Jul 22 - In his first six months in the White House, President Barack Obama has seen his approval ratings slip about 10 percentage points as he takes on a battered U.S. economy.
Jon Decker reports.
The calm in the western Negev continues. Hamas refrains from firing rockets into Israel and its senior figures emphasize for Western ears its policy of restraint. Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha told a New York Times correspondent that “the fighters needed a break and the people needed a break.” According to the New York Times report, the decision to suspend rocket fire was “partly the result of popular pressure,” and occurred because people were questioning the value of the rockets, which they regarded as relatively ineffective.
This past week the American Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and American special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell both visited Israel . Mitchell met with the top figures of the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. He said that that “to help achieve comprehensive peace, President Obama has asked all involved to support our effort...” He praised the steps taken by Israel to improve freedom of movement for the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria . However, he demanded that Israel take “meaningful measures,” which include “dealing with difficult issues like settlements and outposts.”There has been an increasing number of reports that the measures taken by the IDF in Judea and Samaria to ease daily life of the Palestinians, including the dismantling of roadblocks at key locations, has already improved the Palestinians' economic situation. It is particularly conspicuous in Nablus , where a shopping festival is taking place (attended by Israeli Arabs as well). The festival features shopping and cultural and artistic events.
Hamas continues trying to make itself seem pragmatic to the West without changing its fundamental positions. In talking to Western media (e.g., The New York Times , BBC Radio) it reiterates that it refrains from firing missiles into Israel territory.
As to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the dialogue between Hamas and the West, this week the most prominent statements were the following:
• Ismail Haniya , head of the Hamas de-facto administration, preaching the Friday sermon at a mosque in Khan Yunis, said that Hamas was willing to adopt the principle of “liberation through stages.” That is, Hamas would not pose obstacles to the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state with the 1967 borders and with Jerusalem as its capital. However, he said that did not mean ceding the rest of the [Palestinian] land or recognizing the State of Israel, but rather it was a strategic option meant to end the so-called “occupation.” He also said that the “resistance” [i.e., terrorism] was a strategic alternative the Palestinians would continue to cling to (Al-Aqsa TV, July 24, 2009).