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US$5.4 Billion Pledged for Gaza

US$5.4 Billion Pledged for Gaza Categories: Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

This Update deals with the international donors conference for Gaza that took place in Cairo on Sunday, and led to pledges of US$5.4 billion in money to be divided equally between Gaza reconstruction and the Palestinian Authority.

We lead with a critique of the likely effects of the conference from veteran Israeli Arab Affairs journalist Khaled Abu Toameh. Toameh argues that despite the promises to funnel the money through the Palestinian Authority (PA), the donors are nonetheless empowering Hamas, which will benefit politically from the money and be able to use its other resources to dig tunnels and rebuild weapons.

Efforts to stop a Nuclear Iran coming to a bad end?

Efforts to stop a Nuclear Iran coming to a bad end? Categories: International Security, Iran, Updates    

This Update is devoted to some increasingly pessimistic prognoses that are appearing for the p5+1 (US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) nuclear talks with Iran that are scheduled to be completed by Nov. 25.

First up is Canadian-American author and columnist David Frum, who congratulates Iran's negotiators, arguing they have convincingly won the encounter with their American and allied counterparts, even though, as of last year, the cards seemed to all be in the Americans' hands as sanctions were having significant negative effects on the Iranian economy.

Givat Hamatos – the origins and significance of yet another settlement controversy

Givat Hamatos – the origins and significance of yet another settlement controversy Author: Gabrielle Debinski and Tzvi Fleischer Categories: America, Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Media coverage of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House on October 1, was largely dominated by concurrent statements from the White House and US State Department respectively, denouncing an Israeli decision to persevere with the planning of 2,610 housing units in the Givat Hamatos area in east Jerusalem.

This not only detracted from other important issues but also symbolised of dysfunctional and immune from basic factual reality the debate about Israeli settlements has become internationally.

The significance of the Netanyahu-Modi meeting in New York

The significance of the Netanyahu-Modi meeting in New York Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Asia, Israel, Updates    

Israel and India have been gradually developing closer ties since India's formal diplomatic recognition of Israel in 1992. Today Israel is one of the largest military suppliers to India, and Israeli agricultural technologies including drip irrigation are helping feed India's huge population. While trade and investment between Israel and India have flourished, and today is estimated around US$6 billion, (high level political contacts between Israel and India have frequently lagged behind. That is what made Israeli Prime Minister's Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 28 in New York particularly significant.

Some take-out from Julia Gillard’s “My Story”

Some take-out from Julia Gillard’s “My Story” Author: AIJAC staff Categories: Australasia, Updates    

This week former Prime Minister Julia Gillard released her autobiography, My Story - detailing and justifying her experiences and decision-making during her three year and three day term as Prime Minister of Australia. It contains her personal account of Australia's developing relationship with the international community, the government's efforts to secure a seat on the UN Security Council and of her relationships with key government figures, among other things.

Abbas/Netanyahu Speeches at the UN

Abbas/Netanyahu Speeches at the UN Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Over the past week, both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu spoke at the opening session of the UN General Assembly (their speeches are available in full here and here respectively). Abbas' speech was regarded almost universally in Israel as particularly confrontational - not only accusing Israel of planned "genocide" in Gaza and seeming to justify terrorism, but apparently declaring it "impossible" to return to negotiations -  and was even condemned by the US State Department as "counterproductive" and containing "offensive characterizations that were deeply disappointing". Netanayhu's speech - a useful summary of its key points is here -  responded in detail to Abbas on Gaza making it clear Hamas was to blame for the destruction and death in Gaza (and showed a photo of Palestinian kids playing around rocket launchers);  addressed the spread of Islamist extremism in the Middle East while especially warning of the threat of a nuclear Iran; and finally contained a new element - a call for a " “broader rapprochement” between Israel and the wider Arab world which might help faciliate a two-state peace. This Update deals with the implications of both speeches.

Terror apologist Yvonne Ridley given a free ride on the ABC
George Galloway and Yvonne Ridley

Terror apologist Yvonne Ridley given a free ride on the ABC Author: Gabrielle Debinski and Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Middle East, Palestinians, Terrorism, Updates    

On September 26, controversial British Muslim convert and journalist, Yvonne Ridley, delivered an address at a radical Islamic conference in Melbourne. Promoting her ‘speaking tour' in Australia, the contentious Ridley, who converted to Islam in 2003 after she was kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, appeared on ABC Radio's "AM" program the following day. Ridley is well-known for her role as a former presenter and current frequent guest on Press TV, the Iranian government's English language station, notorious for its anti-Zionist, anti-Western propaganda, and for her apologetics - sometime sounding almost like justification - for Islamist and Arab terrorism.

Not that you would know any of this from the ABC interview itself.

 Nuclear-armed Iran would pose a far bigger threat than Islamic State

Nuclear-armed Iran would pose a far bigger threat than Islamic State Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Iran, Iraq, Op-eds, Terrorism    

The Islamic State is certainly dangerous and must be "degraded and ultimately destroyed", in Obama's words. But nothing could damage long-term regional and wider global stability, and Australian and American interests in the region, more than to allow the fight against the Islamic State to become the distraction that allows Tehran to develop nuclear weapons capabilities or extend its regional sphere of influence...

Hamas and the welfare of Gazans

Hamas and the welfare of Gazans Categories: Palestinians, Updates    

This Update, dealing with some realities of Gaza post-conflict, and especially Hamas' role in them, leads with an extraordinary collection of testimony from Gazans.

The testimony, collected by British-based Palestinian writer and commentator Mudar Zahran, comes from an impressive variety of anonymous individuals from different walks of life in Gaza explaining their experience of the recent conflict and the general situation of living under Hamas rule.

The Last Word: The Darville in the Detail

The Last Word: The Darville in the Detail Author: Jeremy Jones Categories: Australasia, Media/ Academia, Terrorism    

Twenty years ago, this writer, academics, media personalities and political and ethnic community leaders were, to use the language of the time, "debating Demidenko" - after the respected Miles Franklin Prize was awarded to a book, purportedly written by an Australian of Ukrainian heritage, which sympathetically portrayed Nazi murderers and their supporters.

Media Microscope: A media "seizure" Author: Allon Lee Categories: Australasia, Israel, Media/ Academia    

An AFP story claimed Israel was seizing "400 hectares of Palestinian land in the Bethlehem area in the occupied West Bank" and stated that it was part of "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policy of settlement expansion on land the Palestinians claim for a future state," Adelaide Advertiser (Sept. 3).

Both statements are dubious. Israel has not seized any land - it determined that the land is not privately owned and is therefore public land, nothing more.

Essay: Moral Defence

Essay: Moral Defence Author: Asa Kasher Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

I first heard air raid sirens during Israel's 1948 War of Independence, and I heard them most recently in August, during Operation Protective Edge. In 1948, an Egyptian plane dropped bombs on the centre of Rishon Lezion, where I then lived; more recently the threat took the familiar form of rockets launched by Hamas from the Gaza Strip and intercepted by the Iron Dome system far above my head in another town near Tel Aviv.

The Appeal of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia

The Appeal of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia Author: Giora Eliraz Categories: Asia, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Terrorism    

A pivotal doctrinal slogan proclaimed by the militants of the Islamic State (IS) - formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) - is re-establishment of a Caliphate (Khilafah) that binds together lands inhabited by Muslims under unified political rule, based on Sharia Islamic law. For this purpose, the ISIS declared itself in June 2014 as Islamic Caliphate; its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as Caliph, and changed its name.

Israel's New Northern Exposure

Israel's New Northern Exposure Author: Andrew J. Tabler Categories: Islamic Extremism, Israel, Syria, Terrorism    

While the world focuses on the Islamic State's advances in Iraq and Syria, the Syrian war is spilling over into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. On Aug. 28, Syrian rebel groups, led by al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front, captured the old border city of Quneitra from the Syrian army and Iranian-backed National Defence Forces.

Israel and the rise of ISIS Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Iraq, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Syria    

It is a landscape with which Jewish history is all too familiar. Here, in the flatlands abutting the Tigris and Euphrates, Jacob fell for Rachel, Jonah warned of approaching calamity, and Ezekiel saw a valley of bones come to life, as 26 centuries of intensive Jewish creation, crowned by the Talmud, unfolded.

Now, however, as its Islamist secessionists unsettle the Middle East and bewilder the entire world, Iraq seems to concern the rest of the world more than it concerns the Jewish state.

Back to Iraq

Back to Iraq Author: Oded Eran Categories: America, Iraq, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Syria    

President Obama's Sept. 10 address to the American nation regarding the new US strategy against ISIS leaves many issues unclear, chief among them, what underlies the change in US policy regarding the extremist organisation. Both Obama's speech and public statements by senior American officials offer a variety of reasons for this shift in posture.

AIR New Zealand: Peculiar election leads to stunning victory

AIR New Zealand: Peculiar election leads to stunning victory Author: Miriam Bell Categories: Australasia    

Impassioned speeches, heated debates, jovial neighbourhood walkabouts, the peddling of grand dreams for the future... National elections tend to be rousing times, full of hope and opportunity.

They also tend to focus the attention of the community on broader social issues, along with the challenges facing the economy and the country. The resulting dialogue - which is often the only time many issues are publicly debated - is a useful and important part of New Zealand's democratic system.

Scribblings: Bring Gaza to the West Bank?

Scribblings: Bring Gaza to the West Bank? Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Palestinians    

An increasing number of people seem to have a very simple - perhaps simplistic is a better word - prescription for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

It is not the negotiated two-state peace deal favoured by both sides of Australian politics, almost all Western governments, and both the Israeli public and successive Israeli governments over the last 15 years.

Ceasefire talks offer chance of lasting peace in Gaza

Ceasefire talks offer chance of lasting peace in Gaza Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

All attention has turned to Australian military personnel being sent to Iraq to destroy the Islamic State. But crucial talks are set to commence soon on another critical battleground in the quest for Middle East peace.

This week talks are expected to begin in Cairo to produce a long-term ceasefire for Gaza. Israeli representatives and a joint Hamas-Palestinian Authority delegation are supposed to meet under Egyptian mediation to discuss relaxation of border controls by both Israel and Egypt, Israeli demands for demilitarisation of Gaza, Hamas demands for a sea port and airport and payment of Hamas salaries, and reconstruction arrangements.

After the Gaza conflict: The view from Israel

After the Gaza conflict: The view from Israel Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians    

I arrived at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport at the end of August, less than 48 hours after Gaza's rulers Hamas accepted an open-ended ceasefire effectively ending a two-month long conflict with Israel.

Along with the signs giving directions to passport control and baggage claim were signs indicating the nearest bomb shelters - a reminder of rocket attacks that briefly led to the suspension of most flights to and from Israel.

For the first time, Israelis realised that Hamas' rockets not only posed a terror threat, but could physically isolate Israel.

What really happened in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that broke down in April?
Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu

What really happened in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that broke down in April? Author: Allon Lee Categories: Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

One of the most persistent myths, and one which was repeatedly hammered before, during and after the recent Gaza war by some supposedly knowledgeable commentators, was the accusation that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was ultimately to blame for the war's outbreak because he has stymied all efforts at establishing a Palestinian state.

Yet if one looks at the totality of the evidence the picture being painted of Israeli intransigence spoiling peace hopes does not hold water.

43 out of tens of thousands in 8200

43 out of tens of thousands in 8200 Author: Gabrielle Debinski Categories: Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Updates    

The international media has been abuzz with stories about the petition letter signed by 43 reservists of the elite IDF intelligence unit 8200 on September 12. The letter, which is addressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF General Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz and Military Intelligence Director, Major General Aviv Kochavi, states that the reservists refuse to continue service in the elite intelligence division, citing mistreatment and "extortion" of Palestinians under Israeli surveillance as the driving force behind their "moral" stance.

Abbas' new "peace plan"

Abbas' new "peace plan" Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Updates    

Last weekend, at a closed session of the Arab League Summit in Turkey, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly announced his plan to move ahead with peace process with Israel, and had it endorsed by the Arab League. While the details have not been publicly announced, they have been leaked in various news reports and reportedly entail a plan that the UN Security Council would make Israel withdraw to the pre-1967 boundaries within three years - or else Israel would be brought before the International Criminal Court and security cooperation with the Palestinians ended - if agreement on a final peace is not reached between the parties during a nine-month negotiating process. The plan has reportedly been rejected by the US Administration. This Update deals with the difficulties of this plan, and the wider problem of Israeli-Palestinian peace making after the Gaza conflict.