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JFP News 7/24: Zelaya Returns - Briefly - to Honduras
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 24 July 2009 - 7:23pm
Just Foreign Policy News
July 24, 2009
Honduran Coup Leader Coming to Miami Saturday?
It seems too awful or too good to be true, depending on how you look at it. But apparently General Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, a military leader of the coup in Honduras, is going to be in Miami on Saturday morning July 25th, between 9:45am-10:45am, at the Miami Beach Convention Center. This raises a number of questions: is he welcome in the U.S.? Might he be detained by U.S. authorities? How might he be greeted by the good citizens of Miami?
Talks in Costa Rica broke down after the coup regime refused to accept a compromise that would have allowed President Zelaya to return.
Send a letter to your Representative, in support of increased pressure, and in support of the Delahunt-McGovern-Serrano resolution [HRes 630], condemning the coup and calling for the restoration of President Zelaya.
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1) Americans, relying on media reports, are likely to believe that Honduran President Zelaya was ousted because he tried to use a referendum to extend his term of office; but this is false, writes Mark Weisbrot in the Los Angeles Times. Zelaya's referendum was a nonbinding poll which asked voters if they wanted to have a binding referendum on reforming the country's Constitution on the November ballot. A new president would have been elected on the same November ballot. So Zelaya would be out of office in January, no matter what steps were taken toward constitutional reform. Zelaya has repeatedly said that if the Constitution were changed, he would not seek another term. Between the high-powered lobbyists from the Clinton camp, Republican members of Congress and conservatives within the State Department, the coup government in Honduras has a lot of support from Washington. So it's up to Obama to do the right thing: freeze the coup leaders' bank accounts and assets, and deny them visas to the U.S.
2) President Zelaya took a symbolic step into Honduras Friday, vowing to reclaim his post a month after soldiers flew him into exile, AP reports. But he stayed only briefly before returning to Nicaragua, saying the risk of bloodshed was too great. He said he would give talks with the coup-installed government another try. "I am not afraid but I'm not crazy either," Zelaya told Telesur. "There could be violence and I don't want to be the cause." Shortly before Zelaya's crossing, his supporters clashed with soldiers and police nearby after the government ordered everyone off the streets along the 600-mile border with Nicaragua in a noon-to-dawn curfew. Police said one demonstrator was slightly injured.
3) A new WorldPublicOpinion.org poll finds a high correlation across countries between whether people support the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan and whether they believe the Afghan people support the presence of foreign forces. The most recent polling in Afghanistan was in January; 59 percent of Afghans supported the NATO forces' presence in the country. But this was down from 67 percent who favored it in 2007, and majorities expressed frustration with the way the war was being conducted.
4) The U.S. is all but abandoning efforts to destroy poppy crops in Afghanistan, the New York Times reports. Instead, efforts will focus on interdiction and on incentives for farmers to shift production, including the possibility of paying farmers not to plant poppies.
5) A flurry of upcoming meetings between senior U.S. and Israeli officials suggest that Washington is determined to try to overcome the current impasse over Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, Foreign Policy reports. Some Iran watchers believe if Iran hasn't responded to the US offer for talks by September, the process for organizing a tougher sanctions regime targeting Iran will begin to get underway at the U.N. General Assembly in September and subsequent G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, although administration and outside sources have indicated Russia is not likely to support such measures until after the end of the year.
6) Vice President Biden told the Georgian Parliament it won't regain territories lost to Russia by fighting another war, and a senior U.S. official said the Obama administration isn't currently prepared to supply Georgia with new defensive weaponry, the Wall Street Journal reports.
7) A House committee approved a proposal that would let Puerto Ricans decide their island's political status, AP reports. Voters would choose between keeping the island's commonwealth status, or to opt for something different. In the latter case, a second plebiscite would let them decide whether they wanted statehood, independence or independence with a loose association to the US.
8) U.S. officials engaged in negotiations with Iraqi insurgent groups this spring that culminated in an agreement to organize talks intended to bring the groups into Iraqi political life, the Washington Post reports. A spokesman for the insurgents said he disclosed the specifics of the negotiations as a way to put pressure on the U.S. side after it chose not to convene another meeting.
9) As the clash between the U.S. and Israeli governments over settlements in the occupied territories intensifies, many of Israel's defenders in Washington have been pushing back to urge the Obama administration to alleviate its pressure on Israel, Inter Press Service reports. The settlements battle has put these defenders in a delicate position, since Obama remains extremely popular among U.S. Jews, most of whom oppose settlement growth, and since a settlement freeze has been a core U.S. demand for decades. Some hawks have launched what many see as a concerted media campaign to portray Obama's settlement push as being on the brink of failure, and box the administration into backing down on settlements.
10) President Hamid Karzai said Friday that if he was re-elected president in August he would negotiate a new agreement with foreign nations deploying troops in Afghanistan, to regulate their status and their behavior, Carlotta Gall reports in the New York Times. Karzai also said that his top priority was to bring about peace and that he would push ahead with negotiations with the Taliban and other opposition groups.
1) The High-Powered Hidden Support for Honduras's Coup The country's rightful president was ousted by a military leadership that takes many of its cues from Washington insiders.
Mark Weisbrot, Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2009
Powerful special interests have flexed their muscles and confronted President Obama on the most important legislative priorities of his domestic agenda. But this kind of politics-by-influence-peddling doesn't stop at the water's edge. And in foreign policy, the consequences can be more immediate, violent and deadly.
Meet Lanny Davis, Washington lawyer and lobbyist, former legal counsel to President Clinton and avid campaigner for Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid. He has been hired by a coalition of Latin American business interests to represent the dictatorship that ousted elected President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras in a military coup and removed him to Costa Rica on June 28.
Davis is working with Bennett Ratcliff, another lobbyist with a close relationship to Hillary Clinton who is a former senior executive for one of the most influential political and public relations firms in Washington. In the current mediation effort hosted by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, the coup-installed government did not make a move without first consulting Ratcliff, an unnamed source told the New York Times.
Davis and Ratcliff have done an amazing public relations job so far. Americans, relying on media reports, are likely to believe that Zelaya was ousted because he tried to use a referendum to extend his term of office. This is false.
Zelaya's referendum, planned for the day the coup took place, was a nonbinding poll. It only asked voters if they wanted to have an actual referendum on reforming the country's Constitution on the November ballot. Even if Zelaya had gotten everything he was looking for, a new president would have been elected on the same November ballot. So Zelaya would be out of office in January, no matter what steps were taken toward constitutional reform. Further, Zelaya has repeatedly said that if the Constitution were changed, he would not seek another term.
If we add together the high-powered lobbyists from the Clinton camp, Republican members of Congress and conservatives within the State Department, the coup government has a lot of support from Washington.
So it's up to Obama to do the right thing. He can have the U.S. Treasury freeze the coup leaders' personal bank accounts and the assets of the coup leaders and their supporters, and deny them visas to the U.S. He could also impose trade sanctions - 70% of Honduran exports go to the United States. He would have worldwide support for such steps: Both the Organization of American States and the U.N. General Assembly have voted unanimously to demand the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of Zelaya.
Almost all of the Latin American governments - which are mostly left of center - also sympathize with Zelaya because he is a reform president fighting against a corrupt oligarchy. In one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, he raised the minimum wage by 60% and increased teachers' salaries and public pensions, as well as access to education.
What happened in Honduras is a classic Latin American coup in another sense: Gen. Romeo Vasquez, who led it, is an alumnus of the United States' School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). The school is best known for producing Latin American officers who have committed major human rights abuses, including military coups.
The military has shot at peaceful demonstrators, killing one, according to human rights groups, and the coup government has closed TV and radio stations and arrested journalists. Two political activists have been murdered.
During the 1980s, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency trained a military death squad - the infamous Battalion 316 - that tortured and murdered hundreds of Honduran political activists. The U.S. Embassy looked the other way, and the State Department doctored its human rights reports to omit these crimes.
Obama has so far been silent about the coup government's violence and censorship. This silence is very unfortunate and difficult to explain. The repression may worsen if - as expected - the Arias mediation efforts fail and Zelaya makes good on his vow to return to Honduras.
Obama needs to show that the U.S. will not follow policies of the past by supporting Zelaya's return with action, not just words. Anything less will look like complicity in the eyes of the world, especially given the coup government's friends in high places.
2) Ousted Honduran leader steps briefly into homeland
Morgan Lee, Associated Press, Friday, July 24, 2009 6:41 PM
El Paraiso, Honduras - Ousted President Manuel Zelaya took a symbolic step into his homeland Friday, vowing to reclaim his post a month after soldiers flew him into exile.
But he stayed only briefly before returning to Nicaragua, saying the risk of bloodshed was too great. He said he would give talks with the coup-installed government another try. "I am not afraid but I'm not crazy either," Zelaya told the Venezuela-based television network Telesur. "There could be violence and I don't want to be the cause."
Shortly before Zelaya's crossing, his supporters clashed with soldiers and police nearby after the government ordered everyone off the streets along the 600-mile (1,000-kilometer) border with Nicaragua in a noon-to-dawn curfew. Police said one demonstrator was slightly injured.
Wearing his trademark white cowboy hat, Zelaya walked up to a sign reading "Welcome to Honduras" and smiled to cheering supporters at the remote mountain pass surrounded by banana trees.
He stopped a few steps into Honduran territory, speaking to nearby military officials on his mobile phone. "I've spoken to the colonel and he told me I could not cross the border," Zelaya said. "I told him I could cross."
But he soon returned to Nicaragua and said he was ready to return to the negotiating table. "The best thing is to reach an understanding that respects the will of the people," Zelaya said.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Zelaya's efforts to return "reckless." International leaders had urged Zelaya not to go home without an agreement out of fear it would lead to bloodshed. Zelaya had said he had no choice after U.S.-backed talks with his ousters failed to reinstate him.
Thousands of Zelaya's supporters flocked to the border to support his return. The government responded by ordering everyone along the border off the streets from noon until dawn.
But many ignored the order, and Zelaya supporters clashed with security forces that fired tear gas at the crowd. Police reported one demonstrator was slightly injured.
Soldiers set up checkpoints on highways leading to the border area to prevent his backers from massing there. Some made their way on foot after bus drivers refused to risk the trip.
3) Global Poll Finds Widespread Belief that Afghans Want NATO Forces Out
WorldPublicOpinion.org, July 23, 2009
A new WorldPublicOpinion.org poll of nations around the world finds that most publics polled believe that the Afghan people want NATO forces to leave Afghanistan now. On average 53 percent have this belief, while 30 percent assume that most Afghans want NATO forces to stay.
Among those who believe that the Afghan people want NATO forces to leave, 76 percent say that NATO forces should leave. Among those who believe that the Afghan people want NATO forces to stay, 83 percent say NATO forces should stay. Overall, on average, 37 percent think that NATO forces should remain in Afghanistan, while 50 percent think the mission should be ended now.
At the same time there is considerable concern about the possibility of the Taliban regaining power. In 18 of 20 nations polled most think that it would be bad if the Taliban were to regain power in Afghanistan, with an average of 61 percent saying that it would be bad and just 21 percent saying that it would be good. In Pakistan, where many Afghan Taliban insurgents are based, 61 percent of the public also say that it would be bad if the Taliban were to regain power.
"Even though there is widespread concern about the possibility of the Taliban regaining power in Afghanistan, most people seem to be saying that the Afghan people should decide whether or when NATO forces leave," comments Steven Kull, director of WorldPublicOpinion.org.
WorldPublicOpinion.org conducted the poll of 19,178 respondents in 20 nations that comprise 62 percent of the world's population. This includes most of the largest nations-China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Russia-as well as Mexico, Germany, Great Britain, France, Poland, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Kenya, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, and South Korea. Polling was also conducted in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.
The belief that most Afghans want NATO forces out is especially widespread in majority-Muslim nations, including Pakistan (86%), the Palestinian territories (74%), and Egypt (67%). However, this view is also widely held in Russia (63%), Germany (55%), and Mexico (76%).
The belief that the Afghan people want NATO to stay is the dominant position only in India (57%), the US (56%), Nigeria (53%), Kenya (52%), and the majority-Muslim nation of Azerbaijan (44% to 36%).
Within every nation people's assumptions about the attitudes of the Afghan public are highly correlated with their attitudes about continuing the operation.
So how do the Afghan people feel? The most recent polling in Afghanistan was conducted by ABC/BBC/ARD in January of this year. At that time a majority of 59 percent of Afghans supported the NATO forces' presence in the country. However, this was down from 67 percent who favored it in 2007, and majorities also expressed frustration with the way the mission was being conducted.
In the WPO poll, national assumptions about Afghan public attitudes are also reflected in national attitudes about the recent increase in US troops in Afghanistan. On average, 54 percent disapprove of the increase and 34 percent approve. However, in all of the nations where more believe that Afghans support the NATO presence, most people support the increase. In nearly all of the nations where more believe that Afghans oppose NATO presence, most people oppose the increase.
4) U.S. Shifts Afghan Narcotics Strategy
Thom Shanker and Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, July 24, 2009
The American-led mission in Afghanistan is all but abandoning efforts to destroy the poppy crops that provide the largest source of income to the insurgency, and instead will take significant steps to wean local farmers off the drug trade - including one proposal to pay them to grow nothing.
The strategy will shift from wiping out opium poppy crops, which senior officials acknowledged had served only to turn poor farmers into enemies of the central government in Kabul. New operations are already being mounted to attack not the crops, but the drug runners and the drug lords aligned with the insurgency.
Ultimately, farmers must be persuaded to plant other crops, including wheat for domestic consumption and pomegranates and flowers for export, officials said.
Michael G. Vickers, the Pentagon's top civilian official for counter-insurgency strategy, said Thursday that the specifics of the new antidrug effort still needed to be worked out, but that a decision had been reached on the new focus. "We are reorienting our counternarcotics strategy rather significantly for Afghanistan to put much less emphasis on eradication and to shift the weight of our effort to interdiction," Vickers said.
The new strategy will "particularly focus on going after those targets where there is a strong nexus between the insurgency and the narcotics trade, to deny resources to the Taliban," he told a group of reporters.
Vickers, who was the principal C.I.A. strategist for arming anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the mid-1980s, also predicated that there would be "more focus on other agricultural initiatives" in the coming year.
One short-term solution being urged by senior Defense Department and military officials would be to pay Afghan farmers not to plant poppies in the next growing season. "To the degree we don't do that, we are at risk for a continuing of both poppy growth as well as sustaining the insurgency, since profits go to the Taliban," a senior military official told a small group of reporters earlier this week.
The official, who asked not to be named because he did not want to be identified discussing a program still under debate, said he did not know what such a program would cost the United States. He described it as a stopgap measure until the United States could put a long-term agricultural program in place in Afghanistan.
5) White House sends A-Team to Israel to try to overcome settlements impasse, talk Iran
The Cable, Foreign Policy, Thu, 07/23/2009 - 8:57pm
For several weeks, U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell has been negotiating with Israeli leaders over what exactly a settlement freeze means, as Israeli leaders have looked for wiggle room. Obama says his tough line on Israeli settlements is intended to remove a key obstacle to getting to a two-state solution and advancing peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as between Israel and Arab states.
A flurry of upcoming meetings between senior U.S. and Israeli officials suggest that Washington is determined to try to overcome the current impasse. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrives in Israel Monday for talks with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other leaders. Aides declined to discuss the secretary's agenda at all except to confirm the trip.
Mitchell too is headed back to Israel Sunday, after visits today in Abu Dhabi, and Damascus tomrrow, and before going on to Egypt and Bahrain. One notes that Mitchell's and Gates's trips might overlap, and that both have Defense Minister Barak as one chief interlocutor.
National Security Advisor Gen. James. L. Jones also confirmed to Foreign Policy that he plans to lead a separate multiagency team that reportedly includes officials from the Treasury Department, CIA, as well as NSC Senior Director for the Central Region Dennis Ross to Israel for meetings next Wednesday with Israeli national security advisor Uzi Arad and others. Iran is expected to be the major focus of these talks, which are separate from the Gates' trip, a U.S. defense official said. Some Iran watchers believe if Iran hasn't responded to the offer for talks by September, that the process for organizing a tougher sanctions regime targeting Iran will begin to get underway at the U.N. General Assembly in September and subsequent G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, although administration and outside sources have indicated Russia is not likely to support such measures until after the end of the year.
6) Biden Backs Georgia, But U.S. Won't Supply Arms
Vice President Calls for Russia to Withdraw Troops From Breakaway
Peter Spiegel, Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2009
Tbilisi, Georgia - Vice President Joe Biden told the Georgian Parliament that it won't regain territories lost to Russia last year by fighting another war, and a senior U.S. official said the Obama administration isn't currently prepared to supply Tbilisi with new defensive weaponry.
.Although Biden made a passionate call for Russia to withdraw its troops from northern Georgia in his speech before Parliament, the twin messages reflect the delicate dance the Obama administration must perform to support a pro-Western ally while not risking its nascent outreach to Moscow.
"There is no military option to reintegration" of the breakaway regions, Biden said. "Only a peaceful and prosperous Georgia has the prospect of restoring your territorial integrity by showing those in Abkhazia and South Ossetia a Georgia where they can be free and their communities can flourish."
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has publicly asked for antitank and antiaircraft weapons from the U.S., and a senior Obama administration official traveling with Biden said while the U.S. would continue training Georgian forces, such weapons wouldn't be forthcoming for now.
"It's something they're very interested in," the official said of the defensive arms. "We feel like a key for Georgia here is the modernization of its military ... at this stage, it's not so much a matter of weaponry or military hardware." The official added that training now under way by the U.S. would enable the Georgian military - crushed by Russia in the war in August 2008 - to use such weapons in the future, and that such armaments could be made available down the road.
As he reiterated the administration's strong support for Georgia's independence and its desire to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Biden delivered what the senior official termed "tough love" on issues of civil liberties.
Opposition figures have accused Saakashvili of increasing authoritarianism, including using government institutions to harass opposition parties. Thousands of protesters staged rallies in the capital earlier this year.
Biden said he expected Saakashvili to live up to recent promises to strengthen democratic institutions in the country.
7) Bill to decide Puerto Rico's status moves forward. AP
Associated Press, Thu, Jul. 23, 2009
A House committee approved a proposal Wednesday that would let Puerto Ricans decide their island's political status. It was unclear whether the full Congress would consider the bill. The Natural Resources Committee approved the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009, which was submitted by the island's resident commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi.
Voters would choose between keeping the island's commonwealth status, adopted in 1952, or to opt for something different. In the latter case, a second plebiscite would let them decide whether they wanted statehood, independence or independence with a loose association to the United States.
Two of the island's main parties oppose the proposal, and a similar bill that the committee approved in October 2007 has since died. Wednesday's debate marked the 68th time that the House has debated a bill related to Puerto Rico's status.
Puerto Ricans voted to maintain the island's current status and rejected statehood in nonbinding referendums in 1967, 1993 and 1998. Residents of the U.S. Caribbean commonwealth are barred from voting in presidential elections, and their Congressional delegate cannot vote.
8) U.S. Officials Negotiated With Iraqi Insurgent Groups Twice In Spring
Nada Bakri, Washington Post, Friday, July 24, 2009
Baghdad, July 23 - U.S. officials engaged in negotiations with Iraqi insurgent groups in two meetings this spring that culminated in an agreement to organize talks intended to bring the groups into Iraqi political life, an insurgent leader and Turkish and American officials said Thursday.
The negotiations involved at least three insurgent leaders and at least three State Department officials, who met in Turkey in March and May, said Sheik Ali al-Jubouri, an insurgent representative. A third meeting was supposed to take place in June, but it never happened, Jubouri said in an interview by telephone from Qatar.
U.S. officials declined to provide details of the meetings, which they said took place in March and April. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday that military and diplomatic officials "meet with a wide range of Iraqi contacts with the purpose of promoting reconciliation and fostering national unity" and that "the meetings in question occurred some months ago and with the knowledge of officials within the Iraqi government."
The discussions, which were revealed in Arabic-language news media this week, have set off arguments about who was aware of them. Some Iraqi officials disputed the U.S. statement that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government had been told of the negotiations.
Jubouri said he had disclosed the specifics of the negotiations as a way to put pressure on the U.S. side after it chose not to convene the third meeting. U.S. officials suggested word of the meetings was disclosed as a way to gain leverage in political battles in Baghdad.
Iraq's insurgency has ebbed since the U.S. military managed to turn Sunni tribes in Anbar province and elsewhere against it. But elements of it are still fighting in Baghdad, Anbar and the northern provinces of Diyala and Nineveh, and U.S. military officials have suggested it may persist for years.
Jubouri is well known in insurgent circles and has appeared as a spokesman in Arabic-language media. He identifies himself as a representative of an umbrella group of several Sunni insurgent organizations led by Islamists. It does not include al-Qaeda in Iraq, a homegrown movement whose attacks have been among the bloodiest.
Jubouri said he did not take part in the negotiations with the Americans, and he declined to identify either the insurgent leaders or the U.S. representatives. He said the U.S. military had first approached the groups earlier this year. After the groups refused to negotiate with people they considered occupiers, he said, diplomats were sent instead.
At the negotiating table, Jubouri said, the groups had four main demands: an official apology to the Iraqi people for the 2003 invasion and the occupation that followed; the release of all their prisoners; a pledge to rebuild Iraq; and U.S. support for reforms that would bring the groups into the political mainstream.
9) Pro-Israel Groups Push Back Against Settlements Policy
Daniel Luban , Inter Press Service, Jul 24
As the clash between the U.S. and Israeli governments over settlements in the occupied territories intensifies, many of Israel's traditionally staunch defenders in Washington have been pushing back, tentatively but with increasing assertiveness, to urge the Barack Obama administration to alleviate its pressure on Israel.
The settlements battle has put these defenders in a delicate position, since Obama remains extremely popular among U.S. Jews, most of whom oppose settlement growth, and since a settlement freeze has been a core U.S. demand for decades under both Democratic and Republican administrations.
Rather than opposing the administration outright on the settlement issue, therefore, most hawkish commentators and organisations have instead sought to persuade the administration to tone down its demands and seek a compromise - particularly one that would make dealing with Iran's nuclear programme a higher priority than an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, and would allow continued construction within settlement blocs close to the Israeli border.
Some hawks have also launched what many see as a concerted media campaign to portray Obama's settlement push as being on the brink of failure, and box the administration into backing down on settlements.
Despite reports to the contrary, however, the administration has so far shown no signs of letting up on the settlement issue, suggesting that the clash between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to come to a head. Already, Netanyahu's refusal to stop a planned building project in East Jerusalem has ratcheted up the intensity of the diplomatic conflict.
"Settlements were a difficult issue to defend, so the conservative establishment in the [U.S. Jewish] community made the argument that the disagreements shouldn't be in public, and there should be pressure on the Arabs to do more," former Israeli peace negotiator Daniel Levy, now a fellow at the New American Foundation and the Century Foundation, told IPS.
"Now there will be a third component to their pushback, which is Jerusalem, but I do not think this will gain serious traction, nor will it divert the administration from their course," he said.
Besides [Elliott] Abrams, several other hardline supporters of Israel have argued recently that Obama's Israel-Palestine policy is floundering - a trend that some analysts see as a concerted media campaign to shape public perceptions. "A number of...remarkably similar pieces over the last few days...have seemed geared towards creating the impression that Obama's strong position on Israeli settlements have backfired and put his overall policy in jeopardy," wrote Marc Lynch, a Middle East scholar at George Washington University, on the Foreign Policy website.
Lynch dismisses these arguments as "advice from those who aren't worried that [Obama will] fail, they want him to fail...The objective, most likely, is to derail his push towards a two-state solution that they fear might succeed and to embolden those who are uncomfortable with his approach but had been unwilling to challenge a popular President."
It was in part to reassure Jewish community leaders about his push on settlements that Obama held his Jul. 13 meeting with them at the White House. By most accounts, the meeting was a success, with Obama restating his commitment to Israel's security and the attendees offering expressions of support for the administration.
However, tensions have increased once again following Netanyahu's Sunday announcement that a planned Israeli housing development in East Jerusalem will proceed despite U.S. protests, and his defiant proclamation that Israeli sovereignty over a "united Jerusalem...cannot be challenged".
Since all major plans for a two-state solution involve Palestinian control of East Jerusalem as a capital city, Netanyahu's statement posed a direct challenge to the Obama administration's policy, and thrust the settlements debate back into the spotlight.
While the results of the current clash over Jerusalem remain to be seen, some prominent Jewish groups have already lined up with Netanyahu.
On Tuesday, the hawkish and influential Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations issued a statement calling the administration's objections to the proposed building project "disturbing".
10) Karzai Promises to Regulate Foreign Forces
Carlotta Gall, New York Times, July 25, 2009
Kabul - President Hamid Karzai said Friday that if he was re-elected president in August he would negotiate a new agreement with foreign nations deploying troops in Afghanistan, to regulate their status and their behavior.
Speaking to 3,000 supporters at a rally in Kabul, Karzai also said that his top priority was to bring about peace and that he would push ahead with negotiations with the Taliban and other opposition groups, and would devote more effort to law and order and to governance.
His comments were intended to appeal to voters by addressing Afghan complaints about civilian casualties, raids on private homes and the detention of people without charges.
He also said that he would bring members of the Taliban and Hesbe Islami, another opposition group, to peace negotiations and include them in a tribal council. The United States and the rest of the international community has resisted such plans but were now more supportive of the idea, he said.
Saudi Arabia has agreed to oversee negotiations with the Taliban, and one of the first moves would be to hold a second peace gathering between Afghan and Pakistani tribal elders, he said.
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