Israeli PM phones Palestinian leader, urges peace talks
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday, saying he had high hopes that the two sides could re-enter peace talks which have been on a three-year hiatus. Netanyahu offered Ramadan greetings, telling Abbas that “I hope we will have the opportunity to speak with one another not only during festivals, and will start negotiating. It’s important,” Reuters reported, citing a statement from Israeli officials. Relations between the two governments disintegrated following Israel’s 2010 settlement of the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians want to incorporate into their future state.
Merkel says NSA is nothing like Stasi
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has refused to compare US electronic surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden last month with the activities of the defunct East German security agency Stasi. “Such comparisons only lead to a trivialization of what the Stasi did to people,” the politician told Die Welt magazine. The parallel has been widely drawn by German journalists and politicians, and internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom collaborated with visual artist Oliver Bienkowski to project the words “United Stasi of America” onto the walls of the US embassy in Berlin earlier this week.
15 killed in Iraqi Ramadan bombings
At least 15 people were killed and dozens of others wounded in a wave of explosions which struck cities south of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Sunday, AP reported. Police say the bombs went off shortly before the evening iftar meal that ends the daylong fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Four people were killed in the city of Karbala, five in Nasiriyah, and six in the town of Musayyib. The death toll was confirmed by hospital officials.
Former ambassador to US becomes Egypt’s foreign minister
Nabil Fahmy, a former Egyptian ambassador to the US, was appointed foreign minister on Sunday in the interim government formed after the ouster of Mohamed Morsi. Fahmy’s predecessor Mohamed Kamel Amr left his post as he believed the new stage of transition required a new minister, adding that he will continue to run ministry affairs until a replacement is appointed. Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawy is continuing talks on the cabinet, which is expected to be formed this week.
Thousands take to Tel Aviv streets to protest Israel’s economic policies
Thousands of people marched on Tel Aviv’s Habima Square on Saturday, marking the two-year anniversary of social protests against the high cost of living and economic policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minster Yair Lapid. The organizers planned a vigil to last until Sunday morning, marking two years since the massive street demonstrations of 2011. Protesters blocked traffic in downtown Tel Aviv as police declared the demonstration illegal and attempted to disperse the crowd. Protesters shouted, “Bibi [Netanyahu] and [deposed Egyptian President Mohammed] Morsi are the same revolution.” One person was arrested in the protest, which lasted until midnight. The city’s mayoral candidate, Nitzan Horowitz, told Haaretz that the demonstrations are “more just than ever…People are crying out for two years, and the problem only gets worse.” He added that Lapid – who essentially built up his popularity by supporting the previous protests – has turned into a servant of the same system, enacting worse budget laws than his predecessors. The leader of the 2011 protest has called on Lapid to step down, hoping this year’s demonstration will provide “an opening for a new season of protest,” underlining that it is not about food or medicine, but that“a response to thieves must be revolution” – one that belongs to everyone, not just the middle classes.