Bitterlemons, "Interview with Eyad Sarraj - Unite or dissolve"
Shibley Telhami, "Boosting the slim chances for MidEast breakthrough": Should the imminent Israeli-Arab meeting in Annapolis inspire optimism? Critics of the Bush administration who have urged active peace diplomacy are hard-pressed to gainsay its seeming turnaround after years of neglect. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has convincingly projected seriousness, and many want to support her new activism. Even if the prospects for peace seem small, most breakthroughs in history come unexpectedly, often through surprising acts of leadership.
The Economist, "Has Hamas split?": JUST how divided is Hamas? Since the Islamist party took over the Gaza Strip in June, after months of violent clashes with the rival, secular-minded Fatah faction, Israel and the rest of the world have imposed an economic siege on the strip. Many perceive signs that Hamas is splitting under the pressure. That, in turn, has raised the prospect of Hamas becoming a busted flush—or of a moderate wing emerging that could do business with Fatah, rebuild a broader Palestinian front and perhaps even agree to the conditions that would enable it to negotiate with Israel.
James Hider, "Olive branch blossoms amid harvest of fear": In an olive grove on the edge of Nablus, Fuad Amr and his sons keep one eye on the branches they are stripping and the other warily on the Jewish settlement that overlooks their land from a hilltop. The settlers could descend at any time to intimidate them or even beat them and steal the fruit of their labour, as happens every year across the West Bank in the olive season. The Palestinian farmers, however, have found unlikely allies - Jewish activists, some of them Orthodox rabbis, who risk violence to protect them.
THe Middle East Times, "Arab-Israeli dispute percolates": For some 60 odd years the Arab-Israeli conflict has been percolating, periodically exploding into open conflict then returning to a simmering position on the back-burner of world politics, usually after intense diplomatic efforts. During those six decades Arabs and Israelis have stopped short of accepting the one piece to this geopolitical jigsaw puzzle needed to bring lasting peace to the region. That is the mutual acceptance by Israel and the Palestinians of each other and recognizing that a two-state solution is the sole avenue leading to peace in the region.
George Hishmeh, "What's good for the goose...": As the expectations for a serious movement towards a Palestinian-Israeli settlement seem to be growing by the day, a little-known group, Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), is trying to ride the coattails of the upcoming US-sponsored Mideast peace “meeting” in Annapolis later this month. The five-year-old US-based organisation has scheduled a two-day conference in New York earlier this week to drum up support for its long-dormant cause, but no sooner was its announcement released than Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told it to cool it. He said it was “premature” to raise the issue of Arab Jews who settled in Israel at this stage, but assured them that when the Palestinian refugee issue is eventually on the table, Israel will “reaffirm its commitment to resolving the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries as well”.
Richard Naas, "Time for modesty in the Middle East peace process": "Ripeness is all," concludes Edgar in King Lear. I will leave it to Shakespeare scholars to decipher what he had in mind. But for diplomats and historians, understanding the concept of ripeness is central to their jobs: it refers to how ready a negotiation or conflict is to be resolved. This may sound academic, but it is anything but. The United States and the three other members of the Quartet - the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations - are planning to convene many of the parties to the Israeli-Arab conflict at a meeting near Washington in November. The problem is that the conflict is not even close to being ripe for resolution. Ignoring this reality will lead to failure, if not catastrophe.
Aluf Benn, "The Sceptic and the Believer": Defense Minister Ehud Barak rose to speak at the annual conference of the Saban Forum in Jerusalem, on Monday of this week. Unlike Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Quartet envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who had delivered their speeches the previous evening directly into the cameras transmitting directly into the news broadcasts, Barak maintained ambiguity and his remarks were ostensibly intended only for closed discussion.
Miftah, "Settlements expand before Annapolis summit": Despite optimistic statements made by Palestinians, Israelis and US officials about the “possibility” for peace, facts on the ground remain much stronger testimony than any promises or words of encouragement. While the United States prepares to host the Middle East summit, slated to be held on November 26, Palestinians oscillate between encouraging hopes for the summit’s success and the daunting Israeli measures on the ground. On November 7, the Israeli peace movement Peace Now announced that there is ongoing construction in 88 settlements in the West Bank, including the expansion of already existing settlements and the creation of new settlement outposts. According to Peace Now, 8.1 percent of Israelis live in these illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Most of the construction, the organization said, is in the major settlement blocs Israel insists on annexing to Israel in any final agreement with the Palestinians, including Maaleh Adumim, Gush Etzion and Givat Zeev. Peace Now also said work on the E1 settlement project was continuing in east Jerusalem.
Ramzy Baroud, "Peace and democracy in Palestine": After years of marked absence, the Bush administration has finally decided to upgrade its involvement in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The announcement of a Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland has raised red flags for anyone who has learned from past experience how unbalanced and insincere peace efforts actually can lead to further violence. And it requires little cynicism to ponder how genuine these current efforts are. It has been suggested that President Bush — whose actions have thus defined his legacy as that of a war president — wishes to leave on a more positive note. We heard the same argument in mid 2000 when President Bill Clinton facilitated ill-prepared talks, the failure of which sparked tension and violence, which were of course blamed solely on Palestinians.
Stephen Lendman, "Punishing Gaza": On September 20, Haaretz reported: "The security cabinet voted unanimously yesterday to increase sanctions against the Hamas-run Gaza Strip (and declare) the region a 'hostile entity.' "A further statement read: "We will reduce the amount of megawattage we provide to the Strip, and Hamas will have to decide whether to provide electricity to hospitals or weapons lathes." Israeli officials also decided to punish Gazans by restricting...
Caellum Moffat, "The prime minister vs public opinion": Most commentaries inundating the press at the moment meticulously analyze the consequences of a failed summit and center on the probable break out of another Intifada, as highlighted by Ahmad Qurei. This may well be the case but it is important to recognize that a successful summit could also cause uproar amongst Israelis which in turn could affect the Palestinians and hinder any positive steps taken.
Stephen Erlanger, "US and Israel play down hopes for peace talks": The American-sponsored Middle East peace conference expected by the end of the month looks to be thin on content, mostly serving as a stage to begin formal negotiations on a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. Israeli and American officials have been so busy dampening expectations that they are not even calling the event a conference anymore, instead referring to it merely as a “meeting.” Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are having trouble agreeing on even a short declaration about the shape of a final peace. Their leaders, Mr. Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, have a rough understanding on where they are heading, officials of both sides say, but they are afraid to write it down or say so publicly, given the political cost of any concessions. + Erlanger, "Gaza's isolation takes toll on students and prices" + Robert Cotton Fite, "A glimpse at a life in line"
Peter Hirschberg, "All not quite aboard for Annapolis": U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has again paid a visit to the Middle East, held meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, spoken about the seriousness of the two sides in their efforts to revive the peace process, but has again left the region without issuing invitations to a planned U.S.-led peace summit in Annapolis, Maryland. Listening to the main players, they all sound as though they have had a meeting to coordinate their positions and have decided on a unified line to feed the public. Over the last week, Olmert, Abbas and Rice have all said that they want to reach a Middle East peace agreement before President George Bush finishes his term in early 2009.
The middle East times, "Enlarge Annapolis": The good thing that may be said about the Annapolis meeting is that the expectations are gloomily but realistically low. There are not many illusions left in the Middle East, and little is expected from yet another U.S.-brokered summit between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Perhaps what is wrong is not just the plot of this over-familiar drama, but the personnel. Maybe it is the three-way relationship between Americans, Israelis and Palestinians, who all know each very well by now; that is the problem.