national reconciliation through talks being brokered by Egypt.

    "To this end, a delegation will travel to Cairo in the next two days to tackle the obstacles," Meshaal added.

  • Egyptian mediators have set a July 7 target date for a deal to reconcile Hamas and the West Bank-based Palestinian leadership of president Mahmud Abbas after months of faltering negotiations to mend the rift sparked by the Islamists' 2007 seizure of Gaza.
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  • Western aid for the reconstruction of Gaza after Israel's devastating offensive at the turn of the year is dependent on the outcome of the talks.
  • n recent days Hamas officials have signalled that they may be ready to accept a Palestinian state limited to the territories seized in the 1967 Middle East war despite a commitment in the movement's charter to regaining the whole of historic Palestine.
  • Hamas has "no illusions about the new policy... we want change on the ground that will bring about an end to the occupation," he said.
  • "No leader has the right to compromise on the right of return. We reject the permanent resettlement of Palestinian abroad, for instance in Jordan," he said.
  • "We reject the position taken by Netanyahu... on east Jerusalem, settlement activity, the right of return of Palestinian refugees and his vision of a demilitarised Palestinian state deprived of sovereignty over its land, air space and territorial waters," Meshaal said.
  • "We are opposed to Israel being a Jewish state ... because that would amount to the denial of the rights of the six million Palestinain refugees," Meshaal added, slamming the position of the new Israeli government as "fascist".
Pedro Gonçalves

Hamas leader rejects freak Israel offer of state | International | Reuters - 0 views

  • Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal denounced on Thursday an Israeli offer of a demilitarized Palestinian state as a "big prison" and said only armed struggle could restore Palestinian rights.

  • "Dealing with Hamas and Palestinian resistance movements must be based on respecting the will of the Palestinian people and its democratic choice, not through putting conditions, such as those of the quartet," he said.
  • He was referring to the demands of the United States, Russia the United Nations and the European Union for Hamas to renounce armed struggle, as well as accept past peace agreements.
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  • He said Hamas, which is mainly supported by Syria and Iran, sees no alternative but to continue armed struggle to liberate Palestinian land after decades of Israel flouting international resolutions to withdraw.

    "There is no alternative," Meshaal said. "Peaceful resistance works for a civil rights struggle, not in front of an occupation armed to the teeth."

  • "The minimum we accept is a Palestinian state with (East) Jerusalem as its capital, full sovereignty, removal of settlements and the refugees' right of return," he said.
  • "The state that Netanyahu talked about, with control on it by land, sea and air, is a freak entity and a big prison, not a country fit for a great people," Meshaal said in a speech in the Syrian capital to supporters of Hamas, which won Palestinian elections in 2006.
  • "We warn against any Arab leniency on this issue. The calls by the leaders of the enemy for the Jewishness of Israel are racist, not different to Italian Fascism and Hitler's Nazism," said Meshaal, who lives in exile in Syria.
Pedro Gonçalves

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Hamas rejects Israel peace vision - 0 views

  • Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has dismissed the terms for a demilitarised state laid out by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Mr Netanyahu offered "merely self-governance under the name of a country," Mr Meshaal said.

    Speaking in Damascus, he described the demand that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state as "racist".

  • Mr Meshaal also welcomed Mr Obama's recent comments.

    "We value Obama's new language towards Hamas. It is a first step in the right direction toward direct talks with no conditions," he said.

  • Mr Netanyahu offered "merely self-governance under the name of a country," Mr Meshaal said.
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  • "The enemy's leaders call for a so-called Jewish state is a racist demand that is no different from calls by Italian Fascists and Hitler's Nazism," Mr Meshaal said.
Pedro Gonçalves

Hamas: Netanyahu speech 'racist' bid to deny Palestinian rights - Haaretz - Israel News - 0 views

  • Hamas has dismissed a speech delivered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday, in which he declared support for a demilitarized Palestinian state, as a "racist" attempt deny Palestinian national rights.
  • "[Netanyahu wants] to recognize Palestine as pure Jewish land, denying the Palestinian people any rights in their land," the Palestinian news agency Ma'an on Monday quoted the Islamist group as saying in a statement.
  • In the speech, Netanyahu conditioned the establishment of a Palestinian state on recognition by the Palestinians of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. He also vowed that Israel would not build any new West Bank settlements, or expand existing ones, but refused to stop accommodating for their natural growth.
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  • An aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, said Sundaythat the speech "sabotages" regional peace efforts, due to Netanyahu's refusal to accept an influx of Palestinian refugees into Israel and his unwillingness to compromise on the status of Jerusalem.
  • "Netanyahu's remarks have sabotaged all initiatives, paralyzed all efforts being made and challenges the Palestinian, Arab and American positions," said Nabil Abu Rudeinah.
  • Netanyahu pledged in the address that Jerusalem be the undivided capital of Israel and that Palestinian refugees not be allowed into Israel
  • A senior Palestinian negotiator, meanwhile, called on U.S. President Barack Obama to intervene to force Israel to abide by previous interim agreements that include freezing settlement activity in the West Bank. The alternative, he said, was violence.

    "President Obama, the ball is in your court tonight," Saeb Erekat said. "You have the choice tonight. You can treat Netanyahu as a prime minister above the law and ... close off the path of peace tonight and set the whole region on the path of violence, chaos, extremism and bloodletting.
  • "The alternative is to make Netanyahu abide by the road map," he said, referring to a U.S.-sponsored document under which Israel agreed to freeze settlement activity and Palestinians agreed to rein in militants hostile to Israel.

    "The peace process has been moving at the speed of a tortoise," Erekat added. "Tonight, Netanyahu has flipped it over on its back."
Pedro Gonçalves

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Israel PM to outline Middle East peace plan - 0 views

  • US President Barack Obama, in a keynote speech in Cairo on 4 June, described the Palestinians' situation under exile in neighbouring countries and under Israeli occupation as "intolerable".

    "Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's," Mr Obama said.

    He also said the US bonds with Israel were "unbreakable".

Pedro Gonçalves

Addressing Muslims, Obama Pushes Mideast Peace - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • In opening a bold overture to the Islamic world on Thursday, President Obama confronted frictions between Muslims and the West, but he reserved some of his bluntest words for Israel, as he expressed sympathy for the Palestinians and what he called the “daily humiliations, large and small, that come with occupation.”
  • While Mr. Obama emphasized that America’s bond with Israel was “unbreakable,” he spoke in equally powerful terms of the Palestinian people, describing their plight as “intolerable” after 60 years of statelessness, and twice referring to “Palestine” in a way that put Palestinians on parallel footing with Israelis.
  • Mr. Obama said the bond between the United States and Israel was “based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.”

    “On the other hand,” Mr. Obama added, “it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years, they’ve endured the pain of dislocation.” He said Americans “will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.”

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  • Mr. Obama seemed to connect with his audience in his 55-minute speech from Cairo University as he quoted repeatedly from the Koran and occasionally sprinkled his remarks with Arabic, even beginning his address with the traditional Arabic greeting “salaam aleikum,” or “peace be upon you.”
  • while he spoke uncompromisingly of the American fight against Al Qaeda, Mr. Obama never mentioned the words “terrorism” or “terrorist.” That was a departure from the language used by the Bush administration, but one that some Middle East experts suggested reflected a belief by the new administration that overuse had made the words inflammatory.
  • Paul D. Wolfowitz, a former top Bush administration official who was an architect of the war in Iraq and is a strong supporter of Israel, offered general praise for Mr. Obama’s address.

    “I could have used less moral equivalence, but he had to get through to his audience, and it’s in America’s interest for him to get through,” Mr. Wolfowitz said.

  • Mr. Obama’s stark statement that “the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements” is also likely to be seen as a sharp challenge to Israeli assumptions that existing West Bank settlements will always be allowed to remain.
  • It was noteworthy that the only Palestinian political group that Mr. Obama specifically mentioned was Hamas, the militant Islamic organization that won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006. Hamas governs Gaza, but is loathed by Israel. Mr. Obama called on Hamas to forswear violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist, but Middle East experts said that his mention was an acknowledgment that Hamas might have become a more important actor than the Fatah Party, controlled by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.

    Mr. Obama said, “Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities.”

Argos Media

Middle East Peace: Obama's Mission Impossible - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International - 0 views

  • Unwilling and unable to make a constructive contribution towards a solution and at the same time frustrated that the Americans have taken the initiative, Europeans do what they do best: warn and complain, like the viewers of a soccer game, who -- from the stands -- know they would convert every strike into a goal.

  • After over 40 years' occupation, there can be no return to a status quo ante, because the status quo ante itself is a subject of dispute. For most Israelis, it is Israel within its 1967 borders, while for Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, it's Palestine prior to the founding of Israel. When they talk about the end of the occupation, they don't mean Hebron, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Nablus, they mean Haifa, Beersheba, Jaffa and Tiberias.
  • One side insists on the expansion of settlements, the other demands their right of return -- like travellers who've taken the wrong train and getting ever farther away from their destination, but not wanting to get off because they've been travelling so long. So the Israelis play victors in a dead end and the Palestinians, heroes without any prospect of success.
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  • The Palestinian ambassador to Beirut, Abbas Zaki, said in a television interview in early May that the two state solution would result in Israel's collapse, the use of weapons wouldn't solve anything, but political negotiation without the use of arms wouldn't work either. "In light of the weakness of the Arab nation and the lack of values, and in light of the American control over the world, the PLO proceeds through phases, without changing its strategy." With Allah's help, Zaki said, "we'll drive them out of all of Palestine." That doesn't sound much like a solution for the Israelis.
  • Obama risks nothing by offering to negotiate with Iran. As he said on Monday, he wants to see results by the end of the year. If Iran doesn't budge, Obama will have to change his strategy. If Bush was a cowboy with a soft heart, Obama is an iron fist in a velvet glove. He shouldn't be underestimated, just because he's charming, polite and obliging. Such traits alone have yet to make an American president.
  • Obama knows that Iran won't attack Israel, because as much as the ayatollahs and mullahs want a "world without Zionism" and wish that Israel would disappear from the map or better yet, from the history books, they still prefer to live in the lap of luxury and -- when needs be -- they send others to paradise. But an nuclear preventative or counter strike by the Israelis would end their comfortable lives for good.
  • For their part, the Iranians know that their threat of force, if credible enough, is just as effective as the actual employment of the threatened means. They don't need to attack Israel; it's enough to float the threat. Israel is not going to collapse overnight, but it could erode with time -- through emigration, demoralization and economic decline. Who wants to live or invest in a country that may one day go up in an atomic mushroom cloud?

Argos Media

U.S., Israel Leaders Discuss Strategies for Mideast - WSJ.com - 0 views

  • Mr. Obama for the first time set out a rough timeline for talks with Iran, saying that by the end of the year the U.S. should have a "fairly good sense ... whether there is a good-faith effort to resolve differences" with Iran.
  • he two remained divided on issues such as the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Palestinians' right to statehood, and whether the Palestinian issue should take priority over concerns about Iran developing nuclear weapons.
  • Mr. Netanyahu said he would engage in peace talks with the Palestinians immediately, though he refused to come out in favor of a Palestinian state, in contrast to past government agreements. But he said any peace agreement would have to include Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state. A two-state solution is a centerpiece of Mr. Obama's Mideast peace strategy.
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  • Mr. Netanyahu says he wants to give Palestinians freedom to govern themselves, but won't grant them all the powers of statehood, such as an independent army that could pose a threat to Israel. "We do not want to govern the Palestinians," he said. "We want them to live in peace and govern themselves absent a handful of powers."
  • Mr. Netanyahu has said he is ready to resume negotiations immediately on three parallel tracks dealing with political, economic and security issues, but the Palestinians have said they won't resume negotiations until Mr. Netanyahu accepts their right to statehood.
  • "By failing to endorse the two-state solution, Benjamin Netanyahu missed yet another opportunity to show himself to be a genuine partner for peace," Mr. Erekat said after the meeting. "Calling for negotiations without a clearly defined end-goal offers only the promise of more process, not progress."
  • Mr. Obama spoke out against Israel's expansion of Jewish settlements. Construction of settlements in the West Bank has continued despite pledges to halt such building by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "Settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward," Mr. Obama said.
  • Mr. Netanyahu said after the meeting that Israel would halt settlement expansion as part of a mutual process in which the Palestinians also made concessions, such as cracking down on militants.
  • Though Israel has shown little interest in the Arab peace initiative, Mr. Netanyahu appears to share the belief that, in the face of an ascendant Iran, there is a new window of opportunity. "In the life of the Jewish state there's never been a time when Arabs and Israelis see a common threat like we see today," he said.
  • On Iran, Mr. Obama said the U.S. will give talks more time, but that there must be a "clear timetable at which point we say, these talks aren't making any progress."
  • Mr. Netanyahu has been seeking clear timetables for U.S. diplomatic outreach toward Tehran, and assurances that sanctions would follow if negotiations fail. Israel fears Iran is within months of producing enough fissile material to produce an atomic bomb, though Israeli and U.S. intelligence officials believe it could take Iran years to assemble one.
Argos Media

Obama Tells Netanyahu He Has an Iran Timetable - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • President Obama said Monday that he expected to know by the end of the year whether Iran was making “a good-faith effort to resolve differences” in talks aimed at ending its nuclear program, signaling to Israel as well as Iran that his willingness to engage in diplomacy over the issue has its limits.
  • “We’re not going to have talks forever,” Mr. Obama told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel after a two-hour session in the Oval Office.
  • Mr. Netanyahu, for his part, told Mr. Obama that he was ready to resume peace talks with the Palestinians immediately, but only if the Palestinians recognized Israel as a Jewish state.
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  • Speaking of the development and deployment of a nuclear weapon, he said, “We’re not going to create a situation in which talks become an excuse for inaction while Iran proceeds.”

    Mr. Obama added that he intended to “gauge and do a reassessment by the end of the year” on whether the diplomatic approach was producing results.

  • He said he expected international talks with Iran, involving six nations including the United States, to begin shortly after the Iranian elections in June, with the possibility of “direct talks” between the United States and Iran after that.
  • “The logic of Netanyahu’s argument is, ‘What do you do if your power of diplomacy and toughened sanctions doesn’t work?’ ” said Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator in both Democratic and Republican administrations. “Anyone who was expecting a major rift in the U.S.-Israeli relationship is going to be disappointed.”
  • Mr. Netanyahu did not explicitly embrace a two-state solution, as Mr. Obama had hoped. Rather, he said, “I want to make it clear that we don’t want to govern the Palestinians; we want to live in peace with them.”
  • Mr. Obama, meanwhile, pressed Mr. Netanyahu to freeze the construction of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

    “Settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s a difficult issue. I recognize that. But it’s an important one, and it has to be addressed.”

  • Mr. Miller, the former Middle East negotiator, characterized the session as “President ‘Yes We Can’ sitting down with Prime Minister ‘No You Won’t.’ ”
Argos Media

Israel wants peace talks, Binyamin Netanyahu tells Barack Obama | World news | The Guar... - 0 views

  • Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, met President Barack Obama yesterday and said that he wants to begin immediate peace talks with the Palestinians aimed at self-government, but he stopped short of explicitly committing Israel to Palestinian independence.
  • Obama said he told Netanyahu that the goal of "an extraordinary opportunity" for peace must be "allowing the Palestinians to govern themselves as an independent state".
  • "I want to start peace negotiations with the Palestinians immediately," he said. "I want to make it clear that we don't want to govern the Palestinians. We want to live in peace with them, we want them to govern themselves without [control over] a handful of powers that could endanger Israel. There'll have to be compromises by Israelis and Palestinians alike."
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  • He said a precondition of any agreement is for the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, which Hamas has refused to do. That in turn is likely to mean that the Israelis will insist on negotiating only with Fatah, a move likely to deepen the divide in the Palestinian camp.
  • "Israel is going to have to take difficult steps," Obama said. "Settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward. That's a difficult issue, I recognise that. But it's an important one and it has to be addressed."
  • But Netanyahu's failure to speak of an independent state – instead talking of "an arrangement where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in dignity, in security and in peace" – and his insistence that the Palestinians be denied certain powers, such as control over their own borders and airspace, is a reminder to Obama of the difficulties he is likely to face in dealing with Israel's well practised tactics of prevarication and obstruction.
  • But Obama suggested that Hamas should be brought in to the talks, when he spoke about the failure of isolation in dealing not only with the Palestinian group but also Hezbollah and Iran.
  • "Understand that part of the reason that it's so important for us to take a diplomatic approach is that the approach we've been taking, which is no diplomacy, obviously has not worked. Nobody disagrees with that. Hamas and Hezbollah have got stronger. Iran has been pursuing its nuclear capabilities undiminished. Not talking clearly hasn't worked," he said.
  • "Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon would not only be a threat to Israel and to the United States, but would be profoundly destabilising in the international community as a whole and could set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could be extraordinarily dangerous for all concerned, including for Iran," Obama said.
  • He said the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Iran nuclear issue had a bearing on each other. "To the extent we can make peace between the Palestinians and Israelis then it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with a potential Iranian nuclear threat."
  • Obama is likely to urge Arab states to recognise Israel as part of a package that would include its withdrawal, not only from the West Bank but also the Golan Heights, after they were captured from Syria in the 1967 war.

Argos Media

Barack Obama begins push for Middle East peace | World news | The Guardian - 0 views

  • Barack Obama is to invite Israeli, ­Palestinian and Egyptian leaders to the White House within the next two months in a fresh push for Middle East peace.
  • The three leaders are being invited for separate talks rather than round-table negotiations. The aim is to complete all three visits before Obama goes to France for the D-Day anniversary on 6 June.
  • The chances of a deal in the short term appear slim and Obama yesterday acknowledged that circumstances in Israel and the Palestinian territories were not conducive to peace. "Unfortunately, right now what we've seen not just in Israel, but within the Palestinian territories, among the Arab states, worldwide, is a profound cynicism about the possibility of any progress being made whatsoever," he said.

    "What we want to do is to step back from the abyss, to say, as hard as it is, as difficult as it may be, the prospect of peace still exists, but it's going to require some hard choices."

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  • Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, has been pencilled in for a visit to the White House in the middle of next month. Netanyahu, since becoming prime minister, has refused to acknowledge the right of the Palestinians to a state of their own, as his predecessor had. But Obama yesterday stated firmly his commitment to the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
  • Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is to make a separate visit, as is the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. Egypt has been acting as a go-between between Abbas, who controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls Gaza.
  • Obama appears to have come round to the view of advisers that the US will ­effectively have to impose much of any deal on Israel and the Palestinians rather than wait for one to emerge from the two sides. He said yesterday: "I agree that we can't talk forever, that at some point steps have to be taken so that people can see progress on the ground. And that will be something that we will expect to take place in the coming months.

    "My hope would be that over the next several months, that you start seeing ­gestures of good faith on all sides. I don't want to get into the details of what those gestures might be, but I think that the ­parties in the region probably have a pretty good recognition of what intermediate steps could be taken as confidence-building measures."

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