Tentative Agreement to Restart Peace Talks in Place

Everything you need to know about today’s coverage of Israel and the Mideast.

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Today’s Top Stories

1. Secretary of State John Kerry announces tentative agreement to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians “within the next week or so.”  At this point, however, it’s hard to see the talks as anything but symbolic.

There was no indication that either the Israelis or the Palestinians had compromised on core issues — such as ending Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank or conceding the right of return of Palestinian refugees — that have sunk previous negotiations. Rather, this round of diplomacy was focused on getting distrusting adversaries to sit in the same room.

But after years of stalemate in which the prospects of creating side-by-side Israeli and Palestinian states seemed to fade, even as a goal of American and regional diplomacy, the resumption of a process of talks counts as progress, some analysts said.

PM Netanyahu: Any peace agreement would be subject to popular approval. Israeli officials also said they would release some “heavyweight” prisoners but would not accept any other pre-conditions for restarting talks. Meanwhile, the LA Times says Israel will refrain from new settlement construction without declaring an official freeze.

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2. Helen Thomas, longtime White House correspondent and Israel hater, died. Coverage generally included her 2010 comments that Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine,” and go back to Poland.

3. Worth reading: Neil Turner kept a diary of his complaints to the BBC about its coverage of Israel.

The Blankfeld Award for Media Critique

Rest O’ the Roundup

• Egyptian general accuses Hamas of smuggling missiles to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Maj. Gen. Osama Askar, commander of Egypt’s Third Army, accused Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, of smuggling 19 Grad rockets. Egyptian soldiers intercepted the rocket shipment along the Suez-Cairo highway, which Askar charged was on its way to Cairo to help the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The confiscated rockets were enough to destroy an entire neighborhood, indicating they were on their way to be used in terror activities against the Egyptian people,” Askar told reporters.

• The recent controversy in British politics over an MP making anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist statements underscores how similar anti-Zionism is to anti-Semitism, according to an op-ed in the Telegraph.

These two worldviews are, if obviously not the exact same thing, then at least very close cousins. There is one inescapable thing that they share in common: a tendency to trace all global problems and instabilities back to the behaviour and beliefs of a Jewish thing, whether the Jewish people or the Jewish State. Modern-day anti-Zionism, particularly as practised by left-leaning, trendy Europeans, among whom it is highly fashionable, is the heir to old-style anti-Semitism in one very important way: it has a scary habit of treating Jewish stuff or Jewish people as the source of the world’s ills.

• Pentagon believes Syrian civil war could last another several years.

• Gaza economy is suffering from the Egyptian crackdown on illegal tunnels.

At the height of the black market trade between Gaza and Egypt there were thought to be more than 1,000 tunnels employing around 7,000 people – providing Hamas with an income from taxes and permits of millions of dollars a month, estimated at 40% of the government’s revenue. But Egypt is thought to have closed or destroyed around 80% of the tunnels.

Jeffrey Goldberg looks at the major trends in the Middle East.

For more, see Thursday’s Israel Daily News Stream.

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