Sunday, December 7, 2008

Palestine problems: 'pogrom' in West Bank, collapse in Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke out forcefully against attacks against Palestinians by Israeli settlers in the city of Hebron in the West Bank last week. Settlers were described as going on a rampage after the Israeli Defense Forces evicted them from a building they were illegally occupying, more than a dozen Palestinians were wounded in the violence, several of them shot by settlers. There were also reports of settlers trying to burn at least one Palestinian home.

Olmert called the wave of violence a 'pogrom', which is an emotionally charged word for Israelis since it historically has been used to describe anti-semetic attacks carried out against Jewish communities. "The sight of Jews firing at innocent Palestinians has no other name than pogrom," Olmert said at a meeting of his cabinet this week.

Olmert, along with former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Shimon Perez, recently have all basically said that Israel needs to give up on settlements in the West Bank to ensure a peaceful future with both the Palestinians and the larger Arab world. They have shown interest in restarting talks over a proposal put forward by Saudi Arabia in 2002 where the nations of the Arab world would sign peace agreements with Israel in return for Israel withdrawing from occupied areas in the West Bank and Golan Heights.

Meanwhile, a report from the World Bank on Saturday said that civil society in the Gaza Strip (the other part of the Palestinian Territories) was near collapse and urged Israel to allow shippments of cash to banks in Gaza. Israel has maintained a blockade of Gaza since Hamas was voted into power in elections in teh summer of 2007. But now banks in Gaza are running out of money, meaning many civil servants will likely not be paid. Unemployment is already high in Gaza, home to two and a half million people; nearly 70,000 draw a salary from the Palestinian government.
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