Nach israelischen Angaben wurden am Freitag dreizehn Qassam-Raketen und sechs Mörsergranaten auf die Grenzstadt Sderot abgeschossen. Insgesamt wurden zwei Personen leicht verletzt. Eine Abordnung der Rassisten-Partei Yisrael Beiteinu die bis Ende nächster Woche unter der Führung von Ober-Rassist Avigdor Lieberman in Sderot zu treffen ist wurde knapp von einer Rakete beim Stolzieren erwischt. Bei verschiedenen Luftangriffen sterben eine 72-jährige an Herzversagen, ein einjähriges Kind [erneut al-Kafarna-Clan] durch direkten Treffer auf ein Wohnhaus und ein Hamas-Rocket-Engineer. [Opfer 84, nach 99 im Januar].
Jordan's King Abdullah called on Friday for greater U.S. efforts to reconcile Israelis and Palestinians, saying U.S. President George W. Bush's final year in office would be critical to Middle East peace. Jordan, which made peace with Israel in 1993, is anxious to end a conflict it sees as fueling Islamist militancy. Abdullah's visit to the United States comes before a visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Israel and the Palestinian territories next week. Speaking at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Abdullah said 2008 offered an "unprecedented opportunity" to reach a peace agreement because Arab and Muslim countries have offered to recognize Israel. "At long last... we are in the best possible position to resolve 60 years of conflict between Israel and Palestine," he said. "The Arab and Muslim states have committed to an unprecedented and unanimous peace initiative." [...] The High Court on Friday rejected a petition against a police order prohibiting a memorial rally in Nazareth for George Habash, the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who died in late January.
Gidi Weitz + Meron Rapoport, "This may be the last chance": Yasser Abed Rabbo is worried and one of the reasons for this becomes immediately apparent when we meet: An armed guard escorts him into his office on the third floor of a building in Ramallah midday on Saturday. "Who is he protecting you from - the Israelis or Hamas?" we ask. "From Hamas," he says without hesitating. A rare example of a Palestinian leader who is not ashamed to admit that he is completely secular, Abbed Rabbo is high on the hit list of Gaza militants. Nor does he appear to have any intention of having his name removed from the list. Hamas, he says, "is a trend in the Palestinian society and in the Arab society that is jeopardizing the future of my children. It will poison their lives. I see that they want to impose their ideology on me, and I hate ideologies. I believe in values far more than in ideologies, because I can share values with everyone in the world. I think that what they are doing now in Gaza is, in effect, trying to create a monolithic society on all levels: what you believe in, how you dress, what you eat and how you behave. From birth to death, they will decide everything for you. It's a version of Orwell's '1984,' but with a divine touch whose implication is that if you don't do a certain thing, God will punish you, or punish them - because they, after all, are the representatives of the great and wrathful God." [Gidi Weitz, tatsächlich auffällig starke Texte.]
James J. Zogby: This month, the US Institute for Peace released “Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East,” a report that examined US peace-making efforts over the past four decades. The study group, headed by Daniel Kurtzer (former US ambassador to Egypt and Israel), met during 2006-2007 and interviewed over 100 officials and experts from seven countries and three international organisations. The main body of the report is a concise and precise look at successes and failures, and strengths and weaknesses of the past three administrations’ efforts at Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. It concludes by detailing ten lessons learned and outlining recommendations based on those lessons to guide the next administration.
News roundup and comment, Joshua Landis: Is the Bush administration serious about Syria? Or is it just baring its teeth in a final show of strength for its allies before it bows out? The U.S. Navy is sending three ships to the eastern Mediterranean Sea to show its strength to Syria over Lebanon. The US has also announced that it is sanctioning an additional four Syrians for "helping with the flow of money, weapons, terrorists and other resources from Syria into Iraq." The US and Israel have kept up a steady drum beat of pressure on Syria over the Lebanon presidency. Beginning with the Israeli bombing of a military facility along the Euphrates, the imposition of sanctions against Syrians undermining democracy in Lebanon, against those engaged in public corruption, and just today against those "helping terrorists into Iraq." We must not forget the car bomb that dispatched Mughniya. Now we have US navy vessels tacking towards Tartus. [...]