Palestinians will go to the UN no matter what

Palestinians will go to the UN no matter what

June 24, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour has just come out and stated that even if negotiations with Israel were to recommence, the Palestinians will go to the UN and ask for recognition of statehood. Haaretz reports:

The Palestinians will seek membership as an independent state at the UN in September even if peace negotiations with Israel are underway, the Palestinian UN envoy said on Thursday.

Inside Syria's popular rebellion/ Egypt's problematic drift

Inside Syria’s popular rebellion/ Egypt’s problematic drift

June 24, 2011

Today’s Update features two pieces looking inside the increasingly important Syrian popular rebellion, now almost three months old. It also contains an interesting new look at recent developments in Egyptian politics in the run-up to the September elections.

The lead item is a fascinating account from inside Syria from unidentified journalists affiliated with the top German magazine, Der Spiegel. They find a country which “has disintegrated into a surreal patchwork of places where it is tense but quiet, and combat zones in which the regime’s most loyal units are killing people indiscriminately.” They tell many terrible stories of murder by forces of a regime whose policy is simply to “kill and hope” they can hold on to power, and speak to many ordinary Syrians, who seem overwhelmingly determined that it will not.

Climate sceptic’s Nazi jibe “offensive”

June 24, 2011

AIJAC Executive Director Dr. Colin Rubenstein has appeared on ABC-TV’s Lateline, responding to the use of Nazi and Holocaust analogy in Australia’s climate change debate.

Obama confirms Afghanistan troops drawdown

June 23, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

After much speculation that the US was gearing-up to pull out of Afghanistan, President Barack Obama has just given an address confirming that the US combat mission in Afghanistan will end by 2014, with the withdrawal beginning this year. He explained that 33,000 troops will be withdrawn by next year, thereby ending the controversial troop surge that is a hallmark of his presidency.

The speech is embedded below and the transcript can be viewed HERE. More on this shortly.

Breakdown of Obama's Afghanistan announcement

Breakdown of Obama’s Afghanistan announcement

June 23, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

As reported recently on this site, US President Barack Obama has just given a landmark speech on the US policy in Afghanistan, including a timetable for the withdrawal of combat troops. The President gave a brief history of the war, concentrating primarily on his December 2009 “troop surge” decision, where he increased the number of US combat troops in Afghanistan by 33,000 in order to counter a resurgent Taliban. As he explained (Transcript via CBS):

…in one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al Qaeda; reverse the Taliban’s momentum; and train Afghan Security Forces to defend their own country.

Obama then announced that the surge was successful and will be withdrawn by the end of the year and the combat mission will end by 2014.

Australian Parliament raises concern for arrested student Ilan Grapel

Australian Parliament raises concern for arrested student Ilan Grapel

June 23, 2011 | Sharyn Mittelman

On 22 June, Federal MP Jamie Briggs (Mayo, Lib.) made a speech in the House of Representatives drawing the Parliament’s attention to the arrest in Egypt of American-Israeli Ilan Grapel. Mr. Grapel was arrested earlier this month for alleged involvement in espionage and formenting sectarian strife in Egypt. As Mr Briggs rightly points out: “These allegations at best seem far-fetched and when you consider that Mr Grapel is a regular visitor to the Middle East and had entered Egypt under his own name on his own passport [and] was posting daily messages on Facebook, the allegations do raise significant concern.”

Mr Briggs also commented: “This is similar, sadly, to the five year anniversary of the detention of Israeli citizen Gilad Shalit, who has been held by Hamas since 2006.”

Bold or spineless? Strong conviction or a lack of direction? Responses to Obama's speech

Bold or spineless? Strong conviction or a lack of direction? Responses to Obama’s speech

June 23, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

Just a few hours after President Obama’s recent speech on Afghanistan, there was a wide array of responses, positing a number of theories as to the ramifications of the new US policy.

In general, the focus was on Obama’s decision to end the troop surge that he implemented only 18 months ago. Michael Cohen from the American Security Project writes in The Atlantic that Obama was never fully invested in the surge strategy and is now returning to a strategy which is more congruent with his generally dovish stance on foreign policy.

If there is one overriding takeaway from Obama’s speech tonight, it is that the same President who 18 months ago was led by his generals into an escalation that he didn’t appear to fully support has now taken back control of his policy in Afghanistan.

Iran gives new meaning to "fashion police"

Iran gives new meaning to “fashion police”

June 22, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

Iranian authorities have just announced that they are extending their crackdown on “un-Islamic dress codes” to include various “Western-influenced” men’s haircuts and jewellery. Iranian women have traditionally been harrassed by the “moral police” for not following the strict, conservative dress codes that Iran’s rulers see as “Islamic”, however, as reported by Ali Akbar Dareini and Brian Murphy in The Huffington Post, the authorities appear to be extending this code further each year.

Increased imports further undermine flotilla facade

Increased imports further undermine flotilla facade

June 22, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

Amid increased tensions surrounding the impending UN vote on Palestinian statehood and the new unity deal between Hamas and rival Fatah, Israel has been quietly easing its blockade on Gaza – which is in place in order to prevent Hamas militants from smuggling in weapons with which to attack Israel. News surfaced overnight that Israel has approved $100 million of new buildings in Gaza, which is a significant development seeing that Israel is often criticised for its restrictions on importing building materials – which can be used to build military infrastructure such as bunkers – into the enclave.

The real obstacles to the peace process? Look further than settlements

The real obstacles to the peace process? Look further than settlements

June 22, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

Former US Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams has written a piece in this month’s Foreign Affairs magazine that brilliantly outlines the history and current political issue of the settlements in the West Bank and the relevant policies of the US, Israel and the Palestinians. In the piece, Abrams reviews two books – Occupation of the Territories: Israeli Soldiers’ Testimonies 2000-2010 by Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence and The Settlers: And the Struggle Over the Meaning of Zionism by Gadi Taub.

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