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Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories

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“Big Brother” bumbles into West Bank

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bb2_3112_live_boker5It’s a reality television show whose contestants are isolated from the outside world, but “Big Brother” in Israel has managed to set off yet another controversy over Palestine policies.

Cameras at the studio-cum-commune outside Jerusalem caught Edna Canetti, a 54-year-old liberal activist, telling fellow residents over the weekend she wanted to see a peaceful popular campaign against Israel’s West Bank occupation.

“It bothers me that you’re silent. What’s needed is a revolt,” she declared after refusing to play along with a challenge in which contestants were divided into two groups — “rich” versus “poor” — with a plexiglass barrier between them.

Shifting to Middle East politics, Canetti said Palestinians should similarly tell Israel: “Shove your laws … We’re not going through that checkpoint and we’re not showing you IDs … This is our land.”

Internal Investigation

As we reported here Israel’s army gave itself a clean bill of health today for its conduct in the recent offensive in Gaza – saying a series of internal investigations had found no evidence of serious misconduct by its soldiers during the campaign.

Human rights groups have cast doubt on these internal investigations and have demanded that the IDF opens itself up to independent investigators to probe numerous allegations of serious misconduct and war crimes that stemmed from the 22-day offensive that Israel launched to counter cross-border rocket attacks from Gaza.

Breaking Ranks

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Its been two months since Israel ended its 22-day offensive in Gaza – two months during which Israel has been weighing up the costs and the benefits of what was achieved in the fierce fighting.

Strong international condemnation of the offensive – and the slew of boycotts, bans and blunt dioplomacy that have followed – has been met with a mix of incredulity, anger and resignation in Israel.

Send in the drones

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Israel’s economy is, in large part, mirroring what is happening elsewhere in the world – with job losses, factory closures and all the other symptoms of the global financial meltdown. 

One sector though is defying all the odds.

Elbit Systems – an Israeli company that makes electro-optics, airborne systems, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and command and control systems – announced this week a record 4th quarter with profits rising 32.6 percent and strong forecasts for continued growth in the year ahead.

Here’s the scoop on bulldozers

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bulldozerIn the Middle East, a region bristling with weapons of the most sophisticated kind, the bulldozer has become a symbol of simple, crude violence, causing fear and anxiety among people on both sides of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Yesterday’s attack in Jerusalem by a Palestinian construction worker who used a bulldozer to try and ram a police car into an empty bus was the third time in less than a year that Palestinians have employed bulldozers as weapons.

Army disappoints Bibi, the battle goes on

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An Israeli election official holds a ballot for the Likud party while tallying votes at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem February 12, 2009.  REUTERS/Baz Ratner

“When the soldiers’ votes come in, we will be way ahead.” So forecast a senior aide to Israeli right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu just after shock exit poll findings on Tuesday showing his Likud party trailing the centrist Kadima of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni by one seat. But that result, which overturned months of opinion polls in Netanyahu’s favour, turned out to be bang on the money. Throughout Thursday, Likud supporters were banking on votes from army barracks. These were being counted a day after those of civilians and Likud had hoped that a traditional right-wing bias in the military would be enough to turn the election around and give Netanyahu the advantage – a crucial one in terms of persuading President Shimon Peres that Netanyahu, not Livni, should be invited to form a government coalition.

It wasn’t to be. As the elections committee in parliament finally faced the media, over an hour late, and then flustered through their notes on live television to declare the result, it turned out the initial result still stood. Kadima on 28 votes, Likud on 27 in the 120-seat Knesset. So, it’s all over? Not by a long way. The result isn’t absolutely final until it’s published in the official gazette next Wednesday. And from that point Peres has a week to designate someone to form a government. Livni tried and failed in November, triggering this election. Netanyahu, popularly known by his nickname ’Bibi’, says there has been a general rightward shift in the election. That has included a surge for the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu (Our Home is Israel) of Avigdor Lieberman, which elbowed past Labour into third place on 15 seats. That, Netanyahu says, gives him a better chance of forming a stable administration. Perhaps. But in 60 years, Israel’s largely ceremonial president has never passed over the leader of the party that has topped the polls. Cue more intensive negotiation. Watch this space.

from Global News Journal:

Twittering from the front-lines

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Who remembers the Google Wars website that was doing the viral rounds a few years back – a mildly amusing, non-scientific snapshot of the search-driven, internet world we live in?

It lives on at www.googlebattle.com where you can enter two search terms, say ‘Lennon vs. McCartney’ or ‘Left vs. Right’, and let the internet pick a winner by the number of search hits each word gets.

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