Wednesday, May 6, 2009

UN - Gaza - Israel

The photo above is of phosphorus hitting a United Nations school in Gaza.  link

We may not be hearing much about Israel and Gaza these days, but there is still a lot going on...

Aipac urges Congress members to sign letter to Barack Obama calling for Israel to set pace of negotiations with Palestinians

    * Chris McGreal in Washington
    *, Wednesday 6 May 2009 13.55 BST

US congressional leaders and the most powerful pro-Israel lobby group in the US are attempting to forestall a significant shift in the White House's Middle East policy.

The move comes amid growing signs that the US president, Barack Obama, intends to press for urgent efforts to be made towards the creation of a Palestinian state.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is visiting Washington later this month amid growing expectations that Obama is preparing to take a tougher line over Israel's reluctance to actively seek a two-state solution to its conflict with the Palestinians.

It will be the first time that Netanyahu and Obama have met since both were elected.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) this week sent hundreds of lobbyists to urge members of Congress to sign a letter to Obama.

The letter, written by two House of Representatives leaders, calls for Israel to be allowed to set the pace of negotiations.

The lobbying came despite critics saying Netanyahu has consistently failed to commit himself to the creation of a Palestinian state.

The letter calls for the maintenance of the status quo, with an emphasis on Palestinian institution-building before there can be an end to Israeli occupation.

It says the US "must be both a trusted mediator and devoted friend of Israel".

Aipac's move to put pressure on members of Congress came at the end of its annual conference in Washington this week.

Some of the loudest applause at the gathering came in response to calls for military attacks on Iran's nuclear facilities – something Netanyahu has attempted to portray as a more urgent issue than the Palestinian question.

But Aipac delegates were told by the US vice-president, Joe Biden, that the administration favours "mutual respect" in dealing with Iran.

Biden said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict strengthened Iran's strategic position and Israel must take concrete steps – including fulfilling often-broken commitments to stop the expansion of Jewish settlements – towards the creation of a Palestinian state.

Last week, General James Jones, Obama's national security adviser, told a European foreign minister that the new administration would be "forceful" with Israel, according to a classified Israeli memo reported by the Ha'aretz newspaper.

Jones was quoted as saying that Obama believes Washington, the EU and moderate Arab states must define "a satisfactory endgame solution".

"The new administration will convince Israel to compromise on the Palestinian question," he was quoted as saying. "We will not push Israel under the wheels of a bus, but we will be more forceful toward Israel than we have been under Bush." link to complete Guardian article

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