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Middle East Peace Report- June 22, 2010 (NEW FORMAT)

The new format provides links to original sources.

Items: Demolishing Peace Prospects in Jerusalem: Impact of Settlement 'Freeze?'; Netanyahu's Gaza About Face; Palestinian Public Opinion, Israeli Jews Back 2-State Solution, Open to International Pressure

Volume 11, Issue 22

Demolishing Peace Prospects in Jerusalem: A Jerusalem municipal planning committee approved yesterday a plan to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood to make room for a tourism center.

The Israeli Peace Now movement slammed the move, saying that it ran contrary to Israel's interests.

After a State Department spokesperson termed the approval a step that "undermines trust," Israeli politicians echoed Peace Now's criticism. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the Jerusalem municipality leaders "have shown a lack of common sense and sense of timing - and not for the first time." Housing Minister Ariel Attias, of the Shas Party, told Israel Army Radio that he didn't know what the mayor was thinking in promoting this plan.

The U.S. administration has previously weighed in on this issue. Back in March, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intervened to postpone the plan, earning the thanks of the Obama administration.

Impact of Settlement 'Freeze?' Despite the moratorium on new construction in West Bank settlements, a new report by the Israeli Peace Now organization found that as of the end of March, 2,361 housing units were under construction in settlements.

The high rate of construction is in part the result of a spike in construction starts initiated by the Israeli government in the months before the moratorium took hold. The Peace Now report concludes that if the freeze is not extended past September, it "will have no significance on the ground."

Netanyahu's Gaza About-Face: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday rationalized his change in policy regarding the Gaza blockade before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

The new policy, which should ease the blockade, "is the best one for Israel, because it eliminates Hamas' main propaganda claim and allows us and our international allies to face our real concerns in the realm of security," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu also claimed he started looking for alternatives to the blockade in mid-2009.

Kadima Party chief Tzippi Livni criticized Netanyahu's handling of the flotilla crisis, saying that "Hamas is legitimized at the expense of Israel."

Palestinian Public Opinion: The standing of the Palestinian government headed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has improved in the eyes of Palestinians, while that of the rival regime in Gaza remained constant, according to a new poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

Another survey of Palestinian public opinion - this one by the Norwegian Fafo foundation - found high levels of Palestinian support for peace talks, rising opposition to rocket attacks, and a high level of confidence that Fatah would win parliamentary elections.

Israeli Jews Back 2-State Solution, Open to International Pressure: 55% of Israeli Jews say that a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is "essential to Israel's survival," according to a poll sponsored by B'nai B'rith.

The survey also found that a plurality of Israeli Jews back American and European pressure on Israel and the Palestinians in order to make progress towards peace.

APN is America's leading Jewish organization advocating for Israeli-Palestinian peace.