The Envoy
  • True to his word, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave an impassioned speech to the United Nations Friday, explaining his decision to defy Jerusalem and Washington by submitting a bid for recognition of Palestinian statehood to the world body.

    "The time has come to end the suffering and the plight of millions of Palestine refugees in the homeland and the Diaspora, to end their displacement and to realize their rights, some of them forced to take refuge more than once in different places of the world," Abbas told world leaders, to applause and two standing ovations.

    Shortly thereafter, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the same body. Netanyahu, not surprisingly, sounded a strong note of caution, explaining that Israel is wary of hasty peace agreements. After Israeli troops withdrew from Gaza and Lebanon, Netanyahu noted, it continued to face attacks.

    "I bring up these problems because they're not theoretical problems," Netanyahu told the UN General

    Read More »from Palestinians take their case to United Nations, as new peace talks timetable proposed
  • Jon Stewart from the "The Daily Show" Mideast skit Sept. 22, 2011. (Comedy Central, via Daily Kos.)

    Much like another ally of President Barack Obama, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, "The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart has broken with Obama's announced plans Wednesday to veto any Palestinian  statehood resolution at the United Nations. Last night, Stewart likened the American president's hard-line position to that of the recalcitrant member of a Manhattan co-op board who won't let a tenant keep dogs while having two Great Danes of his own.

    Stewart also suggested to the Palestinians that they might have better luck advancing their statehood aspirations if they change their name to "Palestein." (See the clip here.)

    Via the Daily Kos's BruinKid:

    "You know, the real issue isn't really the chair or the application," Stewart said, referring to the much-debated tactics the Palestinians are considering over which venue at the U.N. bureaucracy to submit their membership application. "As with any good co-op, it's getting past that one hard-ass on the co-op board, the one who always shoots people down, because he doesn't like dogs, but he has two Great Danes, because he was grandfathered in. ...So are the Palestinians in?"

    The show then featured a clip of Obama's speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday: "Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations," Obama sternly pronounced. "Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians, not us, who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them."

    Stewart summarized: "So there you go, Palestine.  All you need to do is settle your differences with Israel.  Hee hee, hee hee, hee hee."

    Then Stewart had an inspiration: "I have an idea:  Maybe this will make it a little more palatable.  Have you thought about a spelling change?"

    Read More »from “Palestein”? ‘The Daily Show’ offers advice on Middle East stalemate
  • French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Pres. Obama met in New York Sept. 21, 2011. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)After two and a half years watching the Obama administration's lurching, failed efforts to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, France's Nicolas Sarkozy is signaling that it's time for Washington to give other players a chance to take a larger role in the traditionally U.S.-led peace process.

    That French sentiment--expressed previously if discreetly by French foreign minister Alain Juppe--became more obvious this week, after President Obama vowed to block Palestinian efforts to seek increased international recognition at the UN. In his speech to the UN Wednesday, Obama also retreated from his earlier calls on Israel to halt Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank.
    Sarkozy, by contrast, told world leaders at the UN Wednesday that France supported a compromise:

    "Each of us knows that Palestine cannot immediately obtain full and complete recognition of the status of United Nations member state," Sarkozy said in his speech to the UN General Assembly Wednesday, the New York Times reported. "But who could doubt that a veto at the Security Council risks engendering a cycle of violence in the Middle East?"

    "Why not envisage offering Palestine the status of United Nations observer state?" Sarkozy continued. "This would be an important step forward. Most important, it would mean emerging from a state of immobility that favors only the extremists."

    Sarkozy's push for a middle way--and a greater voice in the traditionally U.S.-dominated peace process--comes as Obama is increasingly asserting a more public defense of Israeli positions and security concerns in its volatile region. The shift seems calculated in part to shore up Obama's support for his 2012 presidential election campaign. In reality, Obama's administration has given more in U.S. military assistance to Israel than any previous administration.

    Read More »from Is France’s Sarkozy ‘leading from behind’ on Middle East peace?

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  • Former world number two Steve Stricker has back surgery

    (Reuters) - Steve Stricker, a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour, has undergone back surgery the American golfer said in a statement on Wednesday. Stricker had the procedure at a Wisconsin hospital on Tuesday after being hampered by a compressed nerve in his lower back that has caused problems in his hips and legs. "I'm very excited to get back to practising and competing in 2015 and expect to be 100 percent physically which really excites me.” said Stricker said in a statement. The 47-year-old does not have a specific target date for a return to competition. ...

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