End Times

May 19, 2010

Syria turned down Peres peace offer

Filed under: Division of Jerusalem,Endtime Prophecies — Steven @ 3:29 am


'Syria turned down Peres peace offer'
Photo by: Associated Press

Assad says president offered Golan in return for subdued Iran ties.


President Shimon Peres sent a message to Syria, offering to return the Golan Heights in exchange for a promise that Damascus would sever its ties with Iran and various terrorist groups, Syrian President Bashar Assad told the Lebanese As-Safir paper in an interview published Tuesday.

Assad was quoted as saying that Peres sent the message through Russian President Dmitry Medvedev while on a visit to Russia last week. Medvedev embarked on a visit to the Middle East later that week. He visited Turkey and Syria, where he met with Hamas officials as well as Syrian ones.

The president’s office issued a clarification following the publication of the interview, confirming that Peres had indeed sent a message to Assad through Medvedev, but that he had not offered to hand over control of the Golan Heights.

According to the clarification, Peres stressed in his message to his Syrian counterpart that “Israel does not plan to attack Syria, nor does it intend to cause an escalation [of tensions] in the North.”

His message further stated that Israel was interested in peace and “prepared to immediately engage in peace talks with the Syrians.” He added, however, that Jerusalem would “not allow Syria to continue to two-time Israel by demanding a withdrawal from the Golan Heights on the one hand while setting up Iranian missiles on the mountains of the North.”

Peres further stated that Israel would not “enter into peace talks while being threatened,” urging Damascus to cease its support of Hamas and Hizbullah’s terrorist activity.

‘It is a mistake to write off the option of resistance’

“We do not trust the Israelis … we are ready for war or peace at any moment,” Assad told the newspaper. “Some make the mistake of writing off the option of resistance (a term used in the Arab world to connote militant warfare, especially against Israel), and they turn into prisoners of the peace option. They should be fully prepared for both,” he said.

Assad added that Syria had entered mediated negotiations with Israel in 2008 fully intending to reach a “clear and final” solution, but that it seemed resistance was necessary for achieving peace. “If you are not strong, you are not respected,” Assad said. He stressed that peace was not merely a symbolic olive branch, but a tangible and very real way to sort out the balance of power in the region. He then described the positive qualities of resistance, citing his achievements in recent years – among them renewed ties with the US and the West and Syria’s “rich, strong national unity” – as manifestations of Syria’s success.

When asked what Syria’s position would be in the event that Israel attacked Lebanon, Assad smiled and told his interviewer, “I think the Israelis want to hear the answer to this question, and I will not fulfill their wish.” Threats of war, he said, were about as likely to become a reality as suggestions of peace.

In April, the Kuwait-based Al-Rai newspaper reported that Syria had transferred ballistic Scud missiles to Hizbullah. According to the report, the missiles were recently transferred to Lebanon, prompting a stern Israeli warning that it would consider attacking both Syrian and Lebanese targets in response.

The Syrian president stressed that he would not put pressure on Hamas or other Palestinian terrorist movements to disarm or act against their will. Concerning the rift between Hamas and Egypt, Assad said his country did not “strive to play a part at [Egypt’s] expense” and that despite disagreements between the two countries, there were no severe issues between them, but rather a basis for improvement. He added that unlike former US president George W. Bush, the Arab states did not employ a policy he described as “he who is not with me is against me.”

Asked about Syria’s regional interests, Assad replied that his country’s “key interests” were “unity in Iraq, stability in Lebanon and dialogue with the US.” In describing the way the relationship between Damascus and Washington had changed in recent years, Assad referred to his ties with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, which had morphed into “mutual respect.”


September 22, 2009

Netanyahu: The Land of Israel Will Be Divided

Filed under: Division of Jerusalem — Steven @ 3:37 am

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(IsraelNN.com) The Israel HaYom newspaper reveals a leftist turn for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Speaking in an interview to be published Thursday, the Prime Minister admitted he had come to terms with dividing the Land of Israel.  “The land is already divided. How it will [yet] be divided, that is the question,” the newspaper reports.

In the interview, Netanyahu insisted that the new reality required “practical solutions”. “How will the land be divided? Territory-wise, there have been those who predicted the land would be divided according to the 1967 armistice lines, which is not acceptable to me. Israel requires defensible borders.”

“I know every place in this land, but there is a reality that exists regarding the million and a half Palestinians that live in the heart of the Jewish State. We need to find a true solution for co-existence with them.”

September 8, 2009

Obama Plan: Temple Mount Under Arab-Muslim Sovereignty

Filed under: Division of Jerusalem — Steven @ 2:42 am

The Middle East peace plan that United States President Barack Obama will unveil soon involves the creation of a Palestinian Authority state by 2011 and the transfer of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem [presumably including the Temple Mount – ed.] to Arab-Muslim sovereignty, Saudi newspaper Al-Ukaz has learned.

According to the report published Sunday in Al-Ukaz, the Obama plan also includes the following elements:

Some parts of eastern Jerusalem [presumably Neveh Yaakov, Pisgat Ze’ev and the like – ed.] would be transferred to Israeli control.

There would be an international presence in the Jordan Valley and other parts of Judea and Samaria.

The Palestinian Authority terror organizations would be disbanded and turn into political parties.

The large settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria would not be dismantled.

The fate of smaller Jewish settlement areas would be decided in a three-month-long negotiation period.

A reporter for the Saudi newspaper received the information from Hassan Harisha, the Second Deputy Speaker of the Palestinian Authority Parliament. Harisha told him that the U.S. has handed over a draft of the peace proposal to the PA and other Arabs for their perusal.

The plan also calls for Judea and Samaria to be demilitarized and for its airspace to remain under Israel control. Israeli-Palestinian Authority security coordination would be strengthened, and the Palestinian Authority state would not be allowed to strike military treaties with other countries in the region.

An “agreed number” of Arab refugees would be absorbed in the Jordan Valley area and in other parts of Judea and Samaria – especially in the area between Ramallah and Shechem.

An international fund would support the refugees and Israel would release Palestinian Authority prisoners three years after a diplomatic accord is signed.

Will he lay out a blueprint?

The Saudi report notwithstanding, the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl estimated Sunday that Obama will not go so far as to present a blueprint for a peace settlement, despite being urged to do so by several Arab governments.

“As the U.N. General Assembly meets in late September, Obama aims to announce the opening of a new negotiating process between Israelis and Palestinians, along with ‘confidence-building’ steps by Israel, the Palestinian Authority and a number of Arab governments,” the columnist wrote. Obama “will probably lay out at least a partial vision of the two-state settlement that all sides now say they support, and the course that negotiations should take. More significantly, he intends to set an ambitious timetable for completing the peace deal – something that will please Arabs but may irritate Israel.”

Arab League Furious over Jewish Prayer on Temple Mount

Filed under: Division of Jerusalem — Steven @ 2:40 am
The Arab League reacted with fury on this week to reports that a small group of Jews had prayed on the Temple Mount on Sunday. Secretary-General Amr Moussa termed the spontaneous prayer gathering “a violation of international law.”

Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, head of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem, led the guided tour on the Temple Mount. While guards on the mount have a policy of preventing Jewish prayer or religious gestures such as kneeling or bowing, Rabbi Ariel’s group managed to briefly pray at the site.

“This is the first time since 1967 that Jews have conducted prayers on Al-Aksa during the month of Ramadan,” Moussa declared. “We condemn this act,” he added, in the name of the 22 countries belonging to the League.

The prayer session was “a serious blow to the holiness of the site,” Moussa claimed, adding that Jews should not be allowed to pray at the site “whether it is Ramadan or any other time of year.”

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City is the site on which the Temple and Second Temple once stood, and according to Judaism, is the holiest place on earth. For approximately 1,000 years, the mount has housed the Al Aksa mosque.

Rabbi Chaim Richman, another Temple Institute leader, said Moussa was misinformed. Rabbi Ariel’s prayer was not the first of its kind – in fact, Jews pray on the Temple Mount whenever they can, he said, and always have.

“There’s a positive commandment for Jewish people to pray on the Temple Mount,” Rabbi Richman explained. “I was on the Temple Mount on Wednesday, and I prayed.”

Far from being a violation of international law, Jewish prayer at the site is a fundamental human right, he said. “We go there out of a deep desire to express the most basic human right that we have, which is to pray to G-d.”


PA judge: Jews have no history in Jerusalem

Filed under: Division of Jerusalem — Steven @ 2:39 am

The Palestinian Authority’s chief Islamic judge, Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, said on Wednesday that there was no evidence to back up claims that Jews had ever lived in Jerusalem or that the Temple ever existed.

Tamimi claimed that Israeli archeologists had “admitted” that Jerusalem was never inhabited by Jews.

Tamimi’s announcement came in response to statements made earlier this week by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who said that Jerusalem “is not a settlement,” and that “the Jews built it 3,000 years ago.”

“Netanyahu’s claims are baseless and untrue,” said Tamimi, the highest religious authority in the PA. “Jerusalem is an Arab and Islamic city and it always has been so.”

Tamimi claimed that all excavation work conducted by Israel after 1967 have “failed to prove that Jews had a history or presence in Jerusalem or that their ostensible temple had ever existed.”

He condemned Netanyahu and “all Jewish rabbis and extremist organizations” as liars because of their assertion that Jerusalem was a Jewish city.

Tamimi accused Israel of distorting the facts and forging history “with the aim of erasing the Arab and Islamic character of Jerusalem.” He also accused Israel of launching an “ethnic cleansing” campaign to squeeze Arabs out of the city.

“By desecrating its holy sites, expelling its Arab residents and demolishing their homes and confiscating their lands and building settlements in Jerusalem, Israel is seeking, through the use of weapons, to turn it into a Jewish city,” he said. “This is a flagrant violation of all religious, legal, moral and human values.”

In another development, Hamas and Islamic Jihad on Wednesday rejected the political platform of PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad.

The platform, which was published on Tuesday, pledges that the Fayad government would work toward establishing a de facto Palestinian state within two years even if no agreement was reached with Israel. The platform talks about peaceful resistance against Israeli “occupation.” The two Islamic groups said in response that the only way to establish a state was through “armed struggle.” They said that Fayad’s plan was unrealistic and unclear, adding that it would be impossible to establish a state “under occupation.”

June 16, 2009

Netanyahu endorses Palestinian independence

Filed under: Division of Jerusalem — Steven @ 3:40 am


JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed a Palestinian state beside Israel for the first time on Sunday, reversing himself under U.S. pressure but attaching conditions such as having no army that the Palestinians swiftly rejected.

A week after President Barack Obama’s address to the Muslim world, Netanyahu said the Palestinian state would also have to recognize Israel as the Jewish state – essentially saying Palestinian refugees must give up the goal of returning to Israel.

With those conditions, he said, he could accept “a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state.”

The West Bank-based Palestinian government dismissed the proposal.

(AP) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves the stage after delivering a speech at Bar-Ilan…
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“Netanyahu’s speech closed the door to permanent status negotiations,” senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said. “We ask the world not to be fooled by his use of the term Palestinian state because he qualified it. He declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, said refugees would not be negotiated and that settlements would remain.”

Netanyahu, in an address seen as his response to Obama, refused to heed the U.S. call for an immediate freeze of construction on lands Palestinians claim for their future state. He also said the holy city of Jerusalem must remain under Israeli sovereignty.

The White House said Obama welcomed the speech as an “important step forward.”

Netanyahu’s address was a dramatic transformation for a man who was raised on a fiercely nationalistic ideology and has spent a two-decade political career criticizing peace efforts.

“I call on you, our Palestinian neighbors, and to the leadership of the Palestinian Authority: Let us begin peace negotiations immediately, without preconditions,” he said, calling on the wider Arab world to work with him. “Let’s make peace. I am willing to meet with you any time any place – in Damascus, Riyadh, Beirut and in Jerusalem.”

(AP) A Palestinian watches Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a televised speech in the…
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Since assuming office in March, Netanyahu has been caught between American demands to begin peace talks with the Palestinians and the constraints of a hardline coalition. On Sunday, he appeared to favor Israel’s all-important relationship with the U.S. at the risk of destabilizing his government.

But his call for establishing a Palestinian state was greeted with lukewarm applause among the audience at Bar-Ilan University, known as a bastion of the Israeli right-wing establishment.

As Netanyahu spoke, two small groups of protesters demonstrated at the university’s entrance.

Several dozen hard-liners held up posters showing Obama wearing an Arab headdress and shouted slogans against giving up West Bank territory. Across from them, a few dozen dovish Israelis and foreign backers chanted slogans including “two states for two peoples” and “stop the occupation.”

Police kept the two groups apart.

(AP) Television images of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are reflected on a shop window in…
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The Palestinians demand all of the West Bank as part of a future state, with east Jerusalem as their capital. Israel captured both areas in the 1967 Mideast war.

Netanyahu, leader of the hardline Likud Party, has always resisted withdrawing from these lands, for both security and ideological reasons. In his speech, he repeatedly made references to Judaism’s connection to the biblical Land of Israel.

“Our right to form our sovereign state here in the land of Israel stems from one simple fact. The Land of Israel is the birthplace of the Jewish people,” he said.

But Netanyahu also said that Israel must recognize that millions of Palestinians live in the West Bank, and continued control over these people is undesirable. “In my vision, there are two free peoples living side by side each with each other, each with its own flag and national anthem,” he said.

Netanyahu has said he fears the West Bank could follow the path of the Gaza Strip – which the Palestinians also claim for their future state. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and Hamas militants now control the area, often firing rockets into southern Israel.

(AP) A Palestinian family watch Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a televised speech in…
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“In any peace agreement, the territory under Palestinian control must be disarmed, with solid security guarantees for Israel,” he said.

“If we get this guarantee for demilitarization and necessary security arrangements for Israel, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, we will be willing in a real peace agreement to reach a solution of a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside the Jewish state,” he said.

Netanyahu became the latest in a series of Israeli hard-liners to soften their positions after assuming office. Earlier this decade, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon led Israel out of Gaza before suffering a debilitating stroke. His successor, Ehud Olmert, spoke eloquently of the need to withdraw from the West Bank, though a corruption scandal a disastrous war in Lebanon prevented him from carrying out that vision.

Netanyahu gave no indication as to how much captured land he would be willing to relinquish. However, he ruled out a division of Jerusalem, saying, “Israel’s capital will remain united.”

Netanyahu also made no mention of uprooting Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Nearly 300,000 Israelis live in the West Bank, in addition to 180,000 Israelis living in Jewish neighborhoods built in east Jerusalem. He also said that existing settlements should be allowed to grow – a position opposed by the U.S.

(AP) An Israeli man looks at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a speech on television…
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“We have no intention to build new settlements or expropriate land for expanding existing settlements. But there is a need to allow residents to lead a normal life. Settlers are not the enemy of the nation and are not the enemy of peace – they are our brothers and sisters,” he said.

Netanyahu also said the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinians have refused to do so, fearing it would amount to giving up the rights of millions of refugees and their descendants and discriminate against Israel’s own Arab minority.

Although the Palestinians have agreed to demilitarization under past peace proposals, Erekat rejected it, saying it would cement Israeli rule over them.

Nabil Abu Rdeneh, another Palestinian official, called on the U.S. to challenge Netanyahu “to prevent more deterioration in the region.”

“What he has said today is not enough to start a serious peace process,” he added.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called the speech “racist” and called on Arab nations “form stronger opposition” toward Israel. Hamas ideology does not recognize a Jewish state in an Islamic Middle East and the group has sent dozens of suicide bombers into Israel.

Netanyahu also came under criticism from within his own government – a coalition of religious and nationalistic parties that oppose Palestinian independence.

Zevulun Orlev, a member of the Jewish Home Party, which represents Jewish settlers and other hard-liners, said Netanyahu’s speech violated agreements struck when the government was formed. “I think the coalition needs to hold a serious discussion to see where this is headed,” he told Israel Radio.

June 13, 2009

Binyamin Netanyahu may yield to two-state solution after pressure from Obama

Filed under: Division of Jerusalem — Steven @ 5:25 am

Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to endorse a “two-state solution” in a much-heralded speech this weekend, but he may stall on American demands to freeze Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Feeling the squeeze between the US Administration, which wants a moratorium on settlement growth and a commitment to a Palestinian state, and his national-religious coalition, which favours neither, the Israeli Prime Minister appears likely to try to steer a middle course.

Israeli newspapers were full of speculation about what Mr Netanyahu — who has so far refused openly to back a Palestinian state alongside Israel — might offer to deflect pressure from Washington. Ehud Barak, his Defence Minister, urged him this week to recognise a Palestinian state, but members of Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party have cautioned him against the move.

Haaretz, the centre-left newspaper, said that the Prime Minister was likely to mention a two-state solution and pledge to adhere to the “road map” — a US-brokered document that calls for an end to Israeli settlement building and a clampdown on militant groups by the Palestinian Authority. The road map was adopted in 2003 but both sides have accused each other of failing to meet their obligations.

The Israeli media have predicted that when he speaks at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv on Sunday night, Mr Netanyahu will recommend an immediate resumption of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, but will also set out some demands, including that the Palestinians should recognise the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

While accepting the road map Mr Netanyahu is not thought to be planning to mention an explicit freeze on settlements, as demanded by President Obama in his keynote speech to the Muslim world in Cairo last week.

In conceding to a two-state solution, he may even try to ask the US to relax its demands that all settlement expansions should be stopped — a move that is vehemently opposed by Mr Netanyahu’s national-religious constituency.

Such a compromise would in effect take the peace process back to where it was under the previous centre-left Government of Ehud Olmert, whose resignation amid repeated corruption allegations eventually brought the Israeli Right to power this year. Mr Olmert had pledged to take action against settlements but opponents said that the Jewish communities built on land conquered by Israel in the 1967 war still enjoyed an unprecedented growth spurt while he was in office.

The dilemma faced by Mr Netanyahu will raise uncomfortable memories of his first stint as Prime Minister in the late 1990s, when his fractious right-wing coalition toppled him after he yielded to American pressure to hand over tracts of the West Bank to the control of the Palestinian Authority as part of the now defunct Oslo peace accords.

Analysts noted that Mr Netanyahu appeared to have been taken by surprise by the strength of Mr Obama’s resolve to thwart the growth of settlements.

Members of the ruling coalition, wary of their leader caving in, have cautioned the Prime Minister against giving too much away before negotiations have even resumed. “The US pressure is mainly psychological. One should not forget that the President is not the only one in the United States. There’s the Congress and the Senate, which support Israel,” Miri Regev, a Likud MP, said.

Another powerful member of Mr Netanyahu’s party, Benny Begin, the son of Israel’s first right-wing Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, said that “if the only solution is two states for two peoples, then there is no solution”.

Mr Netanyahu has in the past opposed the creation of an independent Palestinian state, arguing that such an entity would soon fall under the control of the Iranian-backed Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip.

June 9, 2009

Obama: I Will Speak the Truth, as the Koran Says

Filed under: Division of Jerusalem — Steven @ 9:16 am
He told 3,000 guests at Cairo University that he will put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to stop terror and on Israel to cease a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria. He did not specifically state whether Jerusalem neighborhoods are part of the “occupation” that he said must end.

Click here for Israeli responses to the speech.

His only reference to Jerusalem was a quote from the Koran that describes Moses, Jesus and Mohammed joining together in prayer, and a call for “Jerusalem [to be] a secure home for Jews, Christians and Muslims.”

President Obama opened the speech with the Islamic greeting, “Peace unto you” in Arabic and reminded his listeners of his Muslim background. He quoted the Koran several times in his Cairo speech, stating that the Muslim holy book states, “Be conscious of G-d and speak always the truth.”

The focus of his speech was a list of six sources of conflict that he said must be confronted in order to reach peace — extremism, the Palestinian Authority-Israel dispute, nuclear weapons, democracy, religious tolerance, women’s rights and economic growth and development.

Concerning Israel, he made it perfectly clear that will personally pressure for an end to the “occupation” that he said has caused displacement to the Arab population in Israel for 60 years. His speech specifically defined the Arabs in Judea, Samaria and Gaza as a “Palestinian people,” and he mentioned their “suffering” immediately after referring to the Holocaust.

President Obama said that just as the Holocaust cannot be denied, Israel must recognize the right of Arabs to a PA state, which he called Palestine. “Jews have undergone thousands of years of persecution…and I will go to Buchenwald” this week to visit the Nazi death camp where Jews were butchered.

“Denying the Holocaust and threatening Israel with destruction is wrong,” he declared.

“On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people have suffered in pursuit of a homeland and have suffered for 60 years of displacement.” He accused Israel of being responsible for “humiliation” of Arabs. “Let there be no doubt that the situation for the Palestinian people” is intolerable and America “will not turn its back” on the need for a PA state, he said.

“The U.S. does not accept the settlements, and they violate previous agreements,” according to the president. He was referring to the American Roadmap plan, which does not specifically call on Israel to surrender Judea, Samaria and Gaza but instead calls for negotiations on the borders of a PA state.

The president also blamed Israel for the lack of opportunity for Arabs under PA rule, despite the local Arab economy having enjoyed unprecedented economic growth following the end of Jordanian and Egyptian occupation in the 1967 Six-Day War. The socio-economic situation deteriorated with the influence of the Palestine Liberation Organization under the rule of Yasser Arafat.

President Obama insisted that “Israel must live up to its obligations” for economic opportunity for Arabs and implicitly compared the situation of Arabs with that of blacks in 19th and early 20th century America.


He also demanded a total halt to terrorism, warning that ”moral authority” is not claimed by rockets and bus bombings, but held out the opportunity for the Hamas terrorist organization to deny violence and recognize Israel.

While saying that the U.S. cannot impose peace, he added, “America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private…. Many Muslims recognize Israel will not go away, and many Israelis see the need for a PA state.”

He also called on Arab states to contribute to the PA economy and society. The Arab world has pledged billions of dollars to help the government of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas but has fulfilled only a small fraction of its pledges.

The president preceded the issue of the PA-Israeli dispute with the need to end extremism. President Obama described the Muslim religion as one that “emphasizes the idea of religious tolerance and racial equality.” He declared that the U.S. “is not at war with Islam” but that the country will “relentlessly confront violence extremists who present a threat to our security.”


Concerning Iran, he asserted that it can have nuclear power if it abides by international treaties. President Obama did not spell out any specific measures to convince Tehran to end its current policy of non-cooperation with international inspectors while it continues to reach nuclear capability by enriching uranium, a key element for a nuclear weapon.

The fourth area of conflict that he addressed is democracy, which he said the U.S. cannot impose. He added that the U.S. will work with countries “that recognize the will of the people.” He specially pointed to discrimination of Copts in Egypt.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was notably absent from the speech, the official explanation being the death of his 12-year-old grandson nearly a month ago. Civil rights defenders have roundly attacked his regime as being authoritarian and suppressive.

The fifth and sixth areas of conflict that President Obama said should be address are women’s rights and economic development, both of which he stated help pave the road to peace and prosperity.


Earlier in his remarks, he warned that a “single speech” cannot “erase years of distrust.” He praised Islam as a force of religious tolerance and racial equality and said that Muslims “have always been a part of American sources.”

The president stated that “Muslims have enriched the U.S. and have won Nobel prizes,” although in fact less than handful of Muslims have won international Nobel prices.

May 19, 2009

Obama, Netanyahu lay out Iran, Palestinian divides

Filed under: Division of Jerusalem — Steven @ 3:08 am

US President Barack Obama on Monday held crucial talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which highlighted divisions on confronting Iran and the notion of a Palestinian state.


May 16, 2009

Jordan king: Israel must accept Palestinian state

Filed under: Division of Jerusalem — Steven @ 3:26 am

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan’s king pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday to immediately commit to the establishment of a Palestinian state, as he pursues a sweeping resolution of the Muslim world’s conflicts with Israel.

Netanyahu made an unannounced, lightning visit to neighboring Jordan, as King Abdullah II and other regional leaders seek to lay the groundwork for restarting Israel-Arab peace efforts. Abdullah’s lobbying has been in step with the Obama administration’s efforts to link progress on Israel-Arab peacemaking to progress on curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The U.S. says moderate Arab states will not join a united front against Tehran unless Israel moves vigorously on peacemaking.

Netanyahu, however, argues that the threat from Iran and its regional proxies — Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip — must be confronted first, before any progress can be made in peacemaking. And while he has been trying to forge cooperation with moderate Arab nations to pursue that agenda, he has pointedly refused to endorse Palestinian statehood.

Abdullah pressed Netanyahu in their meeting Thursday to “immediately declare his commitment to a two-state solution, acceptance of the Arab peace initiative and to take necessary steps to move forward toward a solution,” according to a royal palace statement. It did not give Netanyahu’s response, and a spokesman for the Israeli leader was not immediately available for comment.

The Arab peace initiative would offer Israel relations with the 23 Arab League members in exchange for its withdrawal from land it occupied in the 1967 war, a just solution for Palestinian refugees and the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.

Abdullah said there “is consensus in the international community that there is no alternative to the two-state solution.”

Netanyahu will likely hear a similar message when he meets President Barack Obama in Washington on Monday.

Pope Benedict XVI, on his first visit to the Holy Land, has also delivered a powerful plea for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. He will meet the Israeli leader later Thursday in the biblical town of Nazareth.

Netanyahu’s election this year has been ill-received in the Arab world because of his hard-line positions against yielding land captured in Middle East wars and his refusal to support Palestinian independence.

On a visit to Egypt on Monday, Netanyahu sought help in building a coalition of Arab nations against Iran and said he hoped to renew peace talks with the Palestinians in the coming weeks. But he made no endorsement of Palestinian statehood.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he would not meet with Netanyahu until he agrees to pursue Palestinian independence and freeze construction in Jewish West Bank settlements, something Netanyahu has said he would not do. On Thursday, Abbas met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus to discuss Abdullah’s new Mideast peace push.

Abdullah traveled to Damascus earlier this week to promote his ideas to Assad.

Netanyahu says Iran’s nuclear program is Israel’s greatest threat and has hinted Israel might be willing to attack if international diplomatic pressure fails to stop Iran from enriching uranium — a process needed to produce bombs, but which is also used to produce fuel for power plants.

Iran says its nuclear program is designed to produce energy, but Israel, the U.S. and many other countries think Tehran is trying to develop atomic weapons.

Israeli media have reported that Netanyahu has met with military commanders and is pleased with their preparations for a military strike.

Vice President Joe Biden recently said Israeli military action in Iran would be “ill-advised” and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has reasoned it would not set back the Iranian program more than three years.

An attack certainly would risk an Iranian reprisal against Israel — or American troops in the Middle East.

Israeli aircraft destroyed Iraq’s unfinished nuclear reactor in 1981, but a strike against Iran’s program would be more complicated because Iranian facilities are scatted across a vast country and some are buried underground

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