Peter Hirschberg

Obama campaigns in Israel

JERUSALEM (IPS) - Lighting a remembrance flame at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial. Speaking against the backdrop of a pile of empty rocket casings in the southern town of Sderot. Standing solemnly, face close to the stones of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. These are the images that Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama produced during a whirlwind 36-hour visit to Israel this week, and which he hopes will help dispel doubts about his candidacy amongst skeptical US Jewish voters. 

Israel targets Hamas orphanages

JERUSALEM (IPS) - Shopping malls. Schools. Medical centers. Charities, orphanages. Soup kitchens. These are the latest targets in the campaign the Israeli military is waging against Hamas in the West Bank. Israeli military officials have identified Hamas’s civilian infrastructure in the West Bank as a major source of the Islamic group’s popularity, and have begun raiding and shutting down these institutions in cities like Hebron, Nablus and Qalqiliya. 

Israel training to attack Iran

JERUSALEM, (IPS) - Israeli defense experts were not surprised by a New York Times report over the weekend that the Israeli air force had recently conducted what appeared to be a rehearsal for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Israel, the experts say, has never taken the military option off the table and they therefore expect the air force to be training for a strike in Iran. 

Israel doesn't want to know Carter any more

JERUSALEM, 17 April (IPS) - Three decades after he brokered the first-ever peace treaty between Israel and an Arab country, former US president Jimmy Carter has become persona non grata in the Jewish state. Both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak refused to meet with him during his four-day visit here. So did former prime minister and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who accused Carter of holding “anti-Israel views in recent years.” 

Israel threatens further supply cuts to Gaza

Israeli leaders, incensed that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had not resurrected the felled border wall and stopped the Gazans from entering, began suggesting that they would relinquish control of the strip altogether, leaving Egypt responsibile for the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza. “We need to understand that when Gaza is open to the other side, we lose responsibility for it,” said Israel’s deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai. “So we want to disconnect from it.” 

Prisoners released -- to Abbas

JERUSALEM, 20 July (IPS) - In all 255 shackled Palestinian security prisoners boarded buses with windows darkened at the Ketziot prison in southern Israel Friday morning and began their ride northward to the West Bank town of Ramallah — and to freedom. In Ramallah, at the headquarters of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, thousands of chanting Palestinians lifted the freshly released prisoners on their shoulders, before moving to a large open-sided tent to perform noon prayers. 

Hamas has hopes from release of BBC reporter

***Image1***JERUSALEM, 5 July (IPS) - It was the achievement Hamas had been waiting for ever since it vanquished the Fatah movement in Gaza and seized control of the coastal strip last month. Now, the Islamic movement is hoping that the release Wednesday of BBC reporter Alan Johnston, held captive in Gaza for almost four months, will convince the international community that it is a serious partner and is able to impose order on the chaos-ridden, lawless streets of the densely populated strip. 

United But Still Isolated

Palestinian leaders heaved a sigh of relief over the weekend when the formation of the long- awaited Hamas-Fatah national unity government finally became a reality. But the Palestinians could quickly discover that while the formation of a unity government, after months of tortuous negotiations, may have averted the threat that growing internal strife would balloon into all-out civil war, it could fail to achieve its second and no less important goal — the lifting of crippling international sanctions. 

Israel Watchful of Hezbollah Moves

An Iranian and Syrian satellite, Hezbollah operating unfettered, and the Israeli army ceasing to patrol the south — that is the fate Israeli leaders fear could befall Lebanon if anti- government forces succeed in ousting the elected government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. For two weeks, anti-government protestors have camped outside the parliament building in Beirut, insisting that the demand of the Hezbollah-led opposition for veto power in the cabinet be met. “For now, Israel is avoiding carrying out operations in Lebanon because of Siniora,” says one Israeli analyst Shmuel Bar. 

Olmert distances Israel from Iraq

JERUSALEM (IPS) - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was doing his best to persuade a skeptical audience of journalists that a report by a U.S. advisory group, which linked the chaos in Iraq to the unresolved conflict between Israel and its neighbours, would have no impact on U.S. policy in the region. “The Iraqi issue is first and foremost an American issue,” he insisted. “I trust President Bush. I trust his judgment, his wisdom and his leadership. One thing is clear to most Americansathe problems in Iraq are entirely independent of us and the Palestinians.”