President Obama has endorsed a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders. Obama laid out his position in a major address on the Middle East on Thursday.
President Obama: “The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves and reach their full potential in a sovereign and contiguous state.”
Obama’s comments mark the first time he has explicitly endorsed the international consensus of a two-state solution based on Israel’s withdrawal from occupied Palestinian land. The Israeli government immediately rejected Obama’s comments, calling the 1967 borders “indefensible.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the United States and will meet Obama at the White House today. Before his departure, Netanyahu said he expects the United States to uphold the Bush administration’s endorsement of Israeli control over major West Bank settlement blocs.
NATO has expanded the bombing of Libya with air attacks on Libyan government ships in three coastal areas. It is the first time in the two-month military campaign that NATO warplanes have carried out planned air strikes on Libyan ships.
A British journalist missing in Libya for more than a month is now believed to be dead. South African photographer Anton Hammerl had been with a group of journalists freed this week after six weeks in captivity. Two of the journalists—U.S. reporters James Foley and Clare Morgana Gillis—say they witnessed Libyan forces shooting Hammerl in the stomach and leaving him badly wounded. They do not believe he survived the attack. In a statement, Hammerl’s family denounced the Libyan regime, saying, “From the moment Anton disappeared … we have lived in hope as the Libyan officials assured us that they had Anton. It is intolerably cruel that Gaddafi loyalists have known Anton’s fate all along and chose to cover it up.”
In Iraq, at least 29 people were killed and more than 90 wounded in a series of bombings Thursday targeting Iraqi police in the city of Kirkuk. It was the worst violence to hit Iraq in two months.
Protests are continuing in Afghanistan in the aftermath of a deadly NATO raid and the ensuing killing of 14 demonstrators. Another 80 people were wounded on Wednesday when NATO forces fired on a large crowd protesting the raid. On Thursday, Afghan police fired into the air to disperse a crowd trying to storm the police headquarters in the town of Taloqan.
At least one person has been killed and 10 wounded in a bombing of a U.S. convoy in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. The Pakistani Taliban is claiming responsibility for the attack.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Spain protesting a round of austerity measures and calling for a boycott of major political parties in Sunday’s regional elections. The protests began last week with a march denouncing high levels of youth unemployment. A large crowd established a tent camp in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol Square, defying an ordinance barring protests.
Protester: “I’ll attempt to stay here tonight, because I think it is very important to retake the streets that politicians have taken away from us to do their campaigning, preventing us from protesting. That is what we feel every day with lack of resources and a huge limitation of democracy. We cannot continue to tolerate this situation.”
The movement’s rallying cry is “real democracy now.” Protesters have vowed to remain in the streets, and some have organized citizens’ councils to begin debating proposals.
Former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been granted $1 million bail following his arrest on allegations of attempted rape and sexual assault of a hotel maid. On Thursday, a New York City judge agreed to allow Strauss-Kahn’s release from the prison on Rikers Island to undergo 24-hour house arrest. District Attorney Cyrus Vance said a grand jury has indicted Strauss-Kahn on all charges.
Cyrus Vance: “Under American law, these are extremely serious charges. Based on the grand jury’s determination that the evidence supports the commission of non-consensual forced sexual acts, the defendant was indicted on all of the charges presented to the grand jury, including criminal sexual act in the first degree.”
CIA director Leon Panetta has confirmed torture played no role in the key intelligence coup that led to Osama bin Laden. In a letter to Republican Senator John McCain, Panetta says the U.S. first learned the name of bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, from a prisoner not in CIA custody in 2002. Panetta adds that some prisoners subjected to torture “attempted to provide false or misleading information” about Kuwaiti. Panetta concludes, “In the end, no detainee in CIA custody revealed the facilitator/courier’s full true name or specific whereabouts. This information was discovered through other intelligence means.”
More details have emerged on the FBI raids and grand jury cases targeting peace activists nationwide. FBI documents mistakenly left at the home of one targeted activist suggest the probes began after peace activists returned from a visit to Colombia to criticize the U.S.-backed militarization of the conflict there. The documents also indicate the investigations have spread to six states, more than the three currently known of Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan. The home of a Los Angeles peace activist was reportedly searched earlier this week.
The Tennessee State House has approved a measure stripping teachers unions of all collective bargaining rights except for on issues around salary and benefits. The bill must now be reconciled with the State Senate, which has approved an even harsher measure removing all union bargaining.
An independent state probe in West Virginia has faulted the mining giant, Massey Energy, for the April 2010 explosion that killed 29 workers. In stark language, the report concludes: “The story of Upper Big Branch is a cautionary tale of hubris. A company that was a towering presence in the Appalachian coal fields operated its mines in a profoundly reckless manner, and 29 coal miners paid with their lives for the corporate risk taking.” The probe was overseen by J. Davitt McAteer, a former head of federal mine safety. It echoes preliminary findings by federal investigators earlier this year that Massey repeatedly violated federal rules on ventilation and minimizing coal dust to reduce the risk of explosion, and rejects Massey’s claim that a burst of gas from a hole in the mine floor was at fault. The report also notes Massey’s strong political influence, which it uses “to attempt to control West Virginia’s political system” and regulatory bodies.