Palestine is likely to win "non-member state"
status today in a vote by the United Nations General Assembly. The Palestinian
Liberation Organization believes it has support of
130 members of the 193-member body, and the bid only needs a simple
majority to pass. If successful, the Palestinian status will be elevated from
observer entity to observer state, equal to that of the Vatican. The bid has
been strongly opposed by the Israel
and the United States. The United States has stressed that Palestinian
statehood should be achieved through negotiations with Israel, not unilateral
actions, and has threatened to reduce
U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinians. Israel has warned it might
take significant deductions from duty transfers to the Palestinians. The
European Union is split with France, Spain, Greece, and Ireland in support, and
Germany likely to abstain. The Czech Republic is expected to vote against the
bid. Britain said it will back the resolution, but only if given assurances
that the Palestinians will participate in negotiations with Israel "without
preconditions." While the move is largely symbolic, it will have some practical
implications including allowing Palestinian membership in U.N. bodies such as
Criminal Court, where it could pursue Israel for war crimes. Last year,
the Palestinian Authority applied for full state status, a move also strongly
opposed by the United States, but the bid stalled in the U.N. Security Council.
National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition
Forces, a Syrian opposition body, began talks in Egypt on Wednesday in efforts to form an alternate
government to that of President Bashar al-Assad. The group spent the day
discussing the structure of the government and how leadership candidates would
be chosen. The talks have not yet broached the election of a transitional government.
Britain, France, Turkey, and the Gulf Cooperation Council have officially
recognized the opposition coalition, and formation of a transitional government
could pave the way for greater international acceptance and financial support. The
European Union said it will reduce the renewal
term for sanctions on Syria to make it easier in the future to equip opposition
forces fighting against Assad. Opposition forces have reportedly used surface-to-air
missiles to shoot down two Syrian aircraft in northern Syria in less than
24 hours, including a helicopter on Tuesday and a warplane on Wednesday. If opposition
fighters have increased capability to counter the government's air campaign, it
could mark a turning point for the insurgents.
Constituent Assembly is fast-tracking the constitution,
announcing the complete draft will come to a vote on Thursday amid a
standoff between President
Morsi and the judiciary.
on Thursday morning targeted Shiites in the Iraqi cities of Karbala and
Hilla killing at least 39 people and wounding over 100 in the third
day of increased attacks.
World Bank has approved a $500
million loan to Tunisia stressing transparency and saying reforms must
"respond to the aspirations of Tunisians expressed in the revolution."
Arguments and Analysis
Time to Stop Killing in Secret (David Cole, The New York Review of Books
"What would President Romney do with a drone? The New York Times reported
Sunday that this question apparently haunted the White House so much that in
the weeks before the election it raced to establish "explicit rules" and "clear
standards and procedures" for the use of unmanned drones for targeted killings.
It should not be surprising, I suppose, that the administration was less
comfortable with someone else pushing buttons to kill people than with its own
exercise of that authority. As one candid, though anonymous, official stated,
"There was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands."
The content of the rules remains a tightly-held mystery. Apparently they are
so secret that they are toted around from office to office in a single
"playbook," and not even shared on the government's secure email reserved for
But what is most disturbing is the news that it took a possible transfer of
power to push the White House to establish such rules. We've been assured by
multiple Obama administration spokespersons over the years that its targeted
killing program is fully lawful, and subject to "rigorous standards and process
of review," as Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan put it in a speech
at the Woodrow Wilson Center in April. Yet only on the eve of a potential
transition did the administration think to reduce these rigorous standards and
procedures to writing?"
Israeli PM Olmert Supports Palestine U.N. Bid (Bernard Avishai, Open Zion)
"Tomorrow, Mahmoud Abbas stands before
the U.N. General Assembly and presents a resolution to upgrade Palestine's
membership to the status of an "observer-state." The Obama administration has
signaled that it will oppose this resolution, as it vetoed a Security Council
condemnation of settlements last year-putatively to emphasize the need for
direct negotiations between the parties. With the Iranian nuclear program still
on the horizon, the administration is loathe to call its "special relationship"
with Israel into question, or run afoul of a hardline Israeli consensus, of
which Benjamin Netanyahu is presumably custodian.
AIPAC is mobilized, warning of Abbas's non-violent effort as, of all things, a
"flanking maneuver." We hear much about the danger of Palestinian diplomats,
newly elevated to representatives of an observer-state, bringing action in the
International Criminal Court against Israeli officials and officers linked to
settlements-a back-handed acknowledgement, curiously, that settlements are seen
as a contravention of the Geneva Conventions everywhere but in Israel.
In opposing this resolution, however, especially in the aftermath of the
recent Gaza stalemate, the administration is foregoing the chance to reinforce
the very forces in Israel and Palestine that are serious about compromise. A
great many Israeli leaders and military intelligence officials understand the
urgency of Abbas's timing-of strengthening his hand-and see no reason to oppose
The most important is former Prime Minister Ehud
Olmert, who engaged in direct negotiations with Abbas more than any other
Israeli. Why should the administration ignore their view and let the region
slide into what the latest flare-up in Gaza promised, Bosnian levels of
--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey