December 14, 2009

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Palestine Will Determine World’s Fate: Ahmadinejad

Tehran Times
December 14, 2009

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the Palestine issue will determine the fate of the entire world.

At a meeting with Hamas Political Bureau chief Khaled Meshaal in Tehran on Sunday, Ahmadinejad said it is essential that all Muslim and free nations support the Palestinian resistance and Iran will always stand beside the resistance and the oppressed people of Palestine.

He went on to say that Palestine is the frontline of the global resistance against the global arrogance and international hegemony.

He called faith in God and resistance the keys to overcome the international hegemonic system, adding that the Zionist regime’s acts of savagery and the U.S. deceptions will not be able to save this system.

The defeat in the wars against Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, the United States’ inability to restore its reputation after U.S. President Barack Obama came to power, and the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan are some of the defeats that the arrogant powers, the U.S. and Israel in particular, have suffered in recent years, the Iranian president said.

Meshaal said the firm positions Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the Iranian president, and the Iranian nation adopted on various international issues set an example for all nations and governments.

Meshaal also briefed Ahmadinejad on the latest developments in Palestine.

Netanyahu Increases Funds for Jewish West Bank Settlers

The Age World
December 14, 2009

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has won a key vote to give more money to 90 West Bank settlements.

The new national priority map will direct about $1.2 billion towards education, employment and land allocation programs in designated areas.

The $1.2 billion includes about $500 million for Arab communities in northern Israel, and will benefit about 110,000 West Bank settlers living outside its major settlement blocs.

Left-wing leaders, including Defence Minister Ehud Barak, opposed the plan, saying it would boost settler extremists intent on foiling last month's decision to freeze settlement building in the West Bank for 10 months.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the new map of national priority areas was a blueprint for future settlement expansion.
"It reveals the extent to which Israel's 'settlement moratorium' is a sham," Mr Erekat said.
Tensions between Jews and Palestinians have been running high since the announcement of the building freeze. Settlers have been involved in several clashes with Israeli security forces.

At the weekend, Jewish extremists were suspected of setting fire to a mosque in the northern West Bank village of Yasuf.

On Sunday, a delegation of Jewish religious leaders and activists, including some from West Bank settlements, tried to reach the village to express their abhorrence of the attack. But the Israeli Army prevented it from entering Yasuf for security reasons as enraged villagers proclaimed that the visitors would not be welcome.
"The people will not allow it," said Wasfi Hassan, a farmer. "It is like killing a man, then going to his funeral."
An acrid odour hung in the air outside the mosque on Sunday. Inside, a pile of cinders marked the spot where holy books had apparently been emptied off shelves and burnt. The walls were charred, and a blackened groove snaked across the carpet of the prayer hall to a back wall, following the arsonists' petrol trail.

The muezzin at a small nearby mosque, Hussam Abd al-Fattah, said worshippers spotted the fire on Friday as they returned from dawn prayers, and neighbours helped put it out.

On the front porch of the mosque, the vandals left graffiti in Hebrew that read: "Price tag - Greetings from Effi." ''Price tag'' is the name of a provocative policy developed by radical settlers last year. It calls for settlers and their supporters to respond to any move by the Israeli authorities against the settlements or illegal outposts, usually by attacking Palestinian property. The villagers assume the attack was meant as revenge for the Israeli Government's temporary moratorium on new building in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Effi, a Hebrew nickname for Efraim, is also an acronym for a far-right group.

Munir Abbushi, the Palestinian Authority Governor of the Salfit region, which includes Yasuf, a village of about 2000, said there were at least 23 settlements in the region.

Mr Abbushi rejected the idea the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could turn into a religious struggle.
"It is a national conflict. We want an independent state, without settlers," he said.
Israeli leaders condemned the attack. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there was "no place for violence of any sort, neither Jews against Palestinians nor Palestinians against Jews." He said he had ordered security services to try to bring the perpetrators to justice as quickly as possible. President Shimon Peres called the arson a grave act that stood against all the values of Israel.

Mainstream settler leaders condemned the desecration of the mosque.

West Bank Settlements to Receive More Funding Under Plan

December 13, 2009

The Israeli government on Sunday approved a controversial plan that would classify a number of West Bank settlements as "National Priority Zones," meaning they are entitled to millions of shekels in funding.

The plan was approved on a 21-5 vote, according to government spokesman David Baker.

National Priority Zones are granted millions in funding for education and vocational training. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the goal of the plan is to "help close the gaps that have been created between the various parts of the country."

The plan would include about 2 million citizens, including 40 percent of Israel's non-Jewish population, Netanyahu said. Of that 2 million, 100,000 are West Bank settlers -- and the first-time inclusion of the settlements was not popular with everyone.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during a Cabinet meeting that:
"The population of the settlements were represented beyond their proportional weight in society." Also, Barak said, "there are a number of small settlements that continuously are a source of extreme behavior that harms life in the West Bank ... and they should not be awarded a prize by including them in the National Priority Zone."
The funding for housing would not apply to settlers, so the plan does not contradict the government's recently-approved settlement freeze in the West Bank, government spokesman Mark Regev said. But Yariv Oppenheimer, a spokesman for the Israeli settlement watchdog group Peace Now, called the approval outrageous.
"This decision proves that the government actively and practically wants to continue and invest and encourage the settlements," he said. "All their talk about freezing settlements apart from natural growth becomes irrelevant when the government actively encourages investment in these areas."
The priority zones are areas disadvantaged because of residents' socioeconomic situations and security threats, among other factors.
"We are providing benefits in education, employment and infrastructures," Netanyahu said. "We are also trying to provide tangible aid to those who bear the security burden every day."
Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaina said the government's decision "shows again that the Israeli government is not serious about the so-called moratorium settlement freeze which they announced several weeks ago" and also shows "that they are doing [their] best to continue their settlement construction activities and to ruin the efforts of President Obama and his administration."
"There should be [an] immediate American response in order to keep the glimpse of hope for any peaceful deal in the future," he said, saying the vote "is a direct message to Obama and his administration that they [Israelis] are not ready for peace."
Netanyahu's government announced a freeze on settlements in the West Bank after the Obama administration requested a ban to jump-start the moribund peace process with the Palestinians. Announcing the freeze last month, Netanyahu appealed to the Palestinian Authority to take advantage of the 10-month "window" to resume negotiations.

Dany Dayan, chairman of the Yesha Council, a group of Jewish municipal councils from the West Bank, told CNN earlier this month that settlements under construction would continue to be built.

Confrontations have erupted almost daily in the West Bank, which groups of settlers forcibly attempting to keep away inspectors enforcing the ban. Dayan indicated settlers would continue to refuse entry of government inspectors to settlements.

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