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Quick Takes: News From Israel You May Have Missed

The Obama administration has promised the Palestinian Authority that it will closely monitor Jewish construction in the West Bank and protest any new housing developments in the area, a top PA negotiator told WorldNetDaily.

“They told us the White House will watch for any Jewish construction,” said the negotiator, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Obama knows that if [Likud Chairman Benjamin] Netanyahu is the next prime minister, he will try to expand the settlements. They pledged to us this will be strongly protested.”

PA officials have previously told this column that they received a guarantee from Obama’s administration that understandings reached with Israel during U.S.-backed negotiations while President Bush was in office would be utilized as starting points in future Israeli-Palestinian talks. During those negotiations, Israel reportedly agreed to evacuate about 94 percent of the West Bank.

Barghouti Release Worries Abbas

PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah organization are worried about Hamas’s demand that Israel free jailed terrorist Marwan Barghouti in a prisoner exchange that may be part of a larger truce deal with Hamas.

Barghouti, a founder of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorist organization and a confessed architect of the second Intifada, has been held in Israeli prison since his conviction in 2004 on four counts of murder. He is widely respected on the Palestinian street and is said to be a major contender for heading Fatah in the future.

According to multiple sources close to the talks, Hamas has put Barghouti on the top of its list of prisoners it wants freed in exchange for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Fatah leaders are concerned their Hamas rivals will be seen as brokering the freedom of Barghouti, the sources said. If Israel releases Barghouti, Abbas and his associates want Israel to announce the release as a gesture to Fatah and not as part of a deal with Hamas. Although Fatah is Hamas’s rival, many top Hamas leaders believe they can work with Barghouti.

A top Egyptian official told this column that a major truce deal between Hamas and Israel is “very close.” The official said Israel has demanded the release of Shalit, the complete halt of terrorist attacks from Gaza for the next eighteen months, and the establishment of a buffer zone between Gaza and Israel.

Hamas for its part wants the Israel-Gaza crossings reopened and has demanded, in exchange for Shalit, the release of a large number of prisoners, including terrorists responsible for planning some of the bloodiest attacks in Israel’s history.

Syrian Spies Heading To Prison

Israel recently sentenced two Syrians living in the Jewish state to three years imprisonment for spying.

In a court in Nazareth, Yusuf Salah Sham and Atta Farhat – who were arrested July 29, 2007, weeks before Israel’s air raid on a suspected nascent Syrian nuclear reactor – were found guilty of spying for an enemy country, including providing the Syrian military with information on Israeli troop locations and military installations in the Golan Heights during the 2006 Lebanon war. Israel’s military censor forbids the disclosure of further details regarding the case.

This reporter interviewed Farhat along the Israeli-Lebanese border prior to his arrest and disclosed the details of the chat in the book Schmoozing With Terrorists.

Obama Did Not Authorize
U.S. Refuge For Palestinians

Contrary to some news media reports, President Barack Obama did not authorize Palestinian refugees to relocate to the U.S. as part of an emergency assistance package following Israel’s 22-day war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

On Jan. 30, Obama signed an order issuing an emergency contribution of $20.3 million for “urgent relief efforts” in Gaza. Several media outlets incorrectly reported that Obama had approved the emergency relocation of Gazans to the U.S.

Michael Hammer, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, confirmed to WND that Obama did not authorize the transfer of any Palestinians to the U.S. A State Department spokesman provided the same comment. Officials from both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority said they are not aware of any plans to bring Gazans to the U.S.

Perhaps the text of Obama’s executive caused the confusion. The order stated that the money was to be used for the “purpose of meeting unexpected and urgent refugee and migration needs.”

Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He appears throughout the week on leading U.S. radio programs and is the author of the book “Schmoozing with Terrorists.” 

About the Author: Aaron Klein is a New York Times bestselling author and senior reporter for WND.com. He is also host of an investigative radio program on New York's 970 AM Radio on Sundays from 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern. His website is KleinOnline.com.


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