Monday, January 9, 2012

Palestinian and Israeli peace teams hold a 2d very low-profile meeting in Amman. The sides downplay the meeting, calling them “exploratory sessions,” so as not to raise expectations of a negotiating breakthrough. An anonymous Palestinian official says that the Israelis did not offer anything today that would move the peace process forward. Judeh does not issue a formal statement, and Israel refuses to comment. (NYT, WT 1/10)

The IDF conducts morning patrols in Qalqilya, 2 villages nr. Jenin, and 1 nr. Tulkarm; afternoon patrols in 2 villages nr Jenin (firing tear gas at stonethrowing youths in 1 incident), and 1 nr. Qalqilya; late-night patrols in Tulkarm and nearby Bayt Lid and in 1 village nr. Qalqilya. The IDF also enters ‘Azzoun village nr. Qalqilya in the afternoon to summon for interrogation 3 Palestinians released in the 10/2011 Shalit prisoner swap; conducts late-night arrest raids, house searches in Hebron and nr. Nablus. (PCHR 1/12; OCHA 1/13)

On the day before the New Hampshire primaries, Republican presidential candidates Ron Paul and Rick Santorum both stress that the U.S. must maintain close ties with Israel. Paul, who opposes all foreign aid, says he is against continuing massive assistance to Israel, stating “I don’t believe that I should take money from anybody here and send money to them,” saying it sends the message “we own you.” Santorum stresses the threat from Iran, whereas Paul calls the danger of Iran achieving nuclear weapons “way overblown.” (WT 1/10)

The White House announces that Pres. Obama has tapped his dir. of the Office of Budget and Management, Jack Lew, as his new chief of staff, replacing outgoing chief of staff William Daley. American Jewish organizations praise the selection of Lew, an Orthodox Jew who is very involved in Jewish events in Washington, stating that since Dennis Ross’s departure as Obama’s chief adviser on the Middle East they had worried that there was no one “left to call in a White House that has hemorrhaged top Jews over the last year or so” that could directly weigh in with the pres. on issues of concern to Israel. (JTA 1/10; WJW 1/12, 1/19)