Sunday, August 5, 2007

Weekend News Wrapup- 8/5/07

Israel and the Palestinian Territories
ISRAELI Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas are scheduled to meet in the West Bank city of Jericho on Monday. The two are set to formulate a Declaration of Principles for a final settlement of the conflict. This, in turn, will be used as a basis for talks in a regional summit that U.S. Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice has planned for November.

There are several issues, beside final boundaries and a Palestinian "right of return," that complicate efforts for a final settlement. The first is that, after Hamas' bloody coup two months ago, Abbas no longer has any control over the Gaza Strip. The second is that Abbas' Fatah party is still seen by Palestinians as weak and corrupt. Its ability to enforce a peace agreement even in the West Bank is questionable. The third is Olmert's poor standing among Israelis. Olmert is less popular in Israel than President George W. Bush is in the United States, and Israelis may not trust him to ensure a fair and comprehensive peace.

OVER 300 members of terrorist groups associated with PA President Mahmoud Abbas have accepted an amnesty deal from Israel. Israel has promised to take these people aligned with Fatah, all located in the West Bank, off of its wanted list in exchange for them turning in their weapons and swearing off attacks on the Jewish State. The amnesty deal is part of a package of gestures that Israel is using to bolster Abbas' standing in the Palestinian territories.

Interestingly, members of Islamic Jihad, an Islamist terrorist group opposed to peace with Israel, have requested to be included in the amnesty. The Islamic Jihad leadership, however, has lambasted the amnesty and reaffirmed its commitment to destroy Israel.

Lebanon
RESIDENTS of the Christian city of Metn have gone to the polls to replace two assassinated Members of Parliament. Amin Gemayal, former president of Lebanon and father of one of the slain MP's, is contesting for his son's seat. His opponent is Kamil Khoury. Both candidates are Christian, though Gemayal is associated with the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Sinora while Khoury is aligned with the pro-Syria, Hezbollah-led opposition. The other seat is only being contested by pro-Western politician Mohammed al-Amin Itani.

MP's Pierre Gemayal and Walid Eido were murdered within the last year. Syria is suspected to be behind the slayings.

Iran
IRANIAN President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called on Israel to "go somewhere else." He stated that Israel should leave the region and a Palestinian state should crop up in its place. This comes after he has declared that Israel should be "wiped off the map" and hosted a Holocaust-denial conference.

His statement should also be viewed in the context of Iran's nuclear program. Iran has refused to suspend its nuclear activities, which the Islamic Republic has argued is purely for energy production. Western powers, however, are convinced it is also being used to develop a nuclear weapons program.

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