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Mon. April 21, 2014 EDITOR'S PICKS :  
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Hostility Flares on Syria-Lebanon Border; 4 Lebanese Killed in Shelling

The situation along the border between Syria and Lebanon deteriorated on Sunday as Syrian army units engaged in cross-border shelling into Lebanon that killed four Lebanese citizens. In Beirut, opposition lawmakers called for army troops and United Nations forces to be deployed along the border, while Lebanese President Michel Sleiman demanded an end to Syrian gunfire. Sleiman has advocated neutrality toward Syria while the opposition has supported the Syrian rebels.

West Bank Tensions Mount in Anticipation of Funeral for Detainee

Israeli army units in the West Bank were placed on high alert in anticipation of Monday’s funeral for a 30-year old Palestinian man who died while in Israeli custody and apparently undergoing lengthy interrogation. Arafat Jaradat suffered cardiac arrest at Meggido prison on Saturday. His body was autopsied by Israeli authorities who allowed family and representatives of the Palestinian Authority to be present. Israel claims Jaradat was examined by a physician during his interrogation and no physical problems were evident. Israeli authorities say the post-mortem proved the prisoner was not mistreated while the Palestinian minister for detainee affairs charged that the autopsy revealed numerous broken bones and other proof of torture. Nevertheless, security officials are anticipating violence at the funeral in part because of the ongoing but unrelated hunger strike at a different prison and the one-day sympathy strike by 4,000 Palestinian prisoners. Palestinian officials have called for an independent international investigation into Israel’s treatment of prisoners.

Netanyahu Blinks First, Invites Electionís Big Winner to Join Coalition

As the calendar ticks-off days until Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s deadline for cobbling together a coalition government, the incumbent blinked first in the stand-off with the January election’s big winner, television-personality-turned-politician, first-timer Yair Lapid. On Sunday, after not having had direct contact with Lapid since immediately after the election, Netanyahu issued a formal invitation for the “Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party to join the government. The gesture is more complicated than it seems because Lapid has made a pact with an unlikely bedfellow, the chairman of the right-wing “Jewish Home” party Naftali Bennett, that neither party joins unless the other does. In the case of Lapid, that means Netanyahu will apparently have to forego extending an invitation to the religious parties that Lapid refuses to sit alongside in a government, breaking Netanyahu’s tradition base of support. While Lapid and Bennett’s parties are not even on the same page regarding the issue of making peace with the Palestinians, they do share the primary agenda item of ending the ability of religious sects to opt out of mandatory army service, an obligation they argue must be shared by all – an argument that is virtually consensus outside the religious community. Even with the invitation to Lapid, Netanyahu is expected to ask the president – and receive – the two-week extension allowed by law in order to form the government. Nevertheless, given the pre-election polling and certainty of the conventional wisdom that saw Netanyahu again forming the government, the extension request will minimally be a political embarrassment for Netanyahu. A street corner/social media debate is now underway between Netanyahu’s Likud and Bennett’s Jewish Home parties with each accusing the other of being the cause of the reduced influence of the nationalistic right wing in the next government.

Another Delay in Palestinian Reconciliation: Hamas Asks for More Time

The latest setback to Palestinian reconciliation came on Sunday when a Hamas official asked to delay plans for the next Egyptian-brokered meeting with Fatah to iron out details of the so-far still-born agreement signed a year ago. The meeting was scheduled to be held in Cairo on Wednesday. The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reports that tension between the two factions rose again when at a PLO-sponsored, televised symposium, the Fatah and Hamas participants disagreed over whether there has been any progress toward reconciliation. According to the agency, the Fatah representative said efforts had come “very close” while the Hamas rep said there was “no tangible breakthrough.” The disagreement opened the door to rehashing accusations such as the Hamas charge that Fatah collaborates with Israel while Hamas has succeeded in firing rockets at Tel Aviv.

 

 

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