Thursday, July 14, 2011

MIDDLE EAST WRAP: BOYCOTT LAW

Weekly round-up of the Hebrew newspapers in Israel; covering the major events happening in Israel and the Middle East. 



Two stories dominate the front pages of Israeli newspapers on Tuesday:  One, new suspicions against former President Moshe Katsav, and the Boycott Law, which was approved on Monday, July 11th by the Knesset.


Israel Hayom, The Jerusalem Post and Yedioth Ahronoth all lead with the Katsav story, who has already been convicted of sexual harassment and rape, is now suspected of hiring a private investigator to intimidate the women who testified against him.


Haaretz and Maariv, went with the Boycott Law story as their leads. According to the headline in both papers, the Boycott Law – which allows companies and organizations that have been subjected to boycotts by Israeli individuals or organizations because of their location over the Green Line – to sue for damages. Both papers note that, while the bill was passed by a comfortable majority, there is a good chance that the High Court of Justice will throw it out as unconstitutional.


According to Israel Radio, several human rights groups have already announced that they will petition for the cancelation of the just-enacted law. The parties to the petition are the 'Adalah Arab legal centre, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights and the Women's Coalition for Peace.


Meanwhile, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources, the intensive American efforts to create an agreed outline for renewed negotiations between the two parties have failed. The sources said the Palestinian leadership is now more determined than ever to pursue the recognition of an independent Palestinian state at the United Nations in September.


The foreign ministers of the Middle East Quartet met on July 11th, Monday night in Washington, D.C. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met separately with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Quartet envoy Tony Blair, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. According to wire reports, the Quartet failed to announce any progress to revive peace talks, saying there are still gaps between the two sides.


‘There are still gaps that are impeding progress,’ said a senior Obama administration official who briefed reporters after the meeting on condition of anonymity. ‘Realistically ... more work needs to be done to close those gaps.’ Another official, quoted in Haaretz, said that the meeting was an ‘excellent and serious discussion on the next steps. [The Quartet foreign ministers] expressed support for President Barack Obama’s May Middle East speech and called to start preparatory phases of talks without any preconditions.’


Finally, Israel Hayom says that Lebanon has responded angrily to Israel's proposed maritime boundary, calling it an act of ‘aggression,’ as a dispute builds over huge natural gas and oil reserves beneath the sea. Lebanon has submitted its own sea boundary proposal to the UN and on Sunday, Israel's cabinet approved a conflicting proposal, which it plans to send to the UN, too. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman warned against unilateral decisions, saying Lebanon is ready and has the right to defend its borders and resources using every ‘available and legal’ means. He said the issue would be discussed at the Lebanese cabinet meeting this week.

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