Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday delivered a message to Defense Minister Ehud Barak from Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to the Agence France-Presse. Mubarak and Barak met Wednesday in the Sinai resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh. ... Barak: Israel, Egypt to continue joint struggle against terror. At the end of his meeting with Mubarak on Wednesday, Barak said Israel and Egypt would continue their joint struggle against terror and resolve future disagreements by means of unmediated negotiations. Barak added that while Israel is not lobbying the U.S. House of Representatives to halt American aid to Egypt, enquiries on the matter are being answered frankly considering Jerusalem's close relations with Washington. .. Egypt rejected Israeli complaints about weapons smuggling into Gaza on Wednesday, after talks between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Egypt also accused Israel of trying to distract attention from its building activities at Jewish settlements. After the talks an Egyptian spokesman said Israeli actions had undone the achievements of last month's peace conference in Annapolis in the United States. .. Egypt: Israeli construction in and around J'lem threatens peace. Also in the talks between Mubarak and Barak, Cairo criticized Israel's renewed efforts to build houses in East Jerusalem and in West Bank settlements, calling them damaging to the peace process. Mubarak echoed Palestinian demands that Israel cancel a project to build 307 homes in the neighborhood of Har Homa, describing it as damaging to the peace talks, according to presidential spokesman Suleiman Awad. "This settlement activity will hijack the only outcome of the Annapolis conference, which was the re-launching of peace negotiations," he told reporters following the meeting. Zuvor: Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Wednesday accused the Israeli lobby in Washington of straining its relations with the United States by using the issue of smuggling across the Gaza border as an excuse to cut U.S. military aid to Cairo. The remarks came hours before a scheduled meeting between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik where they were expected to discuss the cross-border weapons smuggling to Gaza militants.
Ein erfolgreicher "historischer" Besuch sieht wohl etwas anders aus. Die zuvor lancierte "Schmeichelei" [Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is interested in appointing a prominent figure as ambassador to Cairo in order to "upgrade" the Foreign Ministry's influence in the strategic ties between Israel and Egypt.] tat ihr Übriges. Barak wird sicherlich die nächste Gelegenehit nutzen um Livni die Ohren lang zu ziehen. Der Dritte bekommt bald andere Probleme: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is not planning to resign following the publication of the final Winograd report, Olmert said Wednesday during a meeting with Meretz faction members at his office in Jerusalem. [Speaking calmly before a packed hall of reporters, Olmert said the disease was caught early and that he would have surgery “over the next few months.” Vice Premier Haim Ramon said the surgery would be done after the conference.] Livni bringt sich wohl in Stellung.
Hudna-talk: Advancement in a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas and the release of abducted soldier Gilad Schalit depend on the results of Defense Minister Ehud Barak's visit to Egypt, a senior aide to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told the London-based Al Hayat newspaper on Wednesday. According to adviser Ahmed Yusef, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal is awaiting the outcome of Wednesday's meeting between Barak and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak before possibly sending his deputy or traveling to Cairo himself in the near future. "I believe that Mashaal's visit to Cairo is dependant on the results of Barak's visit," Yusef told the paper.
Achg~~tchen: Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit became enraged on Wednesday during a joint meeting of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers and the Subcommittee on the Trafficking in Women, after human rights organizations blamed the Population Registry for "Kafkaesque policy." The minister interrupted the meeting, gathered his things and accused Lea Greenpeter-Gold, director of the Toda'ah Institute for the study of prostitution, of slander. "I don't owe her answers. I can't listen to these attacks on the State," he said.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday in an attempt to solve the so-called settlement crisis that has plagued negotiations since the Annapolis summit late last month. The Palestinians are upset over a tender by the Housing Ministry for the construction of 307 housing units in the southeast Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa, on the Palestinian side of the Green Line.
Palestinian medical sources said on Tuesday that 12 people were injured as a tunnel collapsed beneath the borders between Gaza Strip and Egypt in As-Salam area in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. The sources said that 12 Palestinians were hospitalized at Abu Yousif An-Najjar in Rafah. According to the medical sources, two of the victims were moderately injured while the rest suffered slight injuries as a result of suffocation as the tunnel colapsed. Nach dem derzeitigen Stand der Dinge sind über den heutigen Tag dreizehn Qassam-Raketen [als zusätzliche Belastung zum Barak-Besuch in Ägypten] und drei Mörsergranaten auf israelisches Territorium abgefeuert worden. In der Westbank werden in verschiednen Städten vierzehn Palästinenser verhaftet. Es kommt zu kleineren Schießereien. Fatah movement warned on Tuesday of the emergence of a new faction in Gaza Strip called "Fatah Al-Islam" especially after media outlets published reports about the new faction claiming responsibility for firing a homemade projectile at Israeli town of Sderot. Fatah's spokesperson Ahmad Abdul-Rahman described the infiltration of "Fatah Al-Islam" into Gaza Strip as dangerous development holding Hamas movement responsible for the repercussions of the arrival of that organization. "The current state of utter confusion was a result of the military coup which Hamas staged in Gaza Strip," Fatah's spokesperson said.
Personnel from Israel's Aerospace Industries are assisting the Turkish army in activating Israeli-issued unmanned aircrafts for use in military operations in Kurdish northern Iraq, Turkish sources were quoted as saying in a report to be published Thursday in the Turkish Daily News. Ten days ago, Turkish television reported that Turkey had begun using the Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), which Israel leased to the Turkish army in a 2004 deal. [Seit dem Erscheinen des Berichts ist die Webseite der Turkish Daily News nicht mehr verfügbar.]
Russia has agreed to sell an S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Iran, Iran's defense minister was quoted as saying on Wednesday in the Iranian Fars News Agency. S-300 missiles are longer-ranging than the TOR-M1 surface-to-air missiles which Russia, in a deal criticized by the West, earlier this year said it had delivered to the Islamic Republic under a $1 billion contract.
Johara Baker, "Settlements have to go": Unsurprisingly, the newly resumed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians stalled yet again, this time over the highly-charged issue of Israeli settlements, which despite past commitments, Israel has continued to expand. On December 24, the two sides met for the second time since the Annapolis peace conference in November, but came out of the meeting empty handed, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat describing the meeting as “very difficult.” No kidding. Even if we put a pin in all the other issues that have constituted major bones of contention between the Palestinians and Israelis such as the refugee problem, Jerusalem and borders, Jewish settlements alone are explosive enough to blow any negotiations to smithereens.
Hannah Mermelstein, "The end of Israel?": I am feeling optimistic about Palestine. I know it sounds crazy. How can I use "optimistic" and "Palestine" in the same sentence when conditions on the ground only seem to get worse? Israeli settlements continue to expand on a daily basis, the checkpoints and segregated road system are becoming more and more institutionalized, more than 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners are being held in Israeli jails, Gaza is under heavy attack and the borders are entirely controlled by Israel, preventing people from getting their most basic human needs met.