News from Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Territories and France

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on November 1, 2011

SAUDI ARABIA – Prince increases reward for capture of Israeli soldier

RIYADH | A member of the Saudi royal family increased to $1 million a reward offered by a prominent Saudi cleric to anyone who captures an Israeli soldier to swap him for Palestinian prisoners.

Prince Khaled bin Talal, [the brother of business tycoon and Fox News co-owner Walid bin Talal] told the kingdom’s al-Daleel TV station by telephone over the weekend that he was raising a previous offer made by Sheik Awadh al-Qarani, who promised $100,000 for capturing an Israeli soldier.

“I tell Sheik al-Qarani that I support you and I will pay $900,000 to make it one million dollars to capture an Israeli soldier to release other prisoners,” he said.

The Saudi offers follow in the wake of the release of Israeli soldier Sgt. Gilad Schalit, who was held by Palestinian terrorists for more than five years. Israel agreed to free more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Schalit.

FRANCE – Palestine becomes member of UNESCO

PARIS — The Palestinian Authority became a full member of [the United Nations’] UNESCO on Monday, in a highly divisive breakthrough that could cost the agency a fifth of its budget and that the U.S. and other opponents say could harm renewed Mideast peace efforts.

Lawmakers in the U.S., which provides about 22 percent of UNESCO’s funding, had threatened to halt some $80 million in annual funding if Palestinian membership was approved. [It was announced later in the day that the U.S. will cut funding to UNESCO.] …

Monday’s vote is a grand symbolic victory for the Palestinians, but it alone won’t make Palestine into a state. The issue of borders of an eventual Palestinian state, security troubles and other disputes [with Israel] have thwarted…peace for decades, and remain unresolved. …

Even if the vote’s impact isn’t felt right away in the Mideast, it will be quickly felt at UNESCO. Aside from the U.S. funding cut threat, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it “will consider its further … cooperation with the organization” after Monday’s vote.

The U.N. agency protects historic heritage sites and works to improve world literacy, access to schooling for girls and cultural understanding, but it also has come under criticism in the past as a forum for anti-Israel sentiment.

It depends heavily on U.S. funding, but has survived without it in the past: The United States pulled out of UNESCO under President Ronald Reagan, rejoining two decades later under President George W. Bush.

Palestinian officials are seeking full membership in the United Nations, but that effort is still under examination and the U.S. has pledged a veto unless there is a peace deal with Israel. Given that, the Palestinians separately sought membership at Paris-based UNESCO. All the efforts are part of a broader push by the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas for greater international recognition in recent years. …

UNESCO, like other U.N. agencies, is a part of the world body but has separate membership procedures and can make its own decisions about which countries belong. Full U.N. membership is not required for membership in many of the U.N. agencies. …

Existing U.S. law can bar Washington from funding any U.N. body that accepts members that do not have the “internationally recognized attributes of statehood.” That requirement is generally interpreted to mean U.N. membership. …

Also Monday, a Bosnian presidential adviser said Bosnia will be forced to abstain from any U.N. vote for Palestinian statehood — dealing a tough blow to Palestinian hopes of rallying the required nine-vote majority in a U.N. Security Council vote in New York. Palestinian officials have said they already have eight votes, and were counting heavily on Bosnia to give them the ninth.

FRANCE – France to leave Britain behind with First World War centenary plans

France will next week eclipse Britain’s First World War centenary plans by opening a $40 million state-of-the-art commemorative museum three years early.

The showpiece project, which will include more than 50,000 artifacts, will be inaugurated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Remembrance Day, November 11.

Mr. Sarkozy will also pledge millions more to remembering his country’s war dead by revitalizing existing monuments in time for the 1914-18 anniversary.

Britain, meanwhile, has so far announced no plans for its own commemorations starting in 2014 – prompting military historians to say it is “vital we catch up.”

The vast majority of the one million odd British Empire troops killed, and more than two million wounded during the First War made their sacrifice in France.

Yet the prestigious new Museum of the Great War in Meaux, 25 miles north of Paris, will focus on the French and American contribution to the defeat of Imperial Germany.

A senior defense ministry source in Paris said: “It is a state-of-the-art, prestige museum which is unlikely to be rivaled, even by 2014.

“No expense has been spared turning it into the best of its kind, with President Sarkozy wanting to make it clear to the world that France is absolutely committed to preserving the memory of those who fought.” …..

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at on Oct. 30 and Chicago’s on Oct 31 and London’s on Oct. 30.)


The Palestinian Authority's Ruling Political Parties:
The Palestinian Authority is currently ruled by two parties, Fatah and Hamas. Hamas holds the majority of seats in the Palestinian Parliament and the office of Prime Minister.  Fatah holds a minority of seats in the Parliament, and the office of President.

Fatah ruled the Palestinian Authority from its establishment in 1994 until 2006. [Yasser Arafat was the head of Fatah until his death in 2004.]  Fatah is a major secular Palestinian political party.... In Palestinian politics it is on the center-left of the spectrum. ..... [Since its loss in 2006 as the ruling party] it has ... been described oftentimes in the media as the more "moderate" party, although many dispute this due to its past actions and current policies. (from

Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni Islamist terrorist organization that currently (since January 2006) forms the majority party of the Palestinian Authority.... Hamas is known outside the Palestinian territories for its suicide bombings and other attacks directed against Israeli civilians, as well as military and security forces targets. Hamas' charter...calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip......In January 2006, Hamas won a surprise victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections....  Many [Palestinians] perceived the preceding Fatah government as corrupt and ineffective...  Since Hamas has taken control, the Palestinian territories have experienced a period of sharp internal conflicts, known as Fauda (anarchy), in which many Palestinians have been killed in...fighting [between Hamas supporters and Fatah supporters]. (from