October 6th

NEWS: The UNESCO executive committee votes overwhelmingly to include Palestine as a new member, but Sec. Clinton expresses strong US opposition. Hamas' popularity is at an all-time low following its opposition to the UN statehood initiative, and Palestinian anger is rising against American opposition as well. Former Israeli security officials warn that settler “price tag” violence could spark another intifada. The PA insists it is still working with Quartet envoy Tony Blair. A strike by UNRWA teachers in Gaza continues. Israeli officials say they are considering expanding Palestinian security jurisdiction in the West Bank. European states are pushing for a renewed settlement freeze. French Pres. Sarkozy reportedly describesrl as “silly” demands for Palestinians to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.” COMMENTARY: Nicholas Kristof says Israel is its own worst enemy. Scott MacLeod recalls Pres. Sadat's accomplishment of peace with Israel. John Hughes says Turkey's bid for Middle East leadership is being hampered by its quarrel with Israel. Gideon Levy says Israel didn't learn anything from the 1973 war. Alon Ben-Meir says PM Netanyahu's policies are threatening Israel. David Greene looks at two new books on Palestinian citizens of Israel. Zoltan Grossman asks why Kosovo should be a state but Palestine not. Dick Staub says Christians, Muslims and Jews should be careful about allowing their religious beliefs to shape attitudes hostile to Israelis or Palestinians. Haim Malka says the US cannot solve Israel's problems for it.

October 5th

NEWS: Israeli cost-of-living protesters now must try to develop political momentum. Pres. Abbas is touring Europe and Latin America to shore up support for Palestine's UN membership application. The hunger-strike by Palestinian prisoners held by Israel grows. A small group of Palestinians berate US officials in Ramallah. The US says both Israel and the Palestinians have accepted the new Quartet statement. There may be a generation gap in US rabbis' support for Israel. Palestinians demonstrating against the torching of a mosque in Israel are met with tear gas. Egypt may be preparing a sharp increase in the price of its gas exports to Israel. Congress now is considering reducing but not eliminating aid to the PA. Palestine requests membership in UNESCO. Pres. Obama's team develops strategies to win support from Jewish voters and donors. COMMENTARY: Walter Rodgers says GOP presidential candidates are showing more loyalty to Israel than their own country. A group of Palestinian lawyers expresses concerns about the impact of the UN bid on the status of the PLO. Shlomo Avineri says there's no realistic chance for peace under present circumstances. Zohir Andreus says there's so much racism in Israeli society, no wonder mosques are being torched. Mohammad Darawshe says no lessons have been learned between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel in the last 10 years. Ravi Menon says Mohandas K. Gandhi was not a supporter of Zionism. Ori Nir looks at the development of "price tag terrorism." Emily Cadei says members of Congress are trying to blackmail the UN over Palestinian statehood. Hussein Ibish says Gilad Atzmon spreads anti-semitic hate and John Mearsheimer was wrong to endorse his new book.

October 4th

NEWS: The torching of a mosque in northern Israel prompts fears of clashes between Palestinian citizens of Israel and the authorities, and may be the latest example of “price tag” violence by Israeli extremists. The Obama administration is looking ways to unblock $200 million for Palestinian development projects being withheld by Congress. Defense Secretary Panetta criticizes the congressional action. Palestinian public employees will receive full salaries in September. Noted Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali passes away. A major leader of the settlement movement also dies. Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry is backed by some Jewish extremists. Nigeria's Foreign Ministry says it has not decided how they would vote in the Security Council on a Palestinian membership resolution. PM Fayyad says the West Bank separation barrier will fall like the Berlin wall. COMMENTARY: Akiva Eldar says PM Netanyahu is counting on no one reading the fine print of the Quartet statement he has accepted. Natasha Mozgovaya says Washington's stance on peace is now murky. Hagai Segal says only deranged people could think burning a mosque is a good idea. Gershon Baskin says both parties have said “yes, but” to the Quartet statement. Yaakov Katz says Jewish terrorism in Israel is gaining steam. Logan Bayroff says J Street U is pioneering a new path for peace on US campuses. Zuheir Kseibati says the Palestinians are not only facing an American veto at the UN, but also an Iranian one on the ground. Steve Hochstadt questions whether embracing the extreme Christian right makes any sense for Jewish Americans. Herb Keinon asks why Netanyahu approved the new settlement project in occupied East Jerusalem.

October 3rd

News: In a suspected “price tag” attack, a mosque in northern Israel is burned down. Defense Secretary Panetta says Israel is becoming increasingly isolated, and that Congress is making a big mistake withholding aid from the PA. Palestinian leaders say the cut in aid could be devastating. The Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership have both accepted the Quartet statement, but with reservations. Israeli ministers say they will demand changes to the document. The EU reportedly says it will not cut aid to the PA. Pres. Abbas will visit Colombia to discuss its position on the UN initiative. Abbas' aides say he's planning to propose early presidential and parliamentary elections. The West Bank is enjoying boom in construction in spite of Israeli restrictions. US Republicans have become almost entirely and unconditionally pro-Israel. The Syrian regime angrily accuses Hamas of funding the opposition. Commentary: ATFP President Ziad Asali explains the raison d'être of the American Task Force on Palestine. Raghida Dergham interviews Abbas, and says a new regional order is emerging in the UN. Akiva Eldar says Israel and the Palestinians must accept each other's legitimacy. Bradley Burston says the U.S. Congress could kill the two-state solution by cutting funds to the PA. Avi Yesawich says extremist rabbis are using religion as a cover for radical politics. Renee Ghert-Zand looks at the relationship between Palestinian identity and their national cuisine. Former Australian PM Fraser says it's time for the West to recognize Palestine. Sari Nusseibeh explains Palestinian objections to recognizing Israel as a “Jewish state.” Hussein Ibish looks at five options Palestinians have now that they've submitted their UN membership application.

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.

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