1. ‘ABBAS STRUGGLES TO MAINTAIN CONTROL OF SECURITY FORCES… Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas is struggling to maintain control of the P.A.’s security forces in the wake of Hamas’s stunning victory in the legislative elections. Over the weekend, thousands of Palestinians rioted against ‘Abbas, blaming him for the election disaster. Meeting with security chiefs in the Muqata’a compound, ‘Abbas attempted to lay down the law, informing them that they answer to him and not to the Hamas-led legislature. On Sunday, the Palestinian police and members of ‘Abbas’s Fatah party briefly took over the legislative buildings in Ramallah and Gaza City, stating their support for ‘Abbas.
2. HAMAS LEADER VOWS TO CARRY ON FIGHT AGAINST ISRAEL… The overall head of Hamas, speaking from exile in Damascus, has vowed to continue the fight against Israel. Khalid Mash’al told reporters on Saturday that, “As long as we’re under occupation it’s our right to resist.” Mash’al said that Hamas would continue its attacks on Israeli civilians as long as Israel maintains its policy of targeted killings. He said that he would invite Fatah to join a government of “national partnership,” but Fatah has said it would not join a Hamas-led government. Regarding his armed forces, Mash’al said, “we are ready to unify them with the consensus of all Palestinians and make them an army like any other country.”
3. OLMERT SETS CONDITIONS FOR TALKING TO HAMAS… Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has set down a series of conditions he says must be met before Israel will deal with Hamas. Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni lobbied world leaders by telephone, telling each one that Israel will boycott Hamas entirely unless it disarms, annuls its charter calling for Israel’s destruction, and agrees to abide by all agreements with Israel that the Palestinian Authority has entered into. The main point of the Israeli plea was for the international community to reject the Hamas-led government. Livni said a government led by a terrorist organization cannot be given legitimacy even if elected democratically. On Sunday, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Israel would continue its policy of targeted killings of terrorist leaders, even if the targets are elected officials belonging to Hamas. A Mofaz adviser told Israel Radio that elected legislators belonging to Hamas will not be allowed to travel freely between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
4. ISRAELIS SPLIT ON CONTACT WITH HAMAS-LED GOVERNMENT: POLL… A new poll released by an Israeli newspaper shows an evenly-split difference of opinion among the population on the question of whether Israel should have contact with a Hamas-led Palestinian government. According to the survey, 43 percent say ‘break off talks’, while 48% want contacts to continue.
5. WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM PULLS MAGAZINE WITH ARTICLE CALLING FOR ISRAEL BOYCOTT… Organizers of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, have pulled copies of the meeting’s official magazine and have apologized for having published an article calling for a boycott and divestment from Israel. The executive director of the forum said that it was an “unacceptable failure in the editorial process,” and that the article, written by Mazin Qumsiyeh, “is totally in contradiction to my own, and the forum’s, mission and values.” The magazine, Global Agenda, is distributed to participants at the Davos meeting. The author, who is a geneticist and an American citizen of Palestinian descent, criticized the World Economic Forum for banning “free speech.”
6. GERMAN CHANCELLOR TO ARRIVE IN ISRAEL SUNDAY… Newly-elected German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in Israel on Sunday – her first trip abroad since being elected. She will also be the first head of state to visit Israel since Ariel Sharon became incapacitated and the Palestinian Authority since last week’s election sweep by Hamas. But Merkel’s spokesman said that while the Chancellor will meet with P.A. Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas on Monday, Merkel has no plans to speak with any member of Hamas. On Sunday, Chancellor Merkel will meet with acting Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert, with Binyamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party, and with President Moshe Katsav. According to German sources, the primary topic for discussion with the Israelis is the Iranian nuclear program.
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7. RABBI KHADOURI, REVERED KABBALIST, DIES AT 106… Rabbi Khadouri, one of Israel’s most revered spiritual leaders and renowned Kabbalist, died Saturday evening. His age was not known for certain, but most believe he was 106 years old. Born in Iraq, Rabbi Khadouri was sought out by Israeli leaders for generations, seeking blessings from the revered sage.
8. GLOBES POLL SHOWS OLMERT SUPPORT DECLINING… Although it says it’s too early to determine what effect the Hamas victory will have on the ruling Qadima party and Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s support among the people, Globes financial newspaper is showing a downward trend for both. In a poll taken after the Palestinian election, the party had lost some strength as measured by the projected number of seats it is expected to win in the next parliament. It dropped two seats in the current poll. But Globes says Olmert emerged the big loser, seeing the percentage of Israelis who consider him to be “unsuited to be prime minister” rise from 35% to 40%. The suitability ratings of Olmert’s main opponents, Likud’s Binyamin Netanyahu and Labor’s ‘Amir Peretz, remained unchanged.
9. BUSH SEEN AS BIG LOSER IN HAMAS ELECTION… A common theme in American coverage of the Palestinian election is that U.S. President George W. Bush is the big loser. Although Bush’s policies concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict arguably provoked less criticism than other foreign policies, analysts across the political spectrum are faulting the Bush administration for failing to foresee the Hamas win and for taking actions that amounted to support for Hamas. One of the major criticisms is the administration’s refusal to apply the same criteria to Hamas running in the election as it did in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan – forbidding participation by those considered to be terrorist groups until they disarmed.
10. ISRAEL’S TEVA CLOSES ON IVAX ACQUISITION… On Thursday, Israel’s Teva Pharmaceuticals became the world’s largest generic drug manufacturer when its deal to purchase Miami-based IVAX closed. The company will now be absorbed into Teva, with branches in sixty countries with 60,000 employees working under the Teva name. The Miami community is shell-shocked over the loss of one of its key employers and philanthropic donors. It is also seen as a blow to economic development leaders who want to make South Florida a leading area for biotech-pharmaceuticals and medical devices.