A European parliamentary delegation visiting Gaza is told that Hamas agrees to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and will offer Israel a long-term hudna, or truce, if Israel recognises the Palestinians' national rights. In his first appointment, by picking US congressman Rahm Emanuel to become his chief of staff, President-elect Obama made a choice that has raised concerns across the Middle East. Finally, Obama's energy plans will offer a boost to alternative fuels.
Hamas willing to accept Palestinian state with 1967 borders
"The Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said on Saturday his government was willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders," Haaretz reported. "The Hamas leader spoke at a meeting with 11 European parliamentarians who sailed from Cyprus to the Gaza Strip to protest Israel's naval blockade of the territory. Haniyeh told his guests Israel rejected his initiative. "Clare Short, who served in the cabinet of former British prime minister Tony Blair, asked Haniyeh to repeat his offer. He said the Hamas government had agreed to accept a Palestinian state that followed the 1967 borders and to offer Israel a long-term hudna, or truce, if Israel recognised the Palestinians' national rights. "In response to a question about the international community's impression that there are two Palestinian states, Haniyeh said: 'We don't have a state, neither in Gaza nor in the West Bank. Gaza is under siege and the West Bank is occupied. What we have in the Gaza Strip is not a state, but rather a regime of an elected government. A Palestinian state will not be created at this time except in the territories of 1967.' " Baron Nazir Ahmed, a member of the British House of Lords who was born in Pakistan, led the parliamentary delegation. "Ahmed asked Haniyeh about Hamas' relations with Iran and requested his response to the claims of 'our Zionist friends' that Hamas, like Iran, seeks to destroy the State of Israel and throw the Jews into the sea. " 'Our ties with Iran are like those with other Muslim states. Does a besieged people that is waiting breathlessly for a ship to come from the sea want to throw the Jews into the ocean? Our conflict is not with the Jews, our problem is with the occupation,' Haniyeh said. The Associated Press added: "Parliamentarians and activists say they are not seeking to legitimise Hamas' rule of Gaza, which it seized last year after pushing out security forces loyal to Fatah. Hamas' takeover prompted Israel and Egypt to seal its borders with Gaza, only allowing in humanitarian aid and a trickle of commercial goods. "Instead, activists say they want to highlight the harm done to Gaza's 1.4 million residents." A Deutsche Presse-Agentur report appearing in Haaretz said: "Hamas will not implement a long-term truce with Israel for the time being, a senior official of the Islamist organisation said Sunday. "The offer 'was not canceled,' Mahmoud al-Zahar said, but added that there was 'no room to implement it for the time being' since 'there is no one to talk about this proposal with on the other [Israeli] side'. "He said a long-term truce was 'a project that can be developed when there are intentions'. "The Hamas long-term truce offer was first made by the organisation's late spiritual advisor, Ahmed Yassin, who suggested a 20-year-long ceasefire, without recognizing Israel's right to exist, in return for an Israeli withdrawal from lands captured in the 1967 Six-Day war."
In his first appointment, by picking US congressman Rahm Emanuel to become his chief of staff, President-elect Obama made a choice that has raised concerns across the Middle East. Writing for Time magazine, Scott MacLeod said: "What has most grabbed attention is Emanuel's various deep personal connections to Israel. His father Benjamin was born in Jerusalem, fought to establish the state and was an Israeli citizen before emigrating to the US where Rahm was born in 1959. As a kid, Rahm went to summer camps in Israel. His father is quoted as saying Rahm continues to spend his summer vacations in Tel Aviv and speaks Hebrew though not fluently. Emanuel abruptly left his post on a Richard Daley mayoral campaign in Chicago and volunteered for service in the Israel Defense Force during the 1991 Gulf War. A 1997 Jerusalem Post story reported that Emanuel did menial work at a supply base in northern Israel. The Post quoted him saying that the experience was not a sacrifice but 'something I wanted to do'. The article also quoted fellow Daley campaign worker Peter Giangreco saying, 'Here's a guy who, during a very, very, very important campaign to him and the city, said there's something bigger here. He takes loyalty and duty, and his beliefs, very seriously.' In his presidential memoirs, Bill Clinton twice mentions that his aide had 'served in the Israeli army'." The New York Times reported: "To many Democrats, including some who are close to both men, Mr Obama's choice of Mr Emanuel to run the White House seems at odds with the atmosphere Mr Obama enforced at his Chicago campaign headquarters. The motto there was 'No drama with Obama,' in contrast with the backbiting and shakeups in rivals' campaigns. "Some Democrats say former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who is as laid-back as Mr Emanuel is brusque, would be a better fit. Several have privately expressed or relayed reservations to Mr Obama about Mr Emanuel. To one Mr Obama replied, 'Rahm's grown a lot'. "Mr Emanuel's supporters say his reputation for a big ego, over-the-line volatility and take-no-prisoners partisanship is overblown and out of date, rooted still in the Clinton years." An article in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz said: "In the tense talks with the Palestinians at Wye Plantation in 1998, the Israeli team headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was especially wary of one of President Bill Clinton's aides - Rahm Emanuel. His fluent Hebrew, his instinctive grasp of the 'Israeli' mind set and above all his complete loyalty to his boss made the Israelis afraid to talk near him. "Ten years later, Israel's next prime minister will meet Emanuel in a loftier post, as Obama's chief of staff. " 'He has a kind of directness and coarseness that is very familiar to Israelis,' a veteran Israeli diplomat told Haaretz [on Wednesday]. 'But it doesn't necessarily bring him closer to us. One thing is certain - Israelis will not be able to pull the wool over his eyes.' " In Newsweek, Richard Wolffe noted: "Obama's advisers say the two men have a very close relationship, as do their young families. It was Emanuel who helped convince Obama not to move his family to DC when he was elected senator in 2004. "The personal chemistry is key; chiefs of staff are often the first people to say good morning to the president, and the last people to say good night. The current chief of staff, Josh Bolten, has described much of his time as being Velcro-ed to his boss. As president, you want to be Velcro-ed to someone whose company you enjoy and whose judgment you trust." In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, when asked what Mr Obama was elected to do and what legislation he would likely deal with first: "Mr Emanuel didn't hesitate. 'Bucket one would have children's health care, Schip,' he said. 'It has bipartisan agreement in the House and Senate. It's something President-elect Obama expects to see. Second would be [ending current restrictions on federally funded] stem-cell research. And third would be an economic recovery package focused on the two principles of job creation and tax relief for middle-class families.' "The last time a Democratic president's party also ran Congress was 1992. Just two years later, however, voters changed their mind about that arrangement and gave the GOP control of the House and Senate. Mr Emanuel said he's not at all concerned that the party will overplay its hand this time. He insisted that his caucus is mindful of what happened to Democrats in 1994 and the Republican Congress in 2006. "Not surprisingly, Mr Emanuel defended President Clinton's decision to push through a tax increase in 1993 - 'a tough call' - after having campaigned on a middle-class tax cut. He also denied that it had much impact in the midterm elections a year later. Instead, he cited issues like 'gays in the military' as more damaging politically. 'It's not what we campaigned on,' said Mr Emanuel. And as an example of Republicans losing their way, he cited the Terri Schiavo episode in 2005, where President Bush and the Republican-controlled congress intervened in a case involving a brain-damaged woman's feeding tube. "In both instances, 'the lesson is to do what you got elected to do,' said Mr Emanuel. 'Do what you talked about on the campaign. If you got elected, that's what people expect. Don't go off on tangents where part of your party is demanding an ideological litmus test. Neither of those things was part of the campaign.' "
Obama's energy plans
"Barack Obama's election has members of the alternative energy world sounding positively giddy, an enthusiasm not shared by their competitors in the oil industry," the San Francisco Chronicle reported. "Obama's energy plans read like a wish list for the companies that make solar cells, wind turbines or alternative fuels. "He wants to pump money into energy research and force all electric utilities to use renewable power. He has proposed creating a cap-and-trade system that would put a price on the greenhouse gas emissions that come from burning fossil fuels. " 'This is a gift,' said Lyndon Rive, president of SolarCity, a Foster City company that designs, installs and operates solar power systems. 'We could not ask for a president who's more focused on energy independence and renewable power.' " Former US vice president, Al Gore, wrote in The New York Times: "The inspiring and transformative choice by the American people to elect Barack Obama as our 44th president lays the foundation for another fateful choice that he - and we - must make this January to begin an emergency rescue of human civilization from the imminent and rapidly growing threat posed by the climate crisis. "The electrifying redemption of America's revolutionary declaration that all human beings are born equal sets the stage for the renewal of United States leadership in a world that desperately needs to protect its primary endowment: the integrity and livability of the planet. "The world authority on the climate crisis, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, after 20 years of detailed study and four unanimous reports, now says that the evidence is 'unequivocal'. To those who are still tempted to dismiss the increasingly urgent alarms from scientists around the world, ignore the melting of the north polar ice cap and all of the other apocalyptic warnings from the planet itself, and who roll their eyes at the very mention of this existential threat to the future of the human species, please wake up. Our children and grandchildren need you to hear and recognise the truth of our situation, before it is too late." Meanwhile, The Guardian reported: "Nuclear power plants smaller than a garden shed and able to power 20,000 homes will be on sale within five years, say scientists at Los Alamos, the US government laboratory which developed the first atomic bomb. "The miniature reactors will be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts and will be nearly impossible to steal because they will be encased in concrete and buried underground. "The US government has licensed the technology to Hyperion, a New Mexico-based company which said last week that it has taken its first firm orders and plans to start mass production within five years. 'Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world,' said John Deal, chief executive of Hyperion. 'They will cost approximately $25m [£13m] each. For a community with 10,000 households, that is a very affordable $250 per home.' "