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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 30, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Israel Launches First Gaza Attack Since Cease-Fire

Israel launched on Tuesday its first targeted attack (Reuters) on a militant in Gaza since its eight-day Pillar of Defense operation in November, killing a Palestinian in an air strike that put further strain on a five-month-old cease-fire. The attack comes on the heels of violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where a Palestinian killed a Jewish settler. Hamas, which rules Gaza, condemned the Israeli attack but also signaled eagerness to preserve the truce. Meanwhile, Arab countries endorsed a Mideast peace plan (Haaretz) Monday that allowed for shifts in Israel's 1967 border, moving them closer to President Barack Obama's two-state vision.


"It seems that the main, if not the only, difference among the initiatives is that the policy during the Bush administration (2001 to 2009) was ABC — Anything But Clinton; when Obama took over in 2009, the policy gave way to ABB — Anything But Bush. And the unfortunate result of these games of ego and politics is the same: ABP — Anything But Peace," writes Akiva Eldar for al-Monitor.

"Nothing can change unless Mr Obama chooses to lead. Mr Kerry's economic initiative may lead to marginal improvements in a Palestinian economy strangled by the occupation. Mr Obama now needs to put flesh and bones on the vision of Palestine he evoked last month," writes a Financial Times editorial.

"Some Israeli analysts suggested that with Hamas governing Gaza - the coastal territory should be stabilised and treated as a state separate from the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority controls Palestinian areas," writes Yolande Knell for the BBC.



South Korea, U.S. Wrap Up Drills

The United States and South Korea concluded air, ground, and naval drills (AFP) amidst soaring tensions on the peninsula as relations between Seoul and Pyongyang soured further this month by a row over the Kaesong factory park, once a symbol of inter-Korea cooperation.

JAPAN: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stressed defense commitments (JapanTimes) to Japan in the face of burgeoning missile threats from North Korea.

CFR's Sheila Smith discusses tensions between Japan and China over disputed islands in the East China Sea in this Contingency Planning Memorandum.



Karzai Confirms U.S. Cash Payments

In response to a New York Times report, Afghan president Hamid Karzai acknowledged on Monday that his office had been receiving monthly cash payments (WSJ) from the CIA over the past ten years, but dismissed them as a "small amount."

PAKISTAN: A Pakistani court banned (Dawn) former military ruler Pervez Musharraf from politics for life on Monday. Musharraf returned to Pakistan last month after four years of self-exile.

CFR's Daniel Markey discusses Musharraf's troubles in this op-ed.



Bomb Hits Damascus Near Interior Ministry

At least thirteen people were killed in Damascus after a bomb exploded in area near an interior ministry building (al-Arabiya). The attack comes a day after Syria's prime minister survived an assassination attempt that killed one of his bodyguards and five others.



UK Ends Aid to South Africa

The UK will cease giving direct aid (BBC) to South Africa in 2015, cutting off its program that contributes around 19 million pounds a year for reducing mortality rates and supporting businesses. At its peak in 2003, British aid for South Africa totaled more than 40 million pounds.

ZIMBABWE: The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission launched a voter registration (SWRadio) campaign for elections due to be held this year, although the exercise has been overshadowed by reports of irregularities.



Europe's Jobless Rate Rises

The eurozone's unemployment rate rose to a record 12.1 percent (NYT) in March, reflecting an uptick of one-tenth of a percentage point from February. The reports could prompt the European Central Bank to take action--such as cutting key interest rate targets--at its policy meeting on Thursday.

NETHERLANDS: Dutch Queen Beatrix abdicated her throne (Reuters) on Tuesday, making Willem-Alexander the first king of the Netherlands since 1890.



Mexico Limits U.S. Access to Security

Ahead of President Barack Obama's visit on Thursday, Mexico's foreign ministry announced a broad bilateral agenda (AP) that limits the access it once gave to U.S. security agencies as the country's new government seeks to change its focus from violence to its emerging economy.

CFR's Shannon K. O'Neil writes about Obama's impending visit in this op-ed.

BOLIVIA: A constitutional court ruling on Monday allowed Bolivian president Evo Morales to seek reelection again next year in a move that sparked opposition protests (Guardian).



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