An teilweise schauerlich politisierendes Gequatsche zu Weihnachtsmessen in Bethlehem werde ich mich nie gewöhnen können. Zum Glück bin ich nicht in deren Fraktion: "This land belongs to God. It must not be for some a land of life and for others a land of occupation and a political prison." That was the message of Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah at the Christmas mass, held in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity. +
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told pilgrims in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve that "the new year, God willing, will be a year of security and economic stability." Thousands gathered in Bethlehem on Monday for a Christmas mass promoted by and Western powers as a chance to highlight the benefits of peacemaking. "We pray next year will be the year of independence for the Palestinian people," Abbas continued.
Israeli blogger Lirun verbrachte den gestrigen Abend bei einer Veranstaltung mit Amira Hass und berichtet von seinen Eindrücken. Syrian blogger Ehsani war in Syrien auf Besuch und berichtet von seinen Eindrücken. Bitterlemons haben ein Interview mit Hanan Ashrawi geführt.
Isabel Kershner, "Israel won't prosecute for use of cluster bombs in Lebanon": sraeli military prosecutors announced Monday that they would not press charges over the army's use of cluster bombs during the war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, actions that had been widely criticized by human rights organizations. The announcement came as Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams met here Monday evening for the second time since the American-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland. [The second round of peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams were bogged down in a dispute over settlement building near Jerusalem.] The special ministerial forum examining the criteria for releasing Palestinian security prisoners seems to have a majority in favor of relaxing the conditions, which were set by the Shin Bet security service in the prisoner exchange of 2004 that freed Elhanan Tannenbaum.
The Syrian administration is waiting out the Bush presidency, and only intends to enter a serious diplomatic process with Israel when the next United States administration takes over in 2009, according to the Foreign Ministry's intelligence assessment. "Damascus is interested in an agreement with Israel, but only according to Syria's conditions and with American involvement," Nimrod Barkan, who heads the ministry's political research department, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday. ... Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Monday that Egypt is doing an "awful" job of blocking arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip, thus hampering Israeli efforts at proceeding with the political process. Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Livni said the activity of Egyptian forces guarding the border is "awful and problematic." The reports of tapes showing Egyptian soldiers assisting Hamas were leaked in order to sabotage Defense Minister Ehud Barak's meeting with visit Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Sharm e-Sheikh, a top Defense official was quoted as saying Tuesday. The Post reported last week that Israel had transferred the tapes to the US in order to push Congress to withhold part of the foreign aid it gives to Egypt. [The Knesset Defense Budget Committee approved late Monday a budget of NIS 51 billion for 2008. In addition, the committee approved the allocation of NIS 200 million for civilian emergency expenditures, as well as NIS 145 million for operations in the territories. Damit liegt die Größe des Verteidigungshaushalts bei 16.3% des Gesamtbudgets. Mit umgerechnet €9.12 Milliarden hat damit Israel nicht ganz ein Drittel des Verteidigungsetats der BRD erreicht.] Fearing the possibility that airfields will be bombed and destroyed during a war, the Israel Air Force has expressed interest in purchasing a squadron of Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) with vertical take-off and landing capabilities. In September, the IDF announced its plans to purchase at least 25 F-35 jets, with the option to purchase up to dozens more. Delivery was initially scheduled for 2014, but The Jerusalem Post revealed in October that the Pentagon had in principle agreed to work to move up delivery of the fifth-generation and stealth-enabled aircraft to Israel by as early as 2012. The agreement was reached during Defense Minister Ehud Barak's visit to Washington.
Über Nacht insgesamt acht Qassam-Raketen-Abschüsse auf israelisches Territorium. Ein Palästinenser wird bei der Siedlung Beitar Illit in der Westbank durch die IDF schwer verletzt. Er und drei andere hatten Reifenstapel in Brand gesetzt. In der Westbank werden sechs Palästinenser durch die IDF verhaftet. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i kündigt weitere Aktionen der IDF gegen Qassam-Raketen an.
The next race for the Knesset does not appear to be in sight, but Likud MKs are already busy defending their turf against several well-known public figures who are said to be interested in running for the Knesset with the party. Former IDF chief of General Staff Moshe Ya'alon, former ministers Dan Meridor and David Levy, former IDF spokeswoman Miri Regev, former basketball star Tal Brody and a number of CEOs of Israel's top companies have all been rumored to be exploring their options with the Likud, which polls predict will more than double its mandates.
... Peyman (not his real name) is a 27-year old Iranian computer-science student from Tehran. He has been publishing a blog (web log) for several years now through which tells anyone who is interested what it means to be a young Iranian living under the tyrannical reign of the ayatollahs. Peyman was asked by Ynet to send a letter to the citizens of Israel concerning the harsh attitude and comments of President Ahmadinejad against Israel.