Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Anonymous Israeli officials say that 2 wks. ago, Abbas, under heavy Quartet pressure (especially fr. the U.S.), submitted a proposal for restarting talks that dropped demands that Israel halt settlement construction but demanded that Israel release in exchange 100 Palestinian prisoners jailed since before the Oslo process began. Israel rejected this on the grounds that (1) it would replace 1 precondition with another, and (2) it was vague about whether the talks that would result would be preparatory talks or direct negotiations between Abbas and Netanyahu. There is no official Palestinian, U.S., or Quartet comment on this. Another Israeli official says that Israel is concerned that if talks do not resume by 1/26/12, Abbas would resume Palestinian statehood efforts at the UN, including seeking membership in various UN organizations. (HA 12/28, 1/1)

Late at night, unidentified Palestinians fire 4 Qassam rockets fr. Gaza into Israel, causing no damage or injuries. In response, Israeli warplanes carry out 3 air strikes on a smuggling tunnel on the Rafah border and 1 air strike on a Hamas training site s. of Gaza City; damage but no injuries are reported. In the West Bank, the IDF conducts latenight arrest raids, house searches in Azariyya nr. East Jerusalem, in Hebron, and nr. Tulkarm. Israeli municipal officials in Jerusalem approve construction of another 130 housing units in Gilo settlement, s. of Jerusalem. (PCHR 12/29; YA 12/30; OCHA, PCHR 1/5)

As of this date, Congress has freed up only $40 m. of the $192 m. in humanitarian aid to the Palestinians that was frozen in light of the UN bid (see QU in JPS 162). USAID and the White House are pressuring Congress to release the rest of the money, calling it “in the interest of the Palestinians, Israel and the United States” to ensure continued development “vital to the establishing and strengthening the foundations necessary for a future Palestinian state.” (WP 12/29)