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JFP 8/30: Palestinian UN draft echoes US position; Calderon hints at drug legalization
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 30 August 2011 - 9:03pm
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August 30, 2011
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
*Action: Tell Congress: $200 Billion In "Real Savings" If We End the Wars "On Time"
Most Americans don't realize that the Super Committee can reach 1/6 of its debt reduction goal just by withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan when we said we were going to. Urge your representatives in Congress to make this part of any debt reduction deal.
Okinawa Schoolkids Prepare for Osprey Disaster
Elementary school children in Okinawa practice fleeing from their school in case an American MV-22 Osprey to be deployed by the U.S. next year accidentally crashes into it. "Okinawa is the only place in Japan where schools carry out such drills in preparation for an aircraft crash. This really is quite unreasonable," said school principal Harumi Chinen. "The government has indicated that the Osprey will be deployed… We want to be rid of these dangers as soon as we can."
Iara Lee: "Obstructing Business": South Koreans on the March
Filmmaker Iara Lee reports on a visit to residents working to block the construction of a U.S.-supported naval base on Jeju Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Robert Mackey: Israeli Columnist Is Fired for Writing That Palestinian Terrorism Is 'Justified'
Larry Derfner, a thoughtful and humane Israeli columnist at the right-wing Jerusalem Post, was fired after arguing in his personal blog that Palestinian terrorism was "justified" given Israeli government refusal to end the occupation, even though Derfner had retracted and apologized for the post.
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1) August has become the deadliest month yet for U.S. forces in the nearly 10-year-old war in Afghanistan, increasing pressure on the Obama administration to bring troops home sooner rather than later, AP reports. The 66 U.S. service members killed this month eclipses the previous record of 65 killed in July 2010, according to an AP tally.
2) The agreement being negotiated with Afghanistan sets up a potential conflict between two U.S. goals for Afghanistan - a base of operations for counterterrorism and a peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency, AP reports. The Taliban demand a complete withdrawal of foreign forces. Karzai's demands include that U.S. troops stop conducting night raids, Afghans be put in charge of detention facilities, and a ban on U.S. launching operations into other nations from Afghan soil.
A central question is how many U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014, and for how long, AP says. Estimates have ranged from 20,000 to 40,000. One Western diplomat said the U.S. wants to keep 35,000 American troops in Afghanistan after 2014. [This would cost at least $168 billion from 2015-2021, 14% of the Super Committee's debt reduction goal for the period - JFP.]
3) Reporting for the New York Times, Mark Mazzetti questions whether it matters who replaces assassinated Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, given that Al Qaeda's affiliates are increasingly independent. Even with the network's operatives in Pakistan under siege, Al Qaeda's wings in Yemen and North Africa have had little difficulty continuing a wave of violence.
4) Drug-war analysts believe Mexican President Calderón, frustrated by U.S. failure to deal with U.S. consumer demand for illegal narcotics or the flow of weapons from the U.S. to Mexico, is signaling that the U.S. should consider legalization as a means of denying profits to the drug cartels, Tim Padgett reports for Time Magazine. "If [the Americans] are determined and resigned to consume drugs, then they should seek market alternatives in order to cancel the criminals' stratospheric profits, or establish clear points of access [to drugs]. But this situation can't go on," Calderón said last week. The big question is whether "market alternatives" was Calderón code for drug legalization. Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance thinks Calderón was "saying the L word without actually using it. He was clearly putting a toe in the drug-legalization water." In Mexico, respected political analyst Sergio Sarmiento also asserted that "market alternatives" was "a way of referring to legalization." If Calderón moves, the Obama Administration will have more room and face more pressure to consider the possibility, Padgett says.
5) Elijah Zarlin, a key figure in the 2008 Obama campaign, was arrested outside the White House during a protest of the Keystone XL pipeline, the Atlantic reports. Obama must personally approve the Keystone plan. "The Keystone pipeline, if he approves it, is going to cast a huge shadow over our future," Zarlin said. "It's his decision, and this is the type of thing that when he was on the campaign trail and telling staff at headquarters that we literally had to work nonstop over the next four months, that this was a must-win election, this was one of the issues we wanted to make an impact on -- climate change."
6) Libyan rebels may be indiscriminately killing black people because they have confused innocent migrant workers with mercenaries, the chairman of the African Union said, citing the fears as one reason the AU has not recognized opposition forces as Libya's interim government, AP reports.
"[The rebels' National Transitional Council] seems to confuse black people with mercenaries," AU chairman Jean Ping said. "All blacks are mercenaries. If you do that, it means one-third of the population of Libya, which is black, is also mercenaries. They are killing people, normal workers, mistreating them."
7) Libya's opposition leaders have ruled out any major role for foreign peacekeepers in Libya after the fall of Gaddafi, the Washington Post reports.
8) A detailed report issued by the Afghanistan Analysts Network says there is ample evidence to suggest that BBC reporter Omaid Khpulwak was killed by U.S. forces during a raid, not by suicide bombers, contrary to previous claims, the Washington Post reports.
9) The Israeli military is planning to provide settlers with tear gas and stun grenades to confront Palestinian protesters when the UN considers Palestinian statehood, Haaretz reports. The IDF has determined a "red line" for each settlement in the West Bank, which will determine when soldiers will be ordered to shoot at the feet of Palestinian protesters if the line is crossed, as if they were crossing into Israel from Lebanon. The main working assumption of the defense establishment is that a Palestinian declaration of independence will cause a public uprising "which will mainly include mass disorder," Haaretz says.
10) The wording of the Palestinian draft to be submitted to the UN in September, crafted in recent days by the Fatah leadership, will make it difficult for the U.S. and even Israel to explain their votes against the proposal, Haaretz reports. Instead of recognizing Palestine within the 1967 borders, it will state that the permanent borders will be determined in negotiations with Israel based on the borders of June 4, 1967. [That is, the purported position of the U.S. - JFP.] This approach made it possible to enlist the support of leading moderates in Hamas, who claim that recognition of the 1967 borders before the signing of a final-status deal means waiving the claim to the right of return, Haaretz says.
1) This month America's deadliest in long Afghan war: 66 troops dead, nearly half in one attack
Associated Press, Tuesday, August 30, 4:37 PM
Kabul, Afghanistan - August has become the deadliest month yet for U.S. forces in the nearly 10-year-old war in Afghanistan, increasing pressure on the Obama administration to bring troops home sooner rather than later.
The 66 U.S. service members killed this month eclipses the previous record of 65 killed in July 2010, according to an Associated Press tally. Nearly half the August deaths occurred when insurgents shot down a Chinook helicopter Aug. 6, killing 30 American troops, mostly elite Navy SEALs.
Violence is being reported across Afghanistan despite the U.S.-led coalition's drive to rout insurgents from their strongholds in the south.
Though American military officials predicted high casualties this summer as the Taliban try to come back after recent offensives, the grim milestone increases pressure on the Obama administration to withdraw U.S. forces quickly.
The military has begun to implement President Barack Obama's order to withdraw the 33,000 extra troops he dispatched to the war [in his second escalation, in 12/09 - JFP]. He ordered 10,000 out this year and another 23,000 withdrawn by the summer of 2012, leaving about 68,000 U.S. troops on the ground. Although major combat units are not expected to start leaving until late fall, two National Guard regiments comprising about 1,000 soldiers started going home last month. [There were 38,000 US troops in Afghanistan in February, 2009 - JFP.]
2) Talks on future US involvement in Afghanistan strains relations, but both sides want pact
Associated Press, Tuesday, August 30, 11:01 AM
Kabul, Afghanistan - A pact aimed at clearing up mistrust and confusion between Washington and Kabul about the future of U.S. troops and aid in Afghanistan has instead sowed more of the same.
Two Afghan officials said the goal was to get an agreement before an international conference in December in Germany on the future of Afghanistan. However, Caitlin Hayden, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council at the White House, said no specific time frame on the negotiating process has been set.
"We are committed to getting the right agreement - not fast agreement - as we continue to work on specific concerns related to the partnership document and related to governance generally," she said, adding that it's up to President Barack Obama and President Hamid Karzai on when they would sign any document developed.
Among the sticking points being negotiated are:
- Will American forces be stationed on joint or Afghan-run bases?
- Who will take the lead in conducting nighttime kill-and-capture raids, a flash point for anger over foreign meddling in Afghanistan?
- Will detention operations be run by the Afghans or Americans?
- What long-term commitments will the U.S. make to support the struggling Afghan government, education and health care?
The document will leave several major questions unanswered, including how long American taxpayers will foot the bill for Afghan security forces, which in 2014 will cost an estimated $8 billion a year.
The agreement also sets up a potential conflict between two U.S. goals for Afghanistan - a base of operations for counterterrorism and a peace deal between the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency. The Taliban demand a complete withdrawal of foreign forces.
Karzai has a string of specific demands, including that U.S. troops stop conducting nighttime raids to nab suspected insurgents and that Afghans be put in charge of detention facilities. He also wants a ban on U.S. launching operations into other nations from Afghan soil.
A central question is how many American troops will remain in Afghanistan after the international combat mission ends in 2014, and for how long. Estimates have ranged from 20,000 to 40,000, but Hayden said Obama had not made any decisions about U.S. troop presence after 2014.
"Those decisions will be made at the appropriate time, based on our interests and conditions on the ground," she said. "Anyone, including unnamed sources, providing estimates on a post-2014 U.S. troop number at this point are speculating."
One Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations, said the U.S. wants to keep 35,000 American troops in Afghanistan after 2014. [35,000 troops in Afghanistan from 2015-2021 would cost at least $168 billion, 14% of the Super Committee's debt reduction goal for the period - JFP.]
3) Al Qaeda Affiliates Growing Independent
Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, August 29, 2011
Washington - At some point in coming days, a shadowy group of Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan who make up the network's "General Command" is likely to announce a replacement for Atiyah abd al-Rahman, the Libyan chief of operations who was killed last week in a drone strike launched by the Central Intelligence Agency.
But as the 10th anniversary of the group's most successful strike approaches, the key question is: Does it matter?
But even as Al Qaeda's leadership continues to project an image of control, many terrorism experts and American intelligence officials say that the members of this circle of maybe a dozen operatives - many of whom served for years as Osama bin Laden's closest confidants - are at risk of being marginalized not only by the global jihad movement but by the Qaeda affiliates they helped spawn. With their ranks thinned by a relentless barrage of drone strikes, some experts believe, Al Qaeda's operatives in Pakistan resemble a driver holding a steering wheel that is no longer attached to the car.
"With the death of guys like Atiyah, it's increasingly likely that the Al Qaeda affiliate groups are just going to start doing their own thing," said Brian Fishman, a terrorism analyst at the New America Foundation. "At some point, the guys in Pakistan might be reduced to issuing a lot of public statements and hoping for the best."
Even with the network's operatives in Pakistan under siege, Al Qaeda's wings in Yemen and North Africa have had little difficulty continuing a wave of violence. The chaos and power vacuum in Yemen have allowed operatives there to gain control over large swaths of the country's southern territories, and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed 16 soldiers and two civilians on Friday at an Algerian military academy. The same day, a Nigerian terrorist group that has cultivated ties to Al Qaeda killed dozens of people when it blew up the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria's capital, Abuja.
4) Mexico's Narco-Epiphany: Is Calderón Suggesting the U.S. Legalize Drugs?
Tim Padgett, Time Magazine, Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 10:40 am
The central statistic of Mexico's violent drug war – 40,000 gangland murders in the past five years – is repeated so often it almost fails to alarm us anymore. But what happened last Thursday, Aug. 25, in the northern business capital of Monterrey – 52 innocent people massacred after gangsters set fire to a casino, presumably in a drug-cartel extortion operation – left even President Felipe Calderón sounding distressed. So agitated, in fact, that drug-war analysts believe Calderón, in his speech the next day, signaled a change in philosophy and told the U.S. to think about legalizing drugs as a way of weakening vicious drug traffickers.
As Calderón often does during the lowest moments of the drug war – a conflict he intensified after taking office in 2006 by throwing his military at Mexico's power drug mafias – he railed on Friday at the U.S. for its "insatiable" drug consumption and its refusal to ban the sale of assault weapons that too often get smuggled south of the border. But it was this part of his speech, which suggests Washington should pursue "market alternatives" in order to diminish the drug cartels' $30 billion annual revenues, that has sparked speculation:
"If [the Americans] are determined and resigned to consume drugs, then they should seek market alternatives in order to cancel the criminals' stratospheric profits, or establish clear points of access [to drugs]. But this situation can't go on."
The big question is whether "market alternatives" was Calderón code for drug legalization, at least the legalization of less harmful drugs like marijuana. Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the non-profit Drug Policy Alliance in New York, which calls for drug-policy reforms like legalization in part to help reduce drug crime, thinks Calderón was "saying the L word without actually using it. He was clearly putting a toe in the drug-legalization water." Calderón's military strategy has largely failed, Nadelmann argues, "so after last week he's looking around and he realizes he's got to get the U.S. to do something different regarding long-term strategies." In Mexico, respected political analyst Sergio Sarmiento, in his column Jaque Mate (Checkmate), also asserted that "market alternatives" was "a way of referring to legalization."
So if Calderón, one of Washington's staunchest drug-war allies, really is moving toward support for legalization, where does that leave the U.S.? To its credit, the Obama Administration has acknowledged the large role that gringo drug consumption and guns play in Mexico's tragedy. But while President Obama said this year that legalization is "an entirely legitimate topic for debate," his Office of National Drug Control Policy dismissed the Global Commission's recommendation to legalize marijuana. Now, if even Calderón is doing an about-face, the Administration may find itself with more leeway – or feel more pressure – to at least explore the issue.
5) Obama Fundraising Email Author Arrested Outside White House
Chris Good, The Atlantic, Aug 29 2011, 5:16 PM ET
If you received fundraising emails from Barack Obama or campaign manager David Plouffe in 2008, it probably comes as no surprise that Obama and Plouffe didn't write all of them. They began with "Friend --" and included links to credit-card donation forms. The campaign regularly blasted them out to millions of people.
Elijah Zarlin, the author of many of these emails as part of Obama's new-media campaign team, was arrested today outside the White House during a protest of the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed oil conduit from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast. Zarlin was one of Obama's primary fundraising-email-writers, according to Zarlin and Stephen Geer, a new-media staffer on Obama's campaign payroll.
Obama must personally approve the Keystone plan, first offered in 2008. The State Department recently concluded its final assessment, recommending approval of the plan.
Zarlin now works on environmental campaigns for CREDO Action, a progressive group that helped recruit attendees at today's event.
"The Keystone pipeline, if he approves it, is going to cast a huge shadow over our future," Zarlin told me over the phone during the protest, shortly before his arrest. "It's his decision, and this is the type of thing that when he was on the campaign trail and telling staff at headquarters that we literally had to work nonstop over the next four months, that this was a must-win election, this was one of the issues we wanted to make an impact on -- climate change."
6) AU: Libya rebels may be indiscriminately killing black workers, mistaking them for mercenaries
Associated Press, August 29
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Libyan rebels may be indiscriminately killing black people because they have confused innocent migrant workers with mercenaries, the chairman of the African Union said, citing the fears as one reason the continental body has not recognized opposition forces as Libya's interim government.
"NTC seems to confuse black people with mercenaries," AU chairman Jean Ping said Monday, referring to the rebels' National Transitional Council. "All blacks are mercenaries. If you do that, it means (that the) one-third of the population of Libya, which is black, is also mercenaries. They are killing people, normal workers, mistreating them."
He added: "Maybe it's looters, uncontrolled forces. But then the government should say something, condemn this. We want to see a signal that the African workers that are there, they should be evacuated."
Ping's comments follow concerns from international rights groups about beatings and detentions of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa.
"I really fear vigilante justice and retribution and attacks by civilians against other civilians," said Richard Sollom, deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights, who is back from a June fact-finding mission in Misrata, Libya.
Sollom said Monday that his Boston-based group knew of about 500 Darfuris "who are desperately trying to get out of Libya. They have no money, they are basically homeless because they are from Darfur, and they very much fear for their lives because of the color of their skin."
Reporters for The Associated Press have witnessed several episodes of rebels mistreating detainees or sub-Saharan Africans suspected of being hired Gadhafi guns, including an incident where about a dozen black men were detained and some were punched.
7) Libyan opposition leaders rule out major role for foreign peacekeepers; U.N. shifts planning
Colum Lynch, Washington Post, 04:58 PM ET, 08/29/2011
Libya's opposition leaders have ruled out any major role for foreign peacekeepers in the country after the fall of Moammar Gaddafi, insisting that a new transitional government will take the lead in establishing security, according to top U.N. officials.
The move has forced the United Nations to revise its own security plans for Libya. Before the rebels reached Tripoli last week, the U.N. leadership had approached Jordan and Turkey to see if they would head a multinational force to protect a large U.N. mission in Libya, according to officials.
The plan - which would have formed part of a cease-fire agreement - has since been scrapped, as has a proposal to deploy a small contingent of U.N. arms monitors to help control the movement of illicit arms.
"One thing that the TNC has made very clear is that they expect the United Nations to play a strong role in the post-conflict period," B. Lynn Pascoe, the U.N. undersecretary general for political affairs, told reporters after a briefing at the U.N. Security Council on Friday. "There is at this point no plans whatsoever to have any blue helmets."
8) Did U.S. forces mistakenly kill an Afghan journalist?
Jason Ukman, Washington Post, 08/29/2011
[Former BBC journalist Kate Clark's report is here:
In late July, a reporter for the BBC was at a television station in southern Afghanistan when it was attacked by suicide bombers. The reporter, Omaid Khpulwak, was killed.
But a month after Khpulwak's death, fundamental questions remain: Who killed him, and were U.S. military forces, instead of the suicide bombers, responsible?
A detailed report issued by the Afghanistan Analysts Network, a Kabul-based research group, says there is ample evidence to suggest that Khpulwak may have been killed by U.S. forces during a counter-attack. The report is not conclusive, but it cites evidence, including the nature of Khpulwak's wounds, the timing of his death and ballistics, to shed doubt on the initial reports that Khpulwak was killed in the suicide bombings in Uruzgan province.
The 25-year-old stringer was found with gunshot wounds and bleeding, according to his family, though those around him had had body parts blown off in the explosions. Text messages from him to his family appear to have been sent after the bombings.
9) IDF training Israeli settlers ahead of 'mass disorder' expected in September
West Bank settlers to receive tear gas and stun grenades to prepare for 'Operation Summer Seeds'.
Chaim Levinson, Haaretz, 30.08.11
The IDF has conducted detailed work to determine a "red line" for each settlement in the West Bank, which will determine when soldiers will be ordered to shoot at the feet of Palestinian protesters if the line is crossed. It is also planning to provide settlers with tear gas and stun grenades as part of the defense operation.
The IDF is currently in the process of finalizing its preparations for Operation Summer Seeds, whose purpose is to ready the army for September and the possibility of confrontations with Palestinians following the expected vote in favor of Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly.
According to a document acquired by Haaretz, the main working assumption of the defense establishment is that a Palestinian declaration of independence will cause a public uprising "which will mainly include mass disorder."
As part of its preparations, the IDF is investing a great deal of effort in preparing the settlers for the incidents, with the main concern being confrontations between Israeli settlers and the Palestinians.
Yesterday the army held training sessions for the chief security officers of settlements at a military installation near Shiloh. In recent weeks the IDF has been training the readiness squads of settlements at the Lachish base, which is used as a command training center ahead of September.
The main message the army is issuing is that the demonstrations will be controlled and that the army has sufficient forces in order to deal with every disturbance. In order to be sure, there is also a decision, in principle, to equip the chief security officers of settlements with the means for dispersing demonstrations. These would include tear gas and stun grenades, although that would create a logistical problem as there's a shortage of means for firing that type of ammunition.
The army is establishing two virtual lines for each of the settlements that are near a Palestinian village. The first line, if crossed by Palestinian demonstrators, will be met with tear gas and other means for dispersing crowds.
The second line is a "red line," and if this one is crossed, the soldiers will be allowed to open fire at the legs of the demonstrators, as is also standard practice if the northern border is crossed.
Moreover, the letters said that government offices will be on standby, starting on September 19.
10) New Palestinian strategy document will make it difficult for U.S. to oppose UN vote
More than 50 Palestinian officials, researchers and advisers have crafted a strategy for both before and after the UN vote.
Akiva Eldar, Haaretz, 04:15 30.08.11
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is probably aware that when it comes to a media event, like a speech at the UN General Assembly, President Shimon Peres doesn't have to be asked twice to sacrifice himself for the nation. Someone who has been watching the honorable president for decades once told me that Peres is blessed with a unique characteristic: He always knows how to adjust reality according to his needs at the time.
So Peres will easily be able to convince himself that the nation (if not the entire universe) is demanding that he travel to New York next month to represent the prime minister at the assembly declaring a Palestinian state. But this time Peres is expected to face opposition from close associates.
"How can Peres promise the world that Netanyahu has accepted the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders when he himself has long since lost his faith in Netanyahu's intention of reaching such an agreement?" asked one of them. The source adds, "Can the president repeat the words he said in the spring of 2009 at the AIPAC conference in Washington, to the effect that Netanyahu wants to make history and peace is his primary interest?"
It's true that Netanyahu is making history. On his watch the UN General Assembly is expected to recognize an independent Palestinian state by a huge majority. The wording of the draft, crafted in recent days by the Fatah leadership, is designed to enable even "problematic" countries such as Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic to climb on board, or at least abstain.
This version will make it difficult for the United States and the Marshall Islands, and even for Israel, to explain their votes against the proposal. Instead of recognizing Palestine within the 1967 borders, it will state that the permanent borders will be determined in negotiations with Israel based on the borders of June 4, 1967. This approach made it possible to enlist the support of leading moderates in Hamas, who claim that recognition of the 1967 borders before the signing of a final-status deal means waiving the claim to the right of return.
Several of those people are signatories to a new strategic position paper, drafted by more than 50 Palestinian government officials, researchers and advisers − members of the Palestine Strategy Group. This is the forum that in 2008 composed a document recommending that the leadership transfer the conflict to the United Nations.
Among the participants in the group's workshops over the past year in Jericho, Gaza and Istanbul were Omar Abdel Razek, the former finance minister in the Hamas government in the West Bank, and Nasser al-Shaer, that government's education minister. Next to them sat senior Fatah officials including associates of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas − former Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath and senior adviser Mohammad Shtayyeh. Other signatories are Naser al-Kidwa, a former Palestinian observer at the United Nations, Fatah Deputy Secretary General and Communications Minister Sabri Saydam, and former economics minister and businessman Mazen Sinokrot.
Already in the preface, the authors stress that "strategic unity," now greatly enhanced by the reconciliation process, is a key condition for putting together an effective strategy. The document's starting point: Given the Israeli government's intransigence, the option of settling the conflict via bilateral negotiations − the path pursued by the Palestinian leadership for 20 years − is no longer available.
Most of the document's authors support the option of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital and a fair arrangement that will fulfill the right of return and the compensation of the Palestinian refugees. The document rejects the possibility of continuing the status quo, maintaining that the endless negotiations provide cover for expanding the settlements and consolidating the occupation. The authors also erase from the agenda the option of a Palestinian state with temporary borders and limited sovereignty, under effective Israeli control.
If the strategy of a diplomatic struggle for Palestinian independence − including sanctions, turning to the International Criminal Court and nonviolent resistance as in Egypt and Tunisia − does not change the situation, the group recommends switching to what the document calls Plan B: dismantling the Palestinian Authority and restoring responsibility for the West Bank's inhabitants to Israel.
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