September 30th

NEWS: The PLO welcomes the Quartet statement and repeats its commitment to negotiations, but reiterates its call for a settlement freeze. International condemnation of Israel's new settlement plans grows. The corruption trial of a PA minister is again postponed. Palestinians continue to seek Security Council support, focusing on Portugal, Colombia and Bosnia. The European Parliament calls Palestinian statehood initiatives “legitimate.” A new report suggests the occupation is costing Palestinians about $7 billion a year. COMMENTARY: Charles Krauthammer claims the absence of peace is all the fault of the Palestinians. Barbara F. Walter and Andrew Kydd say the Palestinians are finally pursuing an intelligent foreign policy and have created a win-win scenario for themselves. Aijaz Zaka Syed says the debate over Palestinian membership shows that the UN is fundamentally undemocratic. Khalaf Al Habtoor says it's time for Arabs to wholeheartedly support the Palestinian statehood initiative. George Hishmeh says now that Israel has its new settlement announcements, maybe Pres. Obama can understand Pres. Abbas' perspective better. Shira Hetzog says the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is too volatile to wait for the next US election for progress. Lara Friedman says the new Israeli settlement expansion in occupied East Jerusalem was entirely predictable. Steve Spiegel says poor Israeli, Palestinian and American strategies led to the UN imbroglio.

September 29th

NEWS: Israelis seem satisfied with their own lives but gloomy about peace. Tensions are rising in the occupied West Bank. As expected, the UNSC refers the Palestinian membership application to its standing committee on new members. Sec. Clinton and Egyptian FM Amr both call for resumed negotiations. Clinton calls Israels settlement plans in occupied East Jerusalem "counterproductive." Palestinian FM Malki says Gabon and Nigeria have both promised to support Palestinian UN membership in a possible UNSC vote, leaving only one more required for a majority. Palestinian deny reports they are asking for Quartet Envoy Tony Blair to be replaced. The Prosector of the ICC reaffirms that a Palestinian non-member observer state could join the ICC. House Republicans continue to push for a cutoff of US aid to the PA. Under Pres. Obama, the US has sold bunker-buster technology to Israel. COMMENTARY: Saliba Sarsar and Hussein Ibish say both Abbas and Netanyahu have strengthened their political hands and should now work on positive moves on the ground. Moshe Arens says Israel did not face a "diplomatic tsunami" after all. Sarah Kreimer says Israel has placed ancient sites in the hands of fanatics. The National says Israel's stalling over the Quartet statement and settlement expansion plans show its real intentions. Abdullah Iskandar says Hamas has missed a historic opportunity by denouncing the Palestinian UN initiative. John Whitbeck thinks the US is playing a dangerous game at the UN. The Arab News says even a Palestinian defeat at the UN would be a moral victory. Asharq Al-Awsat and Raghida Dergham both interview Pres. Abbas.

September 28th

NEWS: Israel confirms approval for more than 1,000 new settler housing units in occupied East Jerusalem. The US, EU, PA and many others condemn the move. Palestinians say Nigeria has committed to voting in the Security Council for Palestinian UN membership. The US hopes to avoid using its veto in the event of a vote. Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails launch a hunger strike over worsening conditions. Palestinians say that to facilitate economic development they need to revise some terms of the 1994 Paris Agreement. Israel's cabinet cannot agree on a response to the new Quartet statement. Pres. Obama's popularity is surging in Israel according to a new poll, and former New York Mayor Koch re-endorses him for president. Israel's internal security forces recommends government defunding of an extremist settler religious school. The Jerusalem Post interviews PM Netanyahu. COMMENTARY: Tom Friedman says both sides are acting as if they want two states for one people, not two states for two peoples. Sefi Rachlevsky says the messianism PM Netanyahu indulges in could lead to an attack on Iran. Uri Savir is the status quo is untenable and things will either get better or worse depending on what the parties do Josh Mintz says some Israeli lawyers argue that recognizing a Palestinian state could help Israel legally defend the blockade of Gaza.Lawrence Grossman says that the US Jewish vote is in play for 2012, in part because of perceptions about Obama's policies towards Israel. Rami Khouri says at the UN Palestinians shed their mantle of victimhood and asserted their agency. Osama Al Sharif says Pres. Abbas' UN move is not a "gambit"but the right thing to do. Hani al-Masri says a new Abbas and the old Netanyahu addressed the UN. John Judis says the US should support Palestinian statehood.

September 27th

NEWS: As expected, Palestine's UN membership application will be referred by the Security Council to the Membership Committee. Hamas prohibits any celebration in Gaza of the UN process. Events at the UN last week create a critical moment for the peace process. A Palestinian official says nonviolence is the key to their strategy. Both Pres. Abbas and PM Netanyahu are enjoying a surge of popularity. Israeli extremists demand the annexation of the West Bank. Israel announces more than 1,000 new settlement housing units in occupied East Jerusalem. Members of Congress repeat threats to cut funding to the PA. The US says it opposes “preconditions” for resumed negotiations. COMMENTARY: Akiva Eldar says peace is the answer to Israel's long-term security needs. David Newman says if Israel took real steps towards peace, its call for negotiations would be taken more seriously. Gershon Baskin says both Abbas and Netanyahu should take unilateral steps to make renewed negotiations possible. Robert Fisk says even many Israelis open to a Palestinian state draw the line at compromising on Jerusalem. Nathan Guttman says Pres. Obama may be deliberately stepping back from a prominent Mideast peace role for election purposes. Joschka Fischer says the only rational Israeli response to the Arab uprisings is to quickly move towards peace with the Palestinians. Yossi Alpher says the three main UN speeches on the Middle East offered no progress. Ghassan Khatib says Palestinians now face a difficult quandary over whether to accept insufficient Quartet terms or enter a confrontation with world powers. Elliott Abrams says Abbas gained politically but achieved nothing to advance Palestinian independence. Hussein Ibish says Abbas gave a moving, historic speech, one Yasser Arafat was never able to produce.

September 26th

NEWS: Pres. Abbas and PM Netanyahu appeared to strengthen their domestic political standings. Abbas is accorded a hero's welcome in Ramallah. A new proposal from the Quartet, which is divided over the issue of Israel as a “Jewish state,” gets a mixed response. Israeli officials are considering their options in responding to the Palestinian UN initiative. Tensions are growing in the occupied West Bank. Israel and the Palestinians are lobbying for votes in the Security Council. Pres. Peres says Abbas is the best Palestinian leader Israel has ever dealt with. Israel's finance minister again threatens to withhold Palestinian tax revenues. A new survey suggests one third of Jewish Israelis don't consider Palestinian citizens of Israel to be Israelis.Even Israel is trying to restrain members of Congress from rushing to "punish" the Palestinians. The Israeli military says Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation remains strong. COMMENTARY: The CSM says Pres. Obama must rebuild his Middle East peace strategy. Akiva Eldar says Netanyahu's UN address was a campaign speech. Carlo Strenger says it's now up to Europe to save the two-state solution. Orly Azoulay says Netanyahu won but Israel lost at the UN. Susan Hattis Rolef says Israel needs a better plan than national suicide. Tariq Alhomayed says Obama's UN speech was diplomatically “bankrupt.” Manal Alafrangi says US pressure on the Palestinians will never end. Sharon Lipton says ultimately peace has to be negotiated. Rami Khouri says September 2011 will prove a turning point in the behavior of all parties. Barak Ravid says Abbas completely outshone Netanyahu at the UN.

September 23rd

NEWS: Uncertainty continues to characterize the Palestinian strategy at the UN. Reuters says the bid is poised between miracle, muddle and mess.Domestic pressures are shaping the attitudes of all parties. The US is working with both sides on security preparations for reactions on the ground. Palestinians in the West Bank and at the UN vent anger against the US and Pres. Obama. Pres. Abbas seems to be gaining in popularity among Palestinians. Former Pres. Bill Clinton gives a very negative evaluation of PM Netanyahu's performance regarding peace. The UN bid in some ways seems to be fizzling out. UK and French divisions highlight Europe's disunity on Palestine. COMMENTARY: The New York Times says Obama was right to defend Israel at the UN, but needs to take bold moves to salvage the two-state solution.Keith Ellison says the US should support Palestinian statehood. Fareed Zakaria says he's all for Palestinian independence but the UN initiative will not bring that closer to reality. Aaron David Miller says during the election season, it's wise for Obama not to take risks on Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy. Bernd Debusmann says Obama was pandering for election purposes. James Verini says even the Israelis know Palestine is a state. Carlo Strenger says Israel is approaching the day where it will be internationally regarded as South Africa used to be. Kadima leader Tzipi Livni says Netanyahu must reengage negotiations immediately. Raghida Dergham says Abbas launched a “civil Intifada” at the UN. Husam Itani says Arabs feel wounded and insulted by Obama's speech. The Arab News says Obama has “once again betrayed the Palestinians.” Hussein Ibish says Obama's UN speech was good politics but weak diplomacy, and that in practice UN nonmember state observer status wouldn't help Palestinians get ICC prosecutions against Israeli officials.

September 22nd

NEWS: Palestinians say they intend to continue to pursue full UN membership in spite of Pres. Obama's admonitions. Pres. Abbas is now the center of global attention. Palestinian leaders say they will give the Security Council “some time” to consider their application before asking them to act, and are studying a fresh proposal for a UNGA resolution and renewed negotiations with Israel. Abbas' defiance seems to have intensified. Jewish-American groups are split on Obama's UN speech. The EU is still divided on the issue of Palestine at the UN. Israeli leaders welcome Obama's speech, but Palestinian leaders criticize it. COMMENTARY: Norwegian FM and chairman of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for assistance to the Palestinian Authority Jonas Gahr Store says Palestine is ready for statehood.Hussein Ibish says Obama's speech was good politics but did not serve US policy goals. Former Israeli PM Olmert says this is the last chance for a two-state solution. Saree Makdisi says the UN bid could backfire. Gideon Levy says Palestinians are "the new Jews" and their leaders are remarkably like old-time Zionists. Frances Raday says a Palestinian state is in Israel's interests.Robert Wexler says Obama is indeed pro-Israel. Douglas Bloomfield says US Republicans are trying to turn Israel into a wedge issue. Taufiq Rahim says time is running out to salvage a two-state solution. Randa Takieddine says Abbas is taking the Arab spring to New York. The Daily Star says Obama is right negotiations are the only solution, but he must practice what he preaches. John Whitbeck says Palestinians can make use of divisions within the EU. House Majority Leader Cantor and Minority Whip Hoyer say the US must oppose the Palestinian UN initiative.

September 21st

NEWS: House Republicans are developing a growing bond with PM Netanyahu. A compromise may be brewing in the UN whereby Palestinians apply for full membership but do not press for a vote. Sources say it is all an effort to “buy time.” Hamas is staying on the sidelines of the issue. Thousands of Palestinians rally in support. Pres. Abbas will meet with Pres. Obama in New York. Israel's finance minister Steinitz again threatens to withhold Palestinian tax revenues. A new poll suggests 70% of Israelis say they should accept whatever the UN decides. Abbas rejects allegations of corruption. A former aide to the late Pres. Arafat says Abbas is making a big mistake. COMMENTARY: Michael Weiss says the Palestinian UN gambit is misguided, but no one should cut off funds to the PA.Zvi Bar'el says the US should recognize Palestine. Issacharoff and Harel say both parties hope to keep the confrontation in New York, and not on the ground. Daniel Levy says “leading from behind” won't work for the US in this case. Gareth Evans says the US and Israel are on the wrong side of history.Claude Salhani says the Palestinians cannot afford to lose the fight at the Security Council. Tony Karon says the Palestinians are looking for a way out. Rami Khouri says this week, the Israeli and American stranglehold on the process may finally end. David Rothkopf says Israel and the Palestinians really need changes of leadership. Hussein Ibish contrasts the virtual "state" Palestinians are trying to achieve at the UN with the really existing but largely unrecognized Kosovar state, and says a compromise at the UN must be found.

September 20th

NEWS: Palestinian officials indicate they are still open to a compromise at the UN, saying "We don’t need a vote right away. We see this as the beginning of a process.” Diplomats continue to search for a compromise at the UN, as Pres.Abbas insists he will apply for full membership on Friday. Ha'aretz reports an “Israeli source” says the US asked Abbas to go to the Security Council in order to buy more time for compromise. Palestinian Monetary Authority Governor Jihad al-Wazir says the PA could collapse if the US withdraws aid. Saudi Arabia promises to give the PA $200 million. Rep. Joe Walsh introduces a bill to the House saying if Palestinians go forward with a statehood bid, Israel should annex the occupied territories. Abbas says he's willing to meet with PM Netanyahu in New York. FM al-Malki says negotiations can resume only with clear terms of reference. Palestinians seek to reconcile institution-building with the UN initiative. The UK says it faces a “difficult judgment” at the UN. COMMENTARY: The LA Times says a vote at the UN won't change anything and the parties must return to negotiations. Justin Martin says criticism of Israel on American campuses should be protected, not banned. Walid Awad says if Abbas presses the Security Council, the PA will likely collapse and the PLO reemerge in a different form. The Wall Street Journal says the US should respond to the Palestinian UN initiative by cutting funds to the UN. Natasha Mozgovaya says Pres. Obama is going to pay a heavy price no matter what decision he makes at the UN. John Heilemann says Obama is the best thing Israel has going for it, though many people don't understand that. Gershon Baskin says almost the whole world accepts Israel's right to exist. Robert Fisk says Palestinians can't achieve statehood this week at the UN, but the peace process could be killed. George Semaan says Palestinians have no choice but to turn to the UN. Ghassan Khatib says Palestinians are trying to introduce a new paradigm by “internationalizing” the peace process. Hussein Ibish says a last-minute compromise is still possible and is in all parties' interests.

September 19th

NEWS: Donor states reaffirm the Palestinians are ready for independence.In bringing the resolution of the conflict back to the UN, Palestinians are returning it to its roots. Palestinian officials say a US government document presented last week persuaded them they had no other option. Intensive diplomacy to avoid a confrontation continues. A new poll suggests most Palestinians support the UN gambit but fear its consequences. AP notes that Palestinians have done much to create the infrastructure of their state in spite of the occupation. The US and European states are reportedly urging Israel not to take any drastic measures in response. Israel's UN ambassador says it's unclear there's a majority in the Security Council requiring a US veto, and Portugal remains undecided. Israel fears even a nonmember UN observer Palestinian state could use international legal enforcement mechanisms against it. Settlement expansions anger Palestinians, but are not enough for settlers. COMMENTARY: Tom Friedman says Israel is become totally isolated and gives its friends no means to defend it. Aaron David Miller says the UN controversy is a distraction from the real problem, which is the inability to reach a peace agreement. Israel's UN ambassador says Palestinians should return to negotiations with Israel. John Hughes says Israel needs a peace deal more than ever. Yossi Sarid says Jewish Americans shouldn't be more “patriotic” than Israelis. Jeff Barak says PM Netanyahu is gambling with his country's future. Afshin Molavi says the UN gambit will bring the Palestinians no closer to independence. Raghida Dergham says Palestinians would be wise to avoid the Security Council and instead seek support in the General Assembly. The Daily Star says anyone who claims to support peace but opposes Palestinian statehood at the UN is "either a coward or a liar." Wendy Chamberlain says the US should understand the real threat of a Security Council vote is not to Israel but to its own standing and interests in the broader Middle East.

American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017