NEWS: Two hunger striking Palestinian prisoners have agreed to end their fast as Israel says it will release them in May. (Reuters) Pres. Abbas says Israeli settlement construction in the "E1" area is a Palestinian "red line." (Jerusalem Post) PM Netanyahu demands "military sanctions" against Iran. (Reuters) Hamas addresses the Yasser Arafat Foundation in Cairo for the first time on the subject of reconciliation. (Ma'an) The PA economy minister welcomes an EU report recommending sanctions against Israeli settlement activity. (Ma'an) The Israeli press reports a breakthrough in Netanyahu's coalition negotiations to form a new government. (Xinhua) Israeli police insist that Palestinians fabricated a reported "price tag" arson attack on cars last week. (Xinhua) The PA says it has secured the release of four Palestinian teenagers detained by Israel on Wednesday. (Ma'an) Evidence continues to mount that Israeli-Turkish relations are improving, despite the fact that PM Erdogan has described Zionism as "a crime against humanity" at a UN meeting. (Xinhua/Ha'aretz) Israel is using the Bible to reach out to evangelical Christians as far away as Brazil. (CSM) The Oxford University Student Union votes down a measure endorsing a boycott against Israel. (Ha'aretz) Palestinian fishermen are mystified as hundreds of ray fish wash up on the shores of Gaza. (The Independent) Some Palestinians are trying to encourage food self-sufficiency. (IPS) Some Israeli experts see no real sign of change in Egypt's foreign policy towards Israel and the Palestinians under Pres. Morsi, despite some changes in rhetoric. (Jerusalem Post)

COMMENTARY: Allen Weiner says Israel and the Palestinians need American mediation. (New York Times) Jonathan Schanzer says Palestinians need a succession plan and Abbas needs an heir apparent. (LA Times) Gideon Levy says it's ironic that Israelis, who were so upset by the captivity of a single soldier, seem incapable of understanding Palestinian outrage about thousands of detainees in Israeli jails. (Ha'aretz) Shlomi Eldar says Israel needs to reconsider its policy of administrative detention of Palestinians. (Al Monitor) Matthew Duss looks at the prospects for a third intifada. (The American Prospect) Roger Cohen says although a single state is not going to emerge, the prospects for two states for Israel and the Palestinians are dwindling fast. (New York Times) Eitan Haber says, whether he admits it or not, Pres. Obama is coming to the region with an agenda. (YNet) Sara Hirschhorn says Israelis have to rid themselves of the notion that settlements are irreversible or face a one-state future. (Ha'aretz) Shlomo Cohen says Israel is unfairly taking advantage of Diaspora Jewry. (Ha'aretz) Andy Bachman says BDS rhetoric should be challenged, but not censored, but Martin Raffel says it amounts to hate speech. (JTA) Nathan Guttman looks at different advice offered to Obama in new books by Daniel Kurtzer and Elliott Abrams. (The Forward) George Hishmeh says Obama has a duty to tell Israel it cannot continue with business as usual towards the Palestinians. (Gulf News)

NEWS: The situation on the ground in the occupied territories calms somewhat, as experts say neither the PA nor Hamas are looking for an escalation. (Ha'aretz/Ma'an) Some experts believe both sides will continue to use contained, low-level disturbances to keep up the pressure until Pres. Obama's visit in March. (AFP) Israel hints that, in order to enhance credibility, it may include foreign observers in its own probe into whether a Palestinian prisoner in Israeli custody died due to torture. (Jerusalem Post) The Palestinian teachers union says it is calling off a planned general strike protesting non-payment of salaries. (Ma'an) The PA says it will pay the remaining half of January salaries today. (PNN) Pres. Abbas says any peace agreement must involve the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. (Ma'an) Hamas insists no rocket was fired from Gaza into southern Israel. (Xinhua) An Egyptian court rules that the government must destroy all smuggling tunnels to and from Gaza. (Reuters) Another Egyptian court throws out a case against the peace treaty with Israel, but the FJP says it's still wants to amend the agreement to allow more Egyptian forces in Sinai. (Al-Masry Al-Youm) Israeli officials say unexploded tank shells from Syria land in the occupied Golan Heights. (AP) Israel returns six wounded Syrians to their country after medical treatment. (AP) Palestinians welcome an EU report recommending sanctions against Israeli settlements. (Xinhua/The Media Line) Pres. Peres says he will lead an effort to urge Obama to release convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. (AP) A Jewish Israeli mob reportedly attacks a Palestinian woman at a rail station in Jerusalem. (Ma'an) A Palestinian American who lives in the occupied West Bank has been repeatedly denied entry into Israel despite having a valid visa. (Ha'aretz)

COMMENTARY: Yaakov Lappin says Israeli officials have concluded that ensuring Palestinian security forces are paid on time is essential for maintaining calm in the occupied West Bank. (Jerusalem Post) Dalia Hatuqa argues that, in the long run, there is an untenable tension between ongoing occupation and PA security coordination with Israel. (The National) Amira Hass asks why a third intifada hasn't broken out yet. (Ha'aretz) Paul Pilar says if there is a third intifada, the United States should take advantage of it. (The National Interest) Ben Caspit says it's not Abbas who is a weak leader, it's Israel's leadership that is weak. (Al Monitor) Carlo Strenger says Israel isn't being delegitimized, the settlements are. (Ha'aretz) Ori Nir says textbooks don't shape worldviews, lived reality of occupation does. (Daily Beast/Open Zion) Zvi Bar'el looks at the role of Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen in the prisoner issue and Israeli security generally. (Ha'aretz) Asmaa al-Ghoul says among Palestinians demands are growing for third parties other than Hamas and Fatah to contest future elections. (Al Monitor) Shai Feldman looks at the tough task facing Obama, Sec. Kerry or anyone else who wants to launch a new Middle East peace effort. (The National Interest)

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