On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Ramallah, a city in the West Bank, to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The talks are likely to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but expectations are low for the meeting. The U.S. President was met in Ramallah by about 150 Palestinian demonstrators protesting his visit, accusing him of sidelining the Palestinian quest for statehood. However, he reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to a two-state solution to the conflict saying "We seek an independent, viable, and contiguous Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel so that the two sides enjoy prosperity and peace." In a news conference on Wednesday, Obama said "I will consider this a success if, when I go back on Friday, I am able to say to myself I have a better understanding of what the constraints are." Obama spent much of Wednesday in meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during which they discussed concerns about the conflict in Syria and seemed to have come to a consensus on Iran's nuclear development program. Meanwhile, Palestinian militants fired two rockets from the Gaza Strip on Thursday morning, hitting the southern Israeli town of Sderot. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks and police said there were no injuries or damage reported. Up to three other rockets were also fired.
The Syrian government and opposition forces have called for an international probe into an attack that may have involved chemical weapons. The Syrian government asked the United Nations for an "independent" investigation into a strike on Tuesday on Khan al-Assal in Aleppo province which it blames on opposition forces. Opposition fighters have accused the regime of staging the attack as well as blaming it for another attack allegedly using chemical weapons in Atayba near Damascus. U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said that the request for an inquiry is being studied. U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered his own investigation. Speaking from Israel, Obama said, "Once we establish the facts, I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game changer." Meanwhile, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported opposition forces have overtaken several towns along Syria's ceasefire line with Israel near the Golan Heights.
- Imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan has declared a "historic" ceasefire to the 29-year-long conflict with Turkey which has killed an estimated 45,000 people.
- Kuwait's Parliament passed a bill which would grant citizenship to "4,000 foreigners," or stateless people, locally know as Bidoon who have long fought for elevated standards and rights.
Arguments and Analysis
Why the Left Must Oppose Negotiation Renewal (Mikhael Manekin, MOLAD)
"For the last twenty
years, the Israeli Left has reflexively supported direct negotiations between
Israel and the Palestinians. This was always considered the preferred route, or
perhaps the only route, that would put an end to the conflict. Time after time
and without exception, the Left camp has legitimized a Right-led peace process
in the eyes of the Israeli public and the international community without
considering the earnestness of right-wing leaders and the destructive
consequences that come with a failed process.
When it comes to negotiations, the Left has repeatedly aided and abetted the Right -much as cheerleader from the sidelines might. The pattern is as follows: the Right opens negotiations, the Left lends them support, demonstrating their enthusiasm, the process fails, and then -without fail - the Left pays the price, even though they merely stood aside. Even worse, when negotiations lack all potential for success and are presented by propagandists from the Right, their failure has real destructive consequences for the two state solution.
The automatic backing given to every round of hollow or forced negotiations for the last two decades demands that the Left renew its line of thinking: Might it be that we've turned talks into ends and not means? Have we thereby abandoned our original goal - a political agreement with the Palestinians? Have we not strengthened the right with our own hands, a right which isn't at all interested in an agreement? Have we thereby participated in hemorrhaging processes whose sole purpose has been to stall for time?"
Jordan's Unfinished Journey: Parliamentary Elections and the State of Reform (Curtis R. Ryan, POMED)
"Despite efforts on the part of the Jordanian government to favorably portray its commitment to reform, a perception gap regarding the process and pace of transition to a constitutional monarchy persists. Recent parliamentary elections, heralded by the monarchy as a significant step in a broader reform initiative have been cast by the Kingdom's critics as an insignificant response to popular demand for greater participation in the democratic process. That response has included certain efforts to combat electoral fraud - foremost among which was the creation of an Independent Electoral Commission - but the extremely unequal distribution of seats, combined with boycotts by major opposition parties, has meant that the new parliament largely resembles its predecessors, with similar loyalties and little authority. In every aspect of its engagement with Jordan, the U.S. government should increase its focus on domestic political reform, articulating in clear and consistent terms the importance of empowering parliament, rectifying imbalances in the electoral system, fostering free speech and ensuring that political representation more accurately reflects Jordan's electorate."
--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey
AFP/Getty Images/MANDEL NGAN