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Mideast News Roundup

Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers arrived in Jerusalem representing the only two Arab governments that have signed peace deals with Israel. They spoke today about the peace initiative and specifically avoided referencing the Arab League, which has never recognized Israel. Yet, without mentioning the League, the two foreign ministers are pushing the Arab League’s peace plan for the region which stipulates three main conditions for normal relations with Israel: 1. full withdrawal from land occupied in the 1967 war, including Jerusalem, 2. the creation of a Palestinian state, and 3. a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. [Debka] [The Washington Times]


Beijing’s Xinhua news service reported today that Taliban rebels have demanded that eight Taliban prisoners be released in exchange for eight South Korean hostages. The hostages are primarily female members of a Christian group who were abducted last Thursday in Ghazni, southwest of Kabul. [Xinhua]

The deadline for releasing the Taliban prisoners was set for Tuesday evening and then extended indefinitely. Debka reported this afternoon that the Taliban has killed one of the hostages. [Debka]


Shvitz editor Michael Weiss, posted yesterday on Libya’s release of six medical workers—five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor—who were held for eight years under the dubious and unsubstantiated charge of deliberately infecting children with the virus that causes AIDS. [Jewcy]

Susannah Sirkin, deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights, said, “The charges were fabricated; the nurses were tortured into confessing; there was no due process.” [The New York Times]

In the aftermath of the prisoners’ release, the EU has no problem normalizing relations with Libya’s leaders: French President Nicolas Sarkozy will travel to Tripoli to boost the EU-Libya ties. [BBC]


President Bush’s lynchpin: personal diplomacy via frequent video conferences with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq. They chat on troops and leadership and God, which is all well and good, but where are the results? [The New York Times]


David Remnick writes the Letter from Jerusalem in this week’s New Yorker profiling Avraham Burg, a former Speaker of the Knesset, and a “Zionist politician who has lost his faith in the future” (of Israel).

“People are not willing to admit it,” Burg said, “but Israel has reached the wall […] We are already dead. We haven’t received the news yet, but we are dead. It doesn’t work anymore. It doesn’t work. . . . There is no one to talk to here. The religious community of which I was a part—I feel no sense of belonging to it. The secular community—I am not part of it, either. I have no one to talk to. I am sitting with you and you don’t understand me, either.”

“After some fifteen, twenty years in political life I had a feeling all of a sudden that, to use the Biblical term, Israel was the kingdom without prophesy. I realized that the three founding narratives of the national idea of Israeliness were over: the mass immigration to the land, aliyah; the security of the land; and the settling of the land. All three had served their purpose and were no longer the core of the nation’s narratives.”

On the Holocaust as a reference point for Israeli statehood, Burg told Remnick,

"We confiscated, we monopolized, world suffering. We did not allow anybody else to call whatever suffering they have ‘holocaust’ or ‘genocide,’ be it Armenians, be it Kosovo, be it Darfur. In the last years, Israeliness has confined itself for itself only and lost interest almost for what happens in the world. For me, Israel is shrinking into its own shell rather than struggling for a better world."

Otniel Schneller, a Knesset member from Ehud Olmert’s centrist Kadima Party, has said that when Burg dies he should be denied burial in the special section of Mt. Herzl National Cemetery reserved for national leaders.


Today, more than 600 French Jews made aliyah. [JTA]

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