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Thu. March 26, 2015 EDITOR'S PICKS :  
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Issue: Israel's Jewish Identity. What Does it Mean?
MidEast Week
PA: Made "Generous" Offer; Israel: "Bring it to the Table"
Israeli and Palestinian Women Wage Peace
Israel's Arab Parties United For Election
More Arabs Join Israel's National Service
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Gaza Reconstruction Has Barely Begun
Palestinians Hope for Upset in Israeli Elections
Netanyahu's Planned Speech to Congress Sparks Controversy
Egypt Intensifies Crackdown on Islamists
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Palestinian Excitement Over UN Upgrade Builds; Israel Prepares for Defeat at Turtle Bay

Preparations are under way in Ramallah on Thursday for night-long demonstrations and victory celebrations as Palestinians follow the events at the United Nations where the General Assembly will vote to bestow non-member status on the Palestinians. Momentum continues to build in the final hours, with at least 15 European nations prepared to vote “yes” while two governments that had planned to vote against the resolution – Germany and the Czech Republic -- changed course and will abstain instead. On Tuesday, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland reiterated the Obama administration’s commitment to voting “no.” The exercise is a diplomatic loss for Israel, which will see at least an implicit recognition of the state of Palestine by the UN and a majority of nations by virtue of its elevation from “entity” to “non-member state.” A number of pundits continue to argue that the Palestinian achievement will have limited significance, a view underscored by the luke-warm support from Hamas and Islamic Jihad’s outright rejection of the Palestinian UN gambit. The Israeli government had previously promised to punish the Palestinian Authority if it proceeded with its plans to seek the elevated status, but since the fighting in the Gaza Strip that ended last week, the US administration has warned Jerusalem to temper its response. Under pressure from Washington, Israel is not expected to retaliate unless the UN gambit is used as a platform for confrontation, such as the filing of war crimes cases against Israelis in the International Criminal Court. In Israel, newspapers are carrying opinions arguing that the UN issue is not a bad thing.

Score Dead in Damascus Car Blast; Assad War Plane Shot Down; Deaths at 40,000+

The death toll in twenty months of fighting in Syria continues to show no sign of abating as another 38 civilians were added to the count after two car bombs exploded in a Damascus neighborhood on Wednesday. The latest slaughter came one day after rebels reportedly shot down a regime military helicopter with a heat-seeking land-t0-air missile near the besieged city of Aleppo. A resolution condemning the fighting was passed by a committee of the UN General Assembly. The measure, which is sponsored by Arab and Western nations, will be voted on in December by the General Assembly which has no enforcement powers because Russia and China continue to block any meaningful action in the Security Council. The sustained intensity of the fighting is being blamed by the Syrian regime on nations including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Libya and Qatar which Damascus says are arming and financing the rebel forces. On Thursday, rebel forces attacked the Wadi Deif military base, one of the last remaining regime military bases in the northwest. Syrians opposed to the continued rule of Bashar Al-Assad were buoyed with word that the Spanish government has formally recognized the Syrian National Council, the umbrella of opposition groups, as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.


Egypt Set to End Smuggling Industry in the Gaza Strip; Morsi Protests Continue

As part of its agreement in brokering the end to hostilities between Israel and Hamas, Egypt will launch an “extraordinary” crackdown on the tunnel industry in the Gaza Strip, the network of hundreds of smuggling tunnels used to deliver anything from people to automobiles from Egypt. The Palestinian Ma’an news agency quoted an Egyptian official as saying the tunnels are already functioning at a mere 5% of levels before Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense – the weeklong aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip that ended last week. The truce agreement promises Israel an end to the practice. Since the forcible take-over of Gaza by Hamas in 2007, Israel has imposed a blockade that prevents goods it argues can be used for military purposes from entering Gaza. Over the years, the phenomenon of smuggling tunnels has developed into an economy of its own. According to terms of the cease-fire, that will end. But the agreement will also see to the expanded use of the existing crossing points and increase in the import of goods, obviating most of the need for the tunnel trade which was estimated to be about 47% of all goods entering Gaza for use by the population. Meanwhile in Cairo, the stand-off between President Morsi and hundreds of thousands of protestors demanding that he retract his edict placing his word above judicial review continues. The Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group Morsi led before his election, has stood firm, insisting that Morsi will stand by his word but that the new constitution will be ready to be implemented this week and will obviate the problem. Observers doubt that, predicting that the over-reach of power Morsi is being accused of will be codified into the new constitution pointing out that the panel drafting the document and the document itself are, according to the president, immune to judicial review.  







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