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Netanyahu Rejects Congressional Delegation Including Yarmuth

Despite receiving a warm reception from Congress recently, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to meet with a U.S. delegation that included Congressman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., in a visit initiated by a liberal lobbying group.

The meeting was planned by J Street, a pro-Israel lobbying group that has been critical of the country’s settlement policies in the West Bank and advocates a two-state solution.

Yarmuth was joined by four other Democratic colleagues during the overseas trip this week, but says he doesn’t view Netanyahu’s decision to not meet with the delegation as a snub.

“I was asked today by a journalist if I was offended and I said I was not, I just considered it a missed opportunity for them and us,” says Yarmuth. “Also said I thought it would useful for Netanyahu to hear that while his reception in Congress was a reflection of broad support for Israel, it was not an endorsement of every Israeli government policy.”

From YNet News:

The organizers attempted to arrange meetings with Netanyahu ahead of time, however they were turned down due to alleged schedule conflicts.

Organizers claim this is an excuse, stating that the actual reason is due to Netanyahu’s government policy, which bans meetings with US legislators brought here by J Street.

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The foreign minister’s office stated that the delegation “did not submit a formal request but were only checking the possibility, and due to schedule conflicts the meeting was not held.”

J Street has also endorsed President Barack Obama’s speech outlining a change to relations between Israel and Palestine, saying it represents a new diplomatic initiative. The foreign policy shift has been criticized as a betrayal to Israel by Mr. Obama’s opponents.

Though it won’t include a sitdown with Netanyahu, Yarmuth’s visit to the Middle East will reportedly include meetings with Egypt’s military leader and foreign minister, members of the Israeli parliament and with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

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Special Coverage of President Obama’s Middle East Speech Today at 11:20

President Barack Obama will speak later this morning on the United States’ relationship with the Middle East, North Africa and the Muslim world.

NPR’s Alan Greenblatt says Mr. Obama is expected to “attempt partially to close the gap between U.S. ideals about democracy and its strategic interests in the Middle East and North Africa.” He adds, “It won’t be easy.”

WFPL will broadcast the speech live and have special coverage from NPR beginning today at 11:20. You can read a live blog of the speech here. You can also follow the Twitter hashtag #MEspeech during and after the address for a conversation hosted by NPR’s Andy Carvin.

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Demonstrators Seek U.S. Support For Bahrain Uprising

Several Louisvillians will hold a demonstration Thursday to encourage western powers to take action in Bahrain, where anti-government protests have been going on for months.

Calls to bring down the Bahraini monarchy have been met with violence in the Middle Eastern country. Louisville resident Athraa Alabudy says the uprising has not received as much attention or western support as similar events in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

The protest in Louisville will be held at noon outside of the federal building at 6th and Broadway, and Alabudy says she hopes it will pressure officials to contact leaders in Washington and spur action to stop the violence.

“Not military,” she say. “I need at least someone to come from the U.N. on human rights to see how they treat people so badly there.”

The Bahraini uprising began in mid-February.

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Live Coverage of President Obama’s News Conference at 11:00 on WFPL

WFPL will air live coverage of President Barack Obama’s news conference this morning at 11 am. Mr. Obama is expected to discuss rising oil and gasoline prices. As the AP reports, “Fuel prices have been rising amid continued turmoil in Libya, an oil-producing country. News that police opened fire to break up a protest Thursday afternoon in Saudi Arabia also has sparked fears that the unrest could spread to that country. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter.”

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Former Ambassador To Speak In Louisville

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk is coming to Louisville this week.  Indyk was twice appointed to the post by President Bill Clinton and also held the job during the first six months of the George W. Bush administration.

He’ll speak this week at the Louisville Free Public Library about his diplomatic service, and his new book, Innocent Abroad. Indyk says he’s impressed with President Barack Obama’s knowledge of the Middle East and his instincts for dealing with unrest in the region.

“I think both Clinton and Bush in their very different ways tried to transform the region.  He has I think a more realistic expection of what can be achieved,” Indyk told WFPL in a phone interview.

Indyk will speak Tuesday evening at 7:00 at the main library downtown.

You can hear WFPL’s interview with Martin Indyk by clicking on the Studio 619 link at left.
 

 

 

 

 

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Iranians For Peace Push For Negotiations

On Wednesday the Iranians for Peace organization will send a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to meet with Iranian leaders. One of the people behind the letter lives in Louisville.

Louisvillian Haleh Karimi is on the board of directors of Iranians for Peace. She says the tensions between Iran and the United States are caused by misinformation on all levels, from government leaders and politicians to citizens. The IFP’s letter, she says, aims to clear up any misunderstandings.

“By providing true facts maybe we can open up the channels for some possibility of dialogues between these two nations and hopefully peace between these two nations and the Middle East as a whole,” she says.

Karimi says it’s up to citizens of Iran and the United States to push for diplomacy and peace between the two nations.

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Local Activists Holding Middle East Peace Vigils

The latest eruption of violence in the Middle East has sparked demonstrations around the world, including Louisville.

John Morison of the local Community for Peace in the Middle East says the  group plans a series of vigils to call for an end to hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

Morison says his organization condemns attacks by both sides that have killed civilians, but its chief concern is that Israeli blockades and airstrikes on Gaza could cause a humanitarian crisis affecting more than one-and-a-half million people.

“They don’t have sewage now, so you have sewage that’s running in the streets of Gaza, and they’re cut off from any kind of contact from the outside world, and that’s the kind of situation that people are living under,” Morison said.

Israel says it’s simply trying to protect its citizens from Hamas rocket attacks on its southern territory.

 

Morison’s group will hold peace vigils through Friday in downtown Louisville.