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25 Apr 14. A report aired Friday on Israel’s Channel 10 revealed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had given the green light to negotiators – specifically to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and to attorney Yitzhak Molcho – to begin discussing the contours of final borders between Israel and what would become a Palestinian state, and was further considering announcing a settlement freeze, compromises that the Prime Minister’s office had consistently indicated it was unwilling to make. The Jerusalem Post reported that officials from the Prime Minister’s office denied the latest reports as well, which have the potential of painting the Israeli leader as granting critical concessions to the Palestinians on the eve of a decision by Ramallah to pursue and secure a unity agreement with the Iran-backed Hamas terror group. The Palestinian move, formally made by the Fatah coalition that controls Palestinian areas of the West Bank, was widely blasted by Jerusalem and Washington for derailing efforts at moving forward with a U.S.-backed peace initiative. Israel had subsequently decided to suspend talks pending confirmation regarding the progress and composition of any future unity government. Analysis published on Friday by the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM) cited a range of media reports indicating that Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders had deliberately framed the agreement in a way that allowed the Palestinians to walk back their decision and quickly resume negotiations, generating speculation among analysts that Jerusalem was “leaving the door open to talks until it becomes clear what impact the Fatah-Hamas unity agreement will have.” (Source: theisraelproject.org)

25 Apr 14. Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Friday described the fallout from what it described as the “first major political defeat” for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, which came amid renewed attention – by U.S. diplomats, top global diplomatic officials, and media outlets – to a surge in Iranian executions and human rights violations under the government of the revolutionary-era cleric. Analysts have been concerned since Rouhani’s election that the self-described moderate had been favored by the Islamic republic’s unelected leaders as a public face for immoderate policies, and that he would lack either the political capital or the public popularity to implement genuine reforms. The regime seems to have engineered the election in his favor by clearing the field to Rouhani’s left while leaving half a dozen candidates competing for the remaining votes to his right. AFP’s new report outlines the consequences of a failed campaign by the Rouhani government to convince Iranians to put aside and forgo government assistance programs that had been developed under previous administrations. The campaign had urged some Iranians to waive the cash handouts, and had mobilized Iranian celebrities, politicians, and religious figures to convey the message. Figures released on Wednesday indicated that 95 percent of the country, at a minimum, had declined to respond to the Rouhani government’s call and had instead requested the money. AFP bluntly noted that “the low rate of dropouts was mocked in conservative circles, and even moderates and reformists expressed criticism.” The wire also quoted an anonymous pro-Rouhani activist complaining that the campaign had “effectively managed to… alienate Rouhani’s staunchest supporters.” The developments come alongside deepening concerns that an upsurge in executions may indicate that Rouhani has either been unable or unwilling to moderate Iran’s human rights policies. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently stated that the current government “had not made any significant improvement” in ending abuses, echoing the assessment of a February State Department report. Rouhani’s domestic policies are being read as having international implications. Cataloging recent beatings that have left dozens of impri

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