World News Brief, Thursday December 9

Washington abandons efforts on Israeli settlements in Gaza; experts say Gaza move is good for Obama; China chided for not using influence with North Korea; Kevin Rudd blames US for release of secret info, not WikiLeaks; Robert Gates makes surprise visit to Afghanistan; Ireland on strict budget

Top of the Agenda: Washington Drops Push on Israel Settlements

Washington has abandoned efforts (CNN) to persuade Israel to renew a ninety-day freeze on settlement construction as a precondition for renewing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, a State Department official said. A previous Israeli moratorium on new settlements in the occupied West Bank expired in September. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says Middle East peace talks are in crisis (BBC) following Israel's refusal to stop building settlements on occupied land.

Palestinians have refused to return to stalled talks unless new construction stops and are considering unilateral avenues to further their drive to statehood. Brazil and Argentina have recognized a “free and independent Palestine” (CSM) and other Latin American countries are expected to join in that symbolic support. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with Israeli and Palestinian representatives this week in an effort to revive the peace process, possibly through indirect "proximity talks" (Haaretz) with US mediation.


In this CFR interview, Al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh recommends the United States should present a two-state "vision" for each side to vote on in order to break the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.

CFR expert Robert Danin, in this NPR interview, says that dropping the settlements issue may be a wise shift in tactics for the Obama administration because “the price that they were going to potentially pay to get a settlement moratorium was far disproportionate to what it would have provided them.”


This CFR Crisis Guide explores the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


PACIFIC RIM: Mullen Blasts China on N. Korea

Meeting in South Korea with the country's top defense officials, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, chided China (WashPost) for not using its "unique influence" and "unique responsibility" to restrain North Korea, which in recent weeks shelled a South Korean island and revealed a sophisticated uranium-enrichment facility.

This week's high-level meeting involving Japan, South Korea, and the United States demonstrated that tolerance for Chinese support for North Korea has reached its limit, says CFR's Sheila Smith.

Australia: Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd says the United States is to blame (ABC) for the recent release of secret diplomatic cables, not WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Assange has been jailed in Britain facing extradition to Sweden in relation to sexual assault allegations. Rudd says the leaks raise questions about the adequacy of US security.



- Gates On Surprise Visit to Afghanistan
- Ireland Presents Strict Budget



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