Playing Catch-up: Israel / Palestine / Egypt

While nothing historic happened over the past couple of days regarding Israel and Palestine, there were lots of noteworthy occurrences and reports, here’s the link dump.

– Egypt and Germany continue to moderate the prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas in attempt to exchange Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for 1000 of the 11,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.  Israeli PM Netanyahu would rather deport the prisoners to Gaza rather than let them return home.  Hamas insists that they will not negotiate on the terms of the exchange.

– The UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process recently said that the settlement freeze initiated by Netanyahu was not recognized as progress as settlers continue to colonize.  Israel did threaten action (see Yahoo as well) against settlers who did not heed the settlement freeze (this, of course, excludes the 3000 or so buildings already in progress).  However, Israel has also invested in many of the illegal settlements in order to solidify their existence and to “kick-start [their] economies.”  Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman candidly noted, unfortunately, that “[i]n practice, we have not been building for a year and a half, so why pretend… Like in soccer, you make tactical moves sometimes. It is clear to everyone that in ten months, we will be building again full force; anyone who understands anything knows this.”  (See also Walt’s thoughts)

– Meanwhile, settler violence against Palestinians continues to have repercussions.  Most recently is the fallout from the burning of a Mosque in the West Bank.  The act of arson was condemned by Israel.

– The United States have increased their aid to Israel for 2010, including special provisions for missile defense.  Although Obama cut funding for F-22’s (stealth jets), it did increase the total amount of aid by nearly $25 million.

– Reports have linked the CIA to the practice of torture in the West Bank.  It is said that the American intelligence has been coordinating with the PA Preventive Security Force and the General Intelligence Service, both of which have been accused of torturing Hamas prisoners.

“The [Central Intelligence] Agency consider them as their property, those two Palestinian services,” a western official told the Guardian.  Most of the detained Hamas supporters are held without trial and allegedly tortured by the Palestinian agencies in the West Bank… Hamas called on Barack Obama, the US president, to remove Dayton from his position and said Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and Fatah leader in the West Bank, was responsible for the “crimes” against Hamas in the West Bank.

As Marc Lynch notes, although it is spreading quickly through Arab news, these rumors are not new.

– The PA has cancelled the Miss Palestine competition.  Bummer.

– Hamas reaffirmed its alliance with Iran, specifically if the latter were to be attacked by Israel.

– Egypt has continued the construction of a wall along its Gazan boarder to try to slow the boarder smuggling into the impoverished area.  Egypt plans to build above and below ground to prevent tunneling, as well as flood the existing tunnels.  Hamas and the Gazan people have protested the wall, which further blockades the tiny region with shots being fired on the Palestinian side of the wall.  Egypt defended the wall as necessary for national security.

– The conservative factions of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood did very well in the Party’s internal elections with some of the reforming members of the Party losing seats.  There have been some claims of illegitimacy within the party.

Photos from Reuters and Al Jazeera

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