60 000 Tourists expected for Christmas: Israeli and Palestinian authorities are coordinating the arrival of 60,000 Christian tourists to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem and other holy sites next week. The Tourism Ministry, together with representatives of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, described at a press conference Tuesday in Jerusalem special preparations being made for Christmas (December 25) and the Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha, which begins Wednesday. + The United States and Britain will host an investors' conference aimed at bolstering the Palestinian economy in Bethlehem in March or April next year, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Tuesday. In a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the two leaders discussed how to build on the progress made in Paris on Monday, when 87 countries and international organizations pledged $7.4 billion over the next three years to the Palestinians.
Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, signed a free-trade agreement with Israel on Tuesday, its first pact with a country outside of Latin America. The deal was announced during a two-day summit of Mercosur leaders in the Uruguayan capital and followed two years of negotiations to bolster trade ties between South American countries and Israel. "This agreement is an enormous satisfaction that will help develop our links to the Mercosur countries," a statement from the Israeli Embassy in Argentina said. Trade between Israel and Mercosur countries neared $1.6 billion in 2006. Mercosur is comprised of full members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, with Venezuela awaiting approval to join the trade group. [Die angegebene Summe bezieht sich auf das Gesamthandelsvolumen und macht um 1.8% des israelischen Handelsvolumens aus. Eher symbolischer Natur für den Normalisierungsprozeß der israelischen Existenz. Das hier eher nicht: Professors` head meets with Treasury, says semester likely to be canceled.]
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged late Tuesday to keep up the pressure on Palestinian militant groups following a series of Israel Defense Forces raids that killed at least 11 Islamic Jihad and Hamas men in less than 24 hours. "We will continue to seek out the heads of the terror organizations... We will get all those who are responsible for firing rockets," Olmert told party members at a meeting in Jerusalem, referring to the ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli communities across the border. am Abend ein Qassam-Raketen-Abschuß in die Wüste und ein Granatangriff auf den Erez crossing.
Palestinian and Israeli leaders may have agreed at the US-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis on 27 November to work towards a full peace deal by the end of next year, but in the tinderbox refugee camp of Ain Al-Hilweh in Lebanon the lives of 75,000 Palestinians are defined by an intractable issue at the heart of the conflict: the right of Palestinian refugees to return home.
Zubei Kseibati, "Legitimacy and rockets": When Hamas gathers tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the launch of the movement, and Khaled Meshaal hints at a third intifada, no one doubts the loyalty of those who are under siege in the Gaza Strip, with the Israeli wall, the freezing cold of hunger, the hunger strikes… the loyalty of those to their cause, also under siege between the occupation and the road that is closed between Gaza and the West Bank.
Helena Cobban, "Israeli Strategic Analysts on the 33day-war": I had a 3-hour-plus bus-ride this afternoon from Charlottesville to Washington DC, so I had a good chance to read the weighty study titled The Second Lebanon War: Strategic Perspectives that my friends at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies (formerly the Jaffee Center) mailed to me. One of the co-editors in Shlomo Bron, whose previous work has usually seemed to me to be pretty clear-eyed, forward-looking, and non-ideological. And taken as a whole this latest volume lives up to his reputation. The INSS's decision to publish the report now is notable because the Winograd Commission, which is Israel's official commission of enquiry into the leadership shortcomings revealed during the war, recently indicated that it has postponed publication of its final, definitive report, for a second time. The report, which is now expected to be made public "within a few weeks", is also expected to have broad political repurcussions inside Israel, most likely including stepped-up efforts to bring down PM Ehud Olmert.
Full report: The Second Lebanon War: Strategic Perspectives
President Bush has approved "a significant reduction" in the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, cutting it to less than one-quarter its size at the end of the Cold War, the White House said Tuesday.