Inside the Middle East
May 17, 2011
Posted: 1220 GMT
Palestinian protesters infiltrate the Israel-Syria border on May 15 near the Druze village of Majdal Shams. Reportedly at least twelve were killed and several injured when Israeli soldiers opened fire on protesters AFP/ Getty Images.
Palestinian protesters infiltrate the Israel-Syria border on May 15 near the Druze village of Majdal Shams. Reportedly at least twelve were killed and several injured when Israeli soldiers opened fire on protesters AFP/ Getty Images.

Clashes between pro-Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces erupted along Israel's borders and occupied territories Sunday, leaving at least 12 dead on a Palestinian mourning day marking the birth of the Jewish state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried what he called "violent demonstrations" aimed at undermining Israel's existence.

"We hope for the peace and restfulness to return quickly, but no one should be mistaken - we are determined to defend our borders and our sovereignty," Netanyahu said.

The conflicts broke out on "Nakba Day." Nakba - Arabic for "catastrophe" - marks the period when more than 700,000 Arabs were displaced from their homes during fighting that followed the creation of Israel in 1948.

Two protesters were killed and 170 were wounded Sunday when fighting broke out in the Golan Heights area, the Syrian Arab News Agency said. And at least 10 were killed and 112 others were injured in clashes along the line of demarcation with Lebanon, Lebanon's state news agency reported. Read more...

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Filed under: Israel •Lebanon •Netanyahu •Palestinians •Syria

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May 6, 2011
Posted: 840 GMT


ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Will Osama bin Laden's death weaken extremists? Or does it make the region more dangerous, especially for Israel?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: No, it weakens extremists. When the world's number one terrorist, a man who's responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people is brought to justice and is eliminated, it tells terrorists everywhere there's a price and you will pay it and that's good.

VERJEE: Was President Obama right not to release the photo?

NETANYAHU: Probably.


NETANYAHU: He probably has his reasons. I haven't seen the photos but I think it's immaterial (ph). I don't think that anyone really questions the fact that Osama bin Laden has been killed. I think that's a safe fact.

VERJEE: Who would you consider today, the world's most dangerous man, the biggest threat to the world's security after bin Laden?

NETANYAHU: The biggest threat is the possibility of the militant Islamic regime will acquire nuclear weapons or that nuclear weapons will acquire a militant Islamic regime. The first is called Iran. If the Iranian regime gets atomic bombs, it'll change history.

VERJEE: Do you think Ahmadinejad is the biggest threat?

NETANYAHU: I think he's a big threat. I think his boss, Khamenei is a bigger threat. Iran is (ph) the country and he's infused with fanaticism - he wants to get the whole lot – he calls us Israel, "the little Satan" because America is "the great Satan" and I hope that Europe and Britain aren't offended because they're a middle-sized Satan. So all these statements have to be eliminated and, if necessary, they're developing atomic bombs for that affair (ph).

VERJEE: So why haven't you taken action, a targeted action against Iran if you're convinced it needs to be eliminated?

NETANYAHU: Well, because one of the things that we've looked at is the leadership of the international community, led by the United States, to force that regime to stop its nuclear bombs program. I think the sanctions might work if the international community makes it clear that there's a credible military option if the sanctions don't work. And I think that the coupling of those two things - economic sanctions and a military option if sanctions don't work - that's the only thing that will make this regime stop. And I hope to see that determination (ph) in place.

VERJEE: There's a government now that represents all Palestinians in a unity government. Why won't you accept that?

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Filed under: Hamas •Iran •Israel •Netanyahu •Palestinians •Video

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March 22, 2011
Posted: 652 GMT

Following in the footsteps of several other Republicans considering a presidential bid, Sarah Palin was in Jerusalem Monday to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and take in some local sight-seeing.  Media was not high on her list of priorities so we were only able to catch up with her at a hastily arranged photo-op at the Western Wall. No public word from her camp about this Telegraph report that says a visit to the West Bank city of Bethlehem was aborted at the last-minute for reasons unknown.

Filed under: General •Israel •Jerusalem •Netanyahu •Video

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March 18, 2011
Posted: 1505 GMT

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel meets with Piers Morgan(Getty)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel meets with Piers Morgan(Getty)

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."

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Filed under: CNN Coverage •Fatah •Gaza •Hamas •Israel •Netanyahu •Palestinians •West Bank

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February 21, 2011
Posted: 749 GMT
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday criticized Iran's plans to send naval ships through the Suez Canal.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday criticized Iran's plans to send naval ships through the Suez Canal.

The Israeli prime minister on Sunday accused Iran of trying to expand its influence in the region by planning to send naval ships through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean.

Egypt has agreed to allow two Iranian warships to cross, in a move that puts the country's new military regime in a prickly position with its Israeli neighbor.

The post-Hosni Mubarak caretaker government gave the green light to the Iranian warships Friday. The move comes in the wake of the Egyptian president's ouster earlier this month.

"Iran is trying to take advantage of the situation," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at a weekly Cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu said Israel views the crossing of the Iranian ships through the Suez Canal "gravely."
No Iranian warships have crossed the canal as of Sunday, said Ahmed el-Manakhly, transit director of the Suez Canal Authority.

The Iranian state news agency al Alam earlier reported that two Iranian ships had crossed through the canal and are headed to a Syrian port.

The ships are expected to be the first Iranian warships to sail through the Suez since the Islamic republic's 1979 revolution. Egypt's newly empowered military government has said it would honor all its international treaties.

The Suez Canal is a key waterway for international trade. It connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, allowing ships to navigate between Europe and Asia without having to go around Africa.

Millions of barrels of oil move through the Suez every day en route to Europe and North America

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Filed under: Iran •Israel •Netanyahu

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August 24, 2010
Posted: 1553 GMT

The Israeli Embassy to the United States in Washignton D.C. (David Jenkins/CNN)

Imagine you are the leader of your country making an important diplomatic visit to another country. You would expect, as is custom, to be met on the ground by personnel from your embassy who would assist with all of the complicated logistics and protocol of a state visit.

Pretty standard stuff that usually gets taken for granted in the world of international diplomacy, but not if you are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and your foreign ministry staff  is on strike.

report in Tuesday's Haaretz describes  that the latest salvo by the union representing Israel's foreign ministry workers in its ongoing battle with the finance ministry over wages will be fired when Netanyahu visits Washington in September for the start of peace talks with the Palestinians.

Per Haaretz, after meeting Tuesday the union announced that embassy workers in Washington "will refuse to assist in any administrative aspect of the visit, including hotel reservations, organizing transportation for the Netanyahu or his staff, and the prime minister's arrival at the airport"

The labor dispute has been going on for a number of weeks and a speedy resolution does not appear to be in sight. Visitors to the Foreign Ministry website are greeted by a large red banner announcing  "As part of the sanctions announced by the Israel Foreign Ministry workers' union, the Consular Department will not provide services to the public and telephone calls will not be answered"

The English website for Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aronoth describes how foreign ministry employees have already stopped offering services to diplomats visiting the Jewish State and will stop holding meetings in its embassies and consular offices abroad.

Barring a resolution Netanyahu's office will have to handle all the arrangements of his visit  to the United States along with the help of the White House.

We contacted  a foreign ministry spokesman for their reaction but,  perhaps unsurprisingly, he was not answering the phone when we called.

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Filed under: General •Israel •Netanyahu

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July 5, 2010
Posted: 838 GMT

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Moving toward direct peace talks with Palestinians will be a focus of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to the United States this week, the prime minister told Israeli Cabinet officials Sunday.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with President Obama on Tuesday.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with President Obama on Tuesday.

"We are ten minutes apart. Ramallah almost touches Jerusalem," Netanyahu said, according to a copy of remarks released by his office. "I have been ready to meet with (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) since this government's first day in office. Whoever desires peace will hold direct peace talks. I hope that this will be one of the results of my trip to Washington."

Netanyahu said he will discuss the issue in a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday.

Currently Israelis and Palestinians are negotiating via "proximity" talks, in which U.S. officials serve as a go-between.

Last week, the White House also said Tuesday's meeting would focus on how to move proximity talks to direct talks, and on the recent "liberalization" of Israel's policy on commercial traffic into Gaza.

It will be the fifth meeting between Obama and Netanyahu since the prime minister took office last spring.

Moving toward direct talks was also a topic when Obama met with Abbas on June 9.

"We agreed that, should a progress be achieved, then we would move on to direct talks," Abbas said after the meeting.

Filed under: Israel •Netanyahu •Obama •Palestinians •U.S.

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