Role of US in Israel-Hamas Conflict

Finally, the joint diplomatic efforts of Egypt and the US have managed ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. Under the deal, Israel has agreed to end all aggressions and targeted killings, while Hamas will stop rocket attacks against Israel and along the border. Non-stop airstrikes and rising fatalities have severely affected negotiation & lasting peace between Israel and Hams. Even a temporary pause needed full-fledge diplomatic force of the US, and Ms. Clinton has already been to Tel Aviv and now visiting Cairo. Not only is the scale of human suffering widening, the Israel and Hamas conflict is far beyond resolution. The UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon expressed “profound concern” at the civilian casualties in Gaza and also called on militants to end immediately their “indiscriminate attacks on Israeli population centers”. Israel’s demands include no hostile fire of any kind from Gaza and international efforts to prevent Hamas from re-arming, while Hamas is demanding an end to the blockade on Gaza and targeted killings by Israel.

Israel’s offensive ended after a week, which killed of Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari and more than hundred civilians including innocent children and women. According to BBC, the Israeli government says his assassination, and the subsequent offensive, is designed to end rocket fire from Gaza, which killed three Israelis and wounded several others. If that is the specifics of any agreement in near future, one can only hope that this largely ad hoc arrangement of peace would sustain the pressure of traditional Israeli politics before the next election. The killing of innocent women and children is just igniting more anti-Israel and anti US sentiments, and thereby further fueling the emotions of ordinary Muslims throughout the world. According to the Hamas health ministry said the Palestinian death toll stood at 157, with 1,100 injured. With impending danger of attack on Iran, some officials including the US strongly believe that Israel risks global isolation. If this is what Hamas was expecting out of this conflict then it has achieved the desired gains.

For both Israel and Palestinians, the biggest gain is that still Egypt’s new government under the leadership President Mursi demonstrated great interest to facilitate a practical and balanced peace agreement between the two parties. The US on its part hurriedly dispatched Ms. Hilary Clinton to Tel Aviv and Cairo – while the air raids on Gaza and rocket attacks on Israeli cities continued. Repeatedly, President Obama has been instrumental behind the scene, and phoned Cairo and Jerusalem from Asia, where he is on a trip to craft a “China policy”, in order to create competing opportunities for China’s neighbors. For President Obama, preserving America’s role as a peacemaker is becoming more complex and nothing fanciful is achieved both in Afghanistan and Iran. Containing further conflict in the Middle East seems to be only way out of his under-achievements during previous tenure.



EU budget: A Difficult Road Ahead

The European leaders are passionately negotiating EU budget details – apparently a unanimously agreed deal IS still out of sight. Reportedly          , a revised proposal from summit chairman Herman Van Rompuy keeps the spending ceiling in place but reallocates funds. UK Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters in Brussels on Friday that “it isn’t a time for tinkering” with the EU’s 2014-2020 budget. “We need unaffordable spending cut,” he said. Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she doubted an agreement could be reached at this meeting. On Thursday [Nov. 22] the opening of the summit was delayed for three hours because of stark differences over the budget plans. Most EU members support an increase in the budget but several countries, mostly the big net contributors, say it is unacceptable at a time of austerity.

The biggest net contributors (those who pay in more than they get back) are: Germany, the UK, France and Italy. But EU Commission data shows that in terms of per capita contributions the UK is sixth, after the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Finland. The revised plan from European Council President Van Rompuy keeps a total spending ceiling of 973bn euros (£783bn; $1.2tn). But the cuts to cohesion spending – money for Europe’s poorer regions – and to the agriculture budget would not be as deep. The cuts to cohesion would be 11bn euros less and for agriculture 7.7bn euros less. Other spending items would be cut further to compensate, but there is no change in the proposed levels of administration costs – something which the UK may find unacceptable. A top aide to Mr. Van Rompuy, Richard Corbett, said the adjustments “reflect the large majority view of what came out of the bilateral talks” on Thursday.

“What he put on the table was already a reduction compared with the existing budget,” covering 2007-2013, he told the BBC. He said a deal “could still be put together, but there is a lot of detail to be gone through”. Earlier, Mrs. Merkel said “I think we’re advancing a bit, but I doubt that we will reach a deal”. She has previously said that another summit may be necessary early next year if no deal can be reached now. French President Francois Hollande also cautioned that an agreement might not be possible. But he added: “We should not consider that if we don’t get there tomorrow or the day after, all would be lost.”

The 90-minute session late on Thursday followed a grueling day of face-to-face meetings between Mr. Van Rompuy and each of the bloc’s leaders, followed by a flurry of backroom discussions. The EU Commission, which drafts EU laws, has called for an increase of 4.8% on the 2007-2013 budget – a position supported by the European Parliament and many countries which are net beneficiaries, including Poland, Hungary and Spain. The UK is the most vocal of EU member states seeking cuts in the budget to match austerity programs at home. “No, I’m not happy at all,” Mr. Cameron said about Mr. Van Rompuy’s offer. A Downing Street statement said Mr. Cameron had stressed the importance of the UK keeping its budget rebate, worth 3.5bn euros in 2011.

The statement called the rebate “fully justified”. The EU Commission and some EU governments want the rebate scrapped. Mr. Cameron has warned he may use his veto if other EU countries call for any rise in EU spending. The Netherlands and Sweden back his call for a freeze in spending, allowing for inflation. Poland and its former-communist neighbours, which rely heavily on EU cash, want current spending maintained or raised. Mr. Hollande has also called for subsidies for farming and development programs to be sustained for poorer nations. France has traditionally been a big beneficiary of EU farm support.

Failure to agree on the budget would mean rolling over the 2013 budget into 2014 on a month-by-month basis, putting some long-term projects at risk. Analysts say that could leave the UK in a worse position, because the 2013 budget is bigger than the preceding years of the 2007-2013 multi-year budget. The UK government could then end up with an EU budget higher than what it says it will accept now.

Courtesy: BBC.Com & From the Newspaper



Danish Human Rights Challenges: Asylum seekers attempt group suicide

The Suicide attempts by four Afghan women may have been coordinated incidents that arrive in the wake of EU criticism over Danish involvement in a plan to return unaccompanied Afghan teenagers. Four Afghan asylum seekers – three teenage girls and a woman – attempted to commit suicide yesterday in two Red Cross-operated asylum centers. The apparently coordinated suicide attempts, which reportedly occurred at the Auderød and Vipperød asylum centers, were unprecedented according to the Red Cross. “We have never experienced anything like this before,” Svend Erik Brande, head of healthcare at the Red Cross’s asylum department, told Politiken newspaper. He added that there had been only two suicides in the past 11 years, the last in 2010.

Asylum seekers often suffer psychologically due to the long periods of time spent living in asylum centres, while waiting for their requests to be reviewed. The attempted suicides came despite the Red Cross having programs to identify at-risk individuals in asylum centres, and recently passed law aimed at reducing the psychological burden of the asylum system. Currently, asylum seekers are not permitted to work. However, as of January those that co-operate with immigration authorities seeking to repatriate them will be allowed to live and work outside asylum centres six months after arriving in Denmark. Denmark’s asylum system is currently being stretched, due to legal rulings that prevent the government from forcedly repatriating failed asylum seekers to countries where their lives may be at risk, such as Somalia, Syria and Afghanistan. With almost 1,400 failed asylum seekers waiting to be returned to their home countries, the bill for the asylum system has sky-rocketed from 370 million kroner a year in 2008, to around one billion kroner a year.

The increasing numbers of asylum seekers led the government to announce the need to build more asylum centers across the country and attempt to find new ways to speed up the asylum application process. The government’s recent asylum reform raised an additional 15 million kroner to employ more caseworkers, to halve the length of time applications take to be processed. Denmark has also entered into negotiations with four other European countries about the possibility of establishing a reception center in Afghanistan were unaccompanied teenage asylum seekers, whose families cannot be located, can be returned to.

This plan has faced stiff resistance from human rights advocates, who argue that sending children back to countries such as Afghanistan, violates UN conventions on the rights of refugees and children that the government has signed. Among the critics of the plan is the former EU human rights commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg. “The risk that the young people would be worse off in a centre in Kabul than in Denmark is obvious,” Hammarberg told Politiken. “I have spoken to a large number of these Afghani minors in Turkey, Greece, and France and they are not just looking for better opportunities. They have fled very serious threats that will still be there when they are placed in a reception center in Kabul.”

According to Politiken, returned asylum seekers who return to Afghanistan are often targeted by the Taleban, who punish those that make contact with the West. Young people without families are also targeted by militants who force them to become suicide bombers. There are currently 24 Afghan minors who risk being returned after their requests for asylum were turned down. The justice minister, Morten Bødskov, will meet with parliament’s Immigration Committee today to address the criticism of the plan to open the Afghan reception center. Though current EU human rights commissioner, Nils Muižnieks, agreed with Bødskov’s statement this January that it was in the best interests of underage asylum seekers to be reunited with their families in their home countries, he admitted there were still a lot of risk involved. “There are definitely circumstances where it would be best for the child to be sent home if there is a family to care for them,” Muižnieks told Politiken. “[But] the security in war-torn countries is very fragile and cannot be fully guaranteed.”

Courtesy: The Copenhagen Post