International Quartet follows up Palestinian-Israeli meetings in Jordan

Jordanian monarch to meet U.S. president this month

Obama receives Saudi minister of foreign affairs

Israel carrying out plan to Judaize Arab Jerusalem

Largest joint U.S.-Israeli maneuvers to test weapons as Israel conducts other war games in Golan

The Palestinian president says talks between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators in Jordan provide an "important opportunity" for reviving full peace negotiations.

Mahmoud Abbas said hopes for success are "weak." Even so, "we must take this chance," Abbas told reporters after meeting Jordan's King Abdullah II on Tuesday.

Chief negotiators from the two sides sat down in Jordan's capital, Amman, last week. It was the first such session in more than a year. Talks have been stalled, mostly over the issue of construction in Israeli settlements.

Abbas briefed the king, who is scheduled to meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Jan. 14.

Abdullah said that meeting would focus on restarting serious Mideast negotiations.

President Barack Obama will host Jordan’s King Abdullah II, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, at the White House next week.

The White House says the Jan. 17 meeting will focus on advancing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as other economic and security issues in the region.

Earlier this month, Jordan hosted the first meeting between Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators in more than a year.

While there were no breakthroughs, both sides agreed to continue the dialogue.

Abdullah faced some Arab Spring-style protests last year demanding that he loosen his absolute control over his kingdom. He enacted a series of reforms to try to address the demands of protesters.

President Barack Obama of the United States of America received at the White House here yesterday Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, during which the Prince conveyed a message from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to the U.S. President.

During the meeting, they discussed bilateral relations and latest developments at regional and international arenas. On the other hand, Prince Saud Al-Faisal held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department this week.

In a press statement, Saudi Ambassador to the United States of America Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said that the Prince's talks with U.S. President and Secretary of State were fruitful and constructive, and came within the framework of continuing consultations and coordination between the two countries concerning bilateral relations and ways of their enhancement, in addition to the discussion of regional and international issues of common interests.

Meanwhile, Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast has lashed out at a recent bill passed by the Israeli regime's legislative body, Knesset, claiming al-Quds (Jerusalem) as a unified capital for Jews.

In a Sunday statement, Mehmanparast described the Knesset move as a “serious violation of the historic and eternal rights of the Palestinian nation,” reiterating that the measure was aimed at “total Judaization of Islamic sanctities” and once again exposes the “racist nature of the Zionist regime” in insulting divine religions and their sanctuaries.

The top Iranian diplomat made the statements in reaction to the Knesset's latest bid to declare al-Quds as the “capital” of the entire Jewish population in the world to justify the enforcement of demographic transformations in the city by evacuating its Arab residents and further expanding the construction of Jewish settlements.

The Knesset's move also reflects Tel Aviv's confidence about the silence and inaction of the international community and regional states towards continuous rights violations by the Israeli regime, Mehmanparast pointed out.

The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman urged the international community, particularly the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to react strongly against the “inhumane” Israeli plan.

Mehmanparast also called on freedom-seekers across the globe to employ all their potential to defend al-Quds as “the symbol of unity among divine religions” and counter Israel's aggressions.

The Israeli regime has repeatedly been censured by the international community for its illegal settlement expansions on occupied Palestinian territories.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency that provides aid for Palestinian refugees says Israeli forces have demolished 356 Palestinian structures in the first six months of 2011, compared to the 431 destroyed throughout 2010.

On the other hand, Israel's top court has upheld a law denying citizenship to Palestinians married to Israelis, with one judge saying it helped the Jewish state fend off "national suicide".

By a 6-to-5 vote, the Supreme Court late on Wednesday rejected petitions against the 2003 ban, which civil liberty groups denounced as racist for potentially forcing members of Israel's 20-percent Arab minority who wed Palestinians to emigrate.

The former centrist government championed the law chiefly on security grounds given Palestinian gun and bomb attacks.

But Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who congratulated the Supreme Court on Thursday, made clear that shoring up Israel's Jewish majority was also a concern. Yishai's party, run by rabbis, is a powerful partner in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rightist coalition.

The ruling, Yishai told Israel Radio, served to stem "a situation in which, not too many years hence, we would find yourself losing the majority, (and) faced with terrorism".

Israeli law guarantees full civil rights, including political representation, to Arab citizens, who are mostly Muslim. But they often complain of entrenched racism.

Many Israeli Jews have been outraged by pro-Palestinian displays among their Arab compatriots, especially given the rise of hostile Hamas Islamists in Gaza and stalled peace talks with the secular Palestinian leadership in the occupied West Bank.

Justice Asher Grunis, whose nomination as the Supreme Court's next president was welcomed by conservatives, voted to keep the citizenship law, saying in the ruling that rescinding it "would mean thousands of Palestinians entering the country after marrying Israeli citizens".

"Human rights do not prescribe national suicide," he wrote.

Grunis framed his remarks around fears of infiltration by Palestinian militants, saying: "The (law's) blow, as presented, to family life must be viewed against the certain harm, given past experience, to the lives and bodies of Israelis."

Dissenting, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and four other justices described the freedom to marry as being at the heart of democratic principle.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, one of four petitioning groups, accused the Supreme Court of perpetuating a "racist law" and "failing to uphold basic human rights in the face of the tyranny of the Knesset (parliament)".

The judicial review was also watched closely after right-wing politicians pursued procedural changes that would have helped them to influence selection of Supreme Court judges.

On the attorney-general's advice and citing the need to preserve the court's independence, Netanyahu blocked that legislation.

Normally Israel naturalizes the spouses of its citizens, though it sometimes offers as a stop-gap permanent residency, a similar status but without the right to vote. Many Palestinians see economic opportunity in being an Israeli citizen or resident, as well as access to health and other state benefits.

Sawsan Zaher, a lawyer for the Israeli Arab lobby Adalah, another petitioner, said the ruling showed "the country is interfering in the choosing of spouses".

Seeking to play down the law's disruptive effect, Yishai said his ministry issued an average of 1,000 special entry permits a year to Palestinians and other non-Israelis on the basis of what he called "family unification".

With Obama getting low-marks from Jews in Israel and in the United States, the Obama State Department announced that Israel and the United States will conduct the largest-ever joint military exercise.

The stated purpose of exercise is the testing of U.S. and Israel's defenses against ballistic missiles, but the hidden agenda, according to the intelligence source, is to have the military exercise as close to the 2012 election as possible so that the failing U.S. President may reclaim the Jewish vote.

"The anti-Netanyahu comments by Obama in his conversation with France's President Nicholas Sarkozy more evidence of President Obama's disdain for Israel's career warrior and statesman," said former military intelligence officer and police detective Mike Snopes. "Perhaps this military exercise will help to repair some of the damage to the leaders' relationship."

In a story on, Joseph Klein wrote about the strained relationship between Obama and the Israeli government that sheds light on what Obama really thinks.

"This is a president who has gone out of his way to visit Muslim countries in the same region as Israel, but has yet to visit Israel itself since taking office. Obama had no trouble bowing to the Saudi king, while insulting the Israeli prime minister at every turn,” wrote Klein who was later quoted by Accuracy in Media.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-Israeli drill is scheduled to take place in May 2012, and will simulate Israel's ballistic missile defense in action. "It will be the largest and most significant joint exercise in the allies' history," Andrew Shapiro, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, said at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Shapiro said that joint exercise will allow the U.S. military "to learn from Israel's experience in urban warfare and counterterrorism."

According to the White House, about 5,000 Israeli and U.S. troops are due to participate in the maneuvers, in which the Israel Air Force will test a full gamut of aerial-defense systems, including Iron Dome -- a system that has already successfully shot down short-range rockets fired by Gaza militants; the upgraded version of the U.S.-made Patriot for intercepting hostile aircraft; Magic Wand -- a system designated to counter medium-range rockets; and Arrow 3 -- a system still under development for intercepting ballistic missiles high in the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the Americans will bring along THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system -- a key element of the nation's Ballistic Missile Defense System and aimed at intercepting missiles in the final stage of their trajectory. Its high-altitude capabilities are designed to complement the lower-altitude mission of the Patriot anti-missile system. News of the joint drill came amid recent local media reports that Israel is planning to strike Iran's nuclear facilities in the near future.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were reportedly seeking to secure cabinet majority for such an attack, sparking the ire of senior government officials who accused the media of causing "tremendous damage."

On Wednesday, the IAF test-fired a projectile from the Palmachim Air Base near Tel Aviv, further raising conjecture that the Jewish state is gearing up for a potential attack.

Senior Israeli officials over the past week have reiterated their call on the international community to enforce tighter sanctions against Iran, saying it poses a danger to many other countries besides Israel; while U.S. officials have expressed concern that Israel might attempt to independently attack the Iranian facilities without letting the U.S. in on its operational plans.

Iran has threatened that it would "fiercely respond" to any attack.

Also, the Israeli army launched wide-range military maneuvers in Syria's occupied Golan Heights, the Damascus Press news website reported Thursday.

The IDF Wednesday started live-ammo land drill as hundreds of tanks and thousands of soldiers, backed by helicopters and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, massed to drill simulations of war.

The Golan Heights, formerly known as the Syrian Heights, is a strategic land and mountainous region at the southern end of Lebanon Mountains and remains a highly contested land striding the borders of Syria and Israel. Two-thirds of the area has been currently occupied by Israel since the 1967 war.

In October, 2010, Israel suspended military drill in Syrian Golan Heights after a helicopter crash.

In June, 2010, a Syrian report accused Israel of continuously seizing lands, violating liberties, keeping Syrian captives detained, and arbitrarily exploiting water and natural resources in the occupied Golan Heights.