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Today’s Top Stories
1. Mahmoud Abbas backtracked on the “right” of return in comments aired on Israeli TV. The Times of Israel writes:
Interviewer Udi Segal cut in: “Sometimes your official television… speak(s) about Acre and Ramle and Jaffa [all cities within sovereign Israel] as ‘Palestine.’”
“I believe that [the] West Bank and Gaza is Palestine,” said Abbas, “and the other parts (are) Israel.”
Noting that he himself was born in Safed, in what since 1948 has been northern Israel, Abbas said he had visited the town and would like to see it again, but not to make his home there. “It’s my right to see it, but not to live there,” he said, in comments that, if applied to all Palestinian refugees and descendants, would represent a dramatic shift in Palestinian policy.
The fallout was as predictable enough . . .
2. The UK’s considering stationing warplanes in the Persian Gulf. Nice scoop by The Independent, which writes — ironically enough:
The British Government has urged Israel to exercise restraint over Iran, pointing out that sanctions are having a crippling effect on the Iranian economy – with the fall-out from the punitive measures making the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad increasingly unpopular and creating frictions in the ruling hierachy.
However, at the same time, UK military commanders are looking at the possibility of sending British jets to a base in Abu Dhabi which is currently being used by American and French forces as a confidence building measure but also, crucially, in case there are attempts by the Iranians to block the Strait of Hormuz, the waterway through which 40 per cent of the world’s oil supplies are shipped.
3. Syrian tanks entered the Golan Heights demilitarized zone, and withdrew after several hours. Israel filed a protest with the UN, but security officials believe they were fighting Syrian rebels in the village of Be’er Ajam. Details at the Jerusalem Post.
4. Now’s the time to vote for 2012 Dishonest Reporter. See the nominees and make your choice.
Israel and the Palestinians
• PA official hints Israel, Hamas in secret talks. The goal, according to Nabil Abu Rudeineh, is to undermine the PA’s UN statehood bid and achieve a long-term lull. Rudeineh’s such a tease — no evidence is offered.
• The Palestinians are waging a cultural battle over Rachel’s Tomb, and they already have UNESCO on their side. From Israel HaYom:
The Palestinians no longer call Rachel’s Tomb “the dome of Rachel,” as they did for centuries. Now they call it the mosque of Bilal ibn Rabah. UNESCO’s decision to define Rachel’s Tomb as a mosque is one of the results of this battle for awareness. The Palestinian Authority’s textbooks, which referred to Rachel’s Tomb by its historical name 10 to 15 years ago, have changed. The Muslim connection to the tomb, which stemmed from its association with the biblical Rachel, has been replaced by a vague, unclear connection to Bilal ibn Rabah, Mohammed’s first muezzin.
• Question of the Day: If a lie can proverbially travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” what does a Globe & Mail clarification have to do with Gideon Levy’s “Israel apartheid” agenda and the South African media? The answer will surprise you.
• Here’s an unusual Israeli PR initiative:
The Israeli side of the security barrier that separates Israel from parts of the West Bank may soon become a venue for artistic displays. As part of an initiative put forth by Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud), Israeli artists and schoolchildren will paint pictures on the wall displaying information on terrorist attacks that originated in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas and on attacks that were prevented due to the existence of the barrier.