March 18, 2011
Posted: 1505 GMT
In a wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out the possibility that his government would ever negotiate with a Palestinian government that included the Islamist group Hamas.
“Can you imagine a peace deal with Al Qaeda? Of course not.” Netanyahu told Morgan in Jerusalem. “What am I going to negotiate with them? The method of our decapitation? The method of their exterminating us? Of course not"
The vocal opposition from Netanyahu comes amidst Palestinians efforts to end the bitter political divide between their two main political parties.
Wednesday Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he was ready to visit the Gaza Strip immediately in an effort to end the internal political division between his Fatah party and the Hamas faction which rules in Gaza.
That move followed an invitation from Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh who extended the invitation to Abbas as tens of thousands of protestors both in the West Bank and Gaza took to the streets demanding political unity.
Israel has long rejected the idea of direct negotiations with Hamas which it regards as a terrorist organization but Netanyahu’s comments signal what appears to be a new Israeli push to prevent Abbas from striking deal that would include Hamas in any future Palestinian government.
Friday’s Haaretz newspaper reported that Israeli officials were working to convince the United States and other nations that any Hamas role in a government would attest to the Palestinian’s lack of interest in peace.
The division between Fatah and Hamas began in 2006 when the Islamist party won parliamentary elections and worsened a year later when Hamas seized power in Gaza from Fatah in a violent coup. Repeated attempts at negotiating a political rapprochement have failed .
While few are holding their breath that this latest effort at reconciliation will bear fruit there is considerably more pressure being brought to bear on both factions. Taking a page from protestors in Egypt and Tunisia internet savvy Palestinians have been using social media to organize increasing numbers to demonstrate publicly for reconciliation.
Independent lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti says recent demonstrations represent a new and important youth movement in Palestinian society.
"What you see is the beginning of change, what you see is the voice of the young people and the silent majority among the Palestinians which are pressuring both Fatah and Hamas to end this terrible division, to end this internal competition about an authority which does not exist because it is all under occupation," Barghouti said. "You see the voice of the Palestinian majority asking for democracy back and asking for unity, which is the only way to end occupation and the suffering of the people."
January 26, 2011
Posted: 1039 GMT
January 23, 2011
Posted: 719 GMT
It's an experience I had heard described dozens of times before; a frequent occurrence for Palestinians and an unwelcome rite of passage for some members of the international media covering the Middle East conflict.
But if I thought during my four-and-a-half years serving as CNN's Jerusalem bureau chief I had dodged this particular indignity, I was wrong.
"I need you to take off your sweater and your shirt," came the request from the man on the other side of the glass.
I was in a small fluorescent lit, concrete-walled room with a large picture window. The floor was comprised of a metal grating revealing another dank concrete room below.
Behind the glass sat a casually dressed man who appeared to be in his mid-twenties. He spoke to me through a microphone.
"Take your clothes off and put them in the container behind you," he told me in Hebrew-accented English.
I stood motionless in the bleak room in a state of shock.
I knew exactly what was happening, but it was still difficult to believe – I was being strip-searched.
November 9, 2010
Posted: 504 GMT
November 1, 2010
Posted: 748 GMT
Check out the new and improved CNN Arabic website for comprehensive coverage and original content on news, politics and features in Arabic.
October 24, 2010
Posted: 1116 GMT
Human rights activists hope a new film will raise international awareness about stoning.
October 8, 2010
Posted: 740 GMT
Watch Inside the Middle East from Aqaba, Jordan this weekend or view it online.
From CNN's Rima Maktabi
Every city has its own character and, just like human beings, at times you need to press certain buttons to discover it. In the Jordanian city of Aqaba, it wasn't easy on my first day of shooting for Inside the Middle East (IME) to sense the city.
Rima Maktabi on the shores of the Gulf of Aqaba. Jordan, Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia all have borders here on the Northern Red Sea.
Hajj Khodor, a popular restaurant in Old Aqaba, is over 30 years old and boasts King Abdullah II and his father the late King Hussein as patrons.
After a four-hour drive through the desert from Amman, a tight security checkpoint stands just at the outskirts of Aqaba; then the Red sea welcomes you. The weather was hot and dry, the temperature topping 38 degrees Celsius while clouds covered the sky announcing autumn's arrival. It even rained for few minutes even though Aqaba's inhabitants say they hardly ever see the rain!
At first glance the city looks new, not because of its exceptional architectural style, but rather because of a few construction sites. Taxi drivers, people in the streets and the concierge at the hotel constantly tell you about this new resort and that new compound. Aqaba is small and anything happening in the city could be big for its residents.
But for Haythem, Aqaba is a solid mix of old and new. He is a Jordanian in his early 30s who we chose randomly to accompany us during our third day of filming IME. The producer barely mentioned a request to see Aqaba, and off was Haythem in his car to different locations that show us the sunset, the Israeli city of Eilat (visible across the water), the Egyptian city of Taba on the other side of the Gulf of Aqaba, the mountains and Haj Khodor's restaurants.
As a first time visitor to Aqaba, the geography of the place struck me. I can even say I was perplexed. That northern tip of the Red Sea is bordered by four countries: Eygpt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The landscape reveals beautiful nature but geopolitics ruins the image. Here, this land is one cause of more than a century's worth of conflict over territories, water, power, religion and existence. I said to myself: how can such a serene land occupy the East and the West with such a long bloody conflict?! But then, why blame the land not the people?
Our scouting for filming sites stretched to Old Aqaba. In a neighborhood that smelled of poverty and history, we drove. There was Hajj Khodor, a simple popular restaurant that reveals the real beat of the city. The owner greets us and says: "Hajj Khodor is my father; he died couple of years ago. The famous old restaurant is just across the street where my father started his business 30 years ago." We were then told that the place would be busiest in the morning.
The next day we arrived at Hajj Khodor's at 11 am. Haythem could not drive us because he had a job interview at Oumnia, a telecommunication company. "I am an engineer not a driver," Haythem told me the day before, "but I cannot find a job, so I try to make a living driving this taxi." So Haythem's father drove us to Hajj Khodor which was like a bee hive. People come in the morning for breakfast. Hommos, falafel and foul (fava beans) are the main dishes served there. The cashier is Egyptian and "has been with us for more than 30 years," we were told. The hommos is "Beiruti" while the foul is made the Egyptian way.
I am always careful of what I eat. I travel a lot and food can be my enemy at times. So we filmed the restaurant, talked to the owner and lingered around for a while. Then I couldn't resist, I asked for one small plate of foul (fava beans) to share with IME team.
There in Hajj Khodor's restaurant, as well as in Aqaba's streets, everyone asks you tens of questions. Why are you here? What are you doing? Who do you work for? Whether they get answers or not, some pick up the phone and tell others who and what they have seen. Then come Jordanian intelligence officers, a few hours later come the police and so on so forth.
Security is a major concern here in Aqaba. Israel is just next door. So close that once in 1986, an Air France plane bound for Eliat mistakenly landed in Aqaba, Jordan!
Away from security concerns, it is unlikely that you could walk into any place in Jordan and not see pictures of the ruler. Photos of the Jordanian King Abduallah II and his son, the Crown Prince are everywhere. Even at this popular busy restaurant, big pictures of the late King Hussein, his son Abduallah and the 16-year-old Prince Hussein are the first things you see as you enter Hajj Khodor. "Even the king eats here," the owner proudly tells IME team.
September 22, 2010
Posted: 604 GMT
Former United States president Bill Clinton sat down with CNN's Wolf Blitzer yesterday and waxed optimistic about the prospect for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians calling a deal "imminently doable".
Clinton cited "real support" from the Arab states and genuine worry from both sides about passing up another opportunity as reasons a deal is "slightly more likely to happen than not."
The former president expressed confidence in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ability to influence right-wing factions in Israel including the Yisrael Beiteinu party of his foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman
"I know that Netanyahu can deliver" he told Blitzer "It may cost him his coalition. Lieberman and his crew will have a decision to make. But they trust him on security and they will vote with him in the end to ratify an agreement."
Clinton also laid blame on the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for not making a peace deal in 2000...take a listen.
September 21, 2010
Posted: 1050 GMT
*CNN's Sr. Int'l. Correspondent, Nic Robertson, filed this report describing the frenzied mechanics of chasing a big Middle Eastern news story*
As we dashed to Abu Dhabi’s International Airport last Tuesday evening we knew we had only a slim chance of catching up with Sarah Shourd.
We were frantically booking flights to Muscat and she was already in the air on a two and a half hour flight to freedom from a Tehran jail.
Sarah had probably reached cruising altitude, Tehran fading beneath the Royal Oman jet the Sultan had sent for her and we’d just got our tickets. But the race wasn’t over. Just as we were heading for security we discovered an earlier flight, and after a crazy and slightly undignified dash to another terminal we took our seats on a BA 777 as the doors were closing.
It was exactly the kind of adrenalin pumping journalism that this profession pitches you in to without warning. We had one goal: talk to Sarah.
We touched down almost simultaneously with her flight. She was getting the Royal treatment, red carpet, VIP lounge, we were struggling to confirm she’d made it.
We hung around in international limbo, afraid to go through immigration for fear Sarah would take another flight to the US. By now we were booked on every flight leaving Muscat for the next five hours.
We stalked the transit halls and lounges scouring for a glimmer of her entourage. Our producer Raja Razek had worked her magic and found a source who was searching passenger manifests for us. But no sign of Sarah. Read the rest of this entry »
September 2, 2010
Posted: 1124 GMT
From Errol Barnett, CNN
Even though Kurds in Northern Iraq enjoy relatively low levels of violence and have previously expressed interest in becoming their own autonomous region, Mr. Mahmoud Othman – a leading member of the Kurdistan Alliance – underscored his commitment to do whatever it takes to keep Iraq together and start healing after seven years of war. During a conversation with me on “Prism,” his impatience and patriotic frustration was evident in his comments to me, saying, “these people are not putting National interest of their country ahead of their blocs – and that is the main issue. Otherwise they would have been more flexible.”
On 'Prism' Errol Barnett talks with Michael Holmes in Baghdad about Iraqi refugees waiting for political solutions so they can return home.
Since Iraqis risked their lives to vote in elections March 7, their impatience too continues to mount as neighbourhoods remain unchanged. Electric power is intermittent, violence continues and elected leaders have yet to find consensus on any major issue – like who will be Prime Minister. This is because results left two parties with almost the exact same portion of votes and parliamentary seats; Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement and current Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition captured 25.9% and 25.8% respectively. Al-Maliki’s bloc received 89 seats against Allawi's 91. A 163-seat majority is is needed to form a government in the 325-seat parliament. Meanwhile the Iraqi National Alliance and Kurdistan Alliance were 3rd and 4th in the vote count.
Mr. Othman told me although his group is willing to work with any form of a coalition government, his hands are essentially tied. He’s waiting for Al-Maliki and Allawi to come to power-sharing consensus. A painstaking process that even in stable countries like Australia can take months. Only after this is resolved, can key ministerial posts be filled and critical legislation – like the distribution of oil wealth, a rebuilding of damaged infrastructure and security plans post-U.S presence – be decided.
Making that flexibility more challenging is the fact that even though the two leading parties paint themselves as more secular –sectarian divisions have emerged. Coalitions talks were suspended recently due to comments by Nuri Al-Maliki that Allawi’s candidate list was simply a “Sunni List.” Mr. Othman says there is no other option but to work past these separations: “They have to do it. This is their country, nobody will lead it for them, they have to rule their country and form a government as soon as they can.”
Click here to see Michael Holmes' report on Iraqi refugees waiting for political solutions so they can return home.
Watch below as Othman describes to Errol Barnett the layers of un-finished business awaiting Iraq and the United States.
Welcome to the Inside the Middle East blog where CNN's journalists post news, views and video from across the region. This is also a place where you can start the discussion so please keep your comments coming. We highlight not only current news stories but also anecdotes and issues that don't always make the top of the headlines.
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