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Ban Expires on West Bank Construction; U.S. Seeks to Expand Internet Wiretaps

West Bank construction

Children of Israeli settlers walk past the construction site for 50 housing units in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. Photo by Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images.

With the 10-month ban on building in West Bank settlements expired as of Sunday night, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to talk to Arab governments next week in Cairo before deciding whether to continue negotiations with Israel.

Israel did not offer to renew the restrictions, despite demands from the United States and the Palestinians to do so in order to continue the peace talks.

The Associated Press reports that Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of Abbas’ negotiating team, told Israel Radio on Monday that renewed settlement activity will lead “to the breakdown of negotiations and to the breakdown of the political process.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the Palestinians to continue negotiations, saying in a statement that “Israel is ready to pursue continuous contacts in the coming days to find a way to continue peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

The BBC reports that on Monday morning, Israeli media said bulldozers had started leveling ground for 50 homes in the West Bank.

On Saturday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the BBC he would attempt to convince government colleagues of a compromise deal, and said the chances of a deal on the issue were “50/50”.

The New York Times reports: “Administration officials did not conceal their disappointment, or fear about what Israel’s decision may mean for the peace process. ‘We knew we faced a gap,’ said a senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the volatility of the situation. ‘With the expiration of the moratorium, we now have a rupture. The question in coming days will be, what combination of action could bridge that rupture?'”

Foreign Policy’s Blake Hounshell writes:

“[Netanyahu’s] coalition remains intact, and he’s proven that the United States, with all its might and power, can’t push tiny Israel around (at least, not before the midterm elections). Barack Obama took a huge risk calling on Israel to extend the moratorium at the U.N. Thursday, and now he looks ineffectual and weak.”

Reports: Administration Wants to Wiretap Internet, Target Wire Transfers

The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is drafting regulations to make it easier for police and national security officials to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects:

“[O]fficials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct ‘peer to peer’ messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.”

The Washington Post reports that the administration also wants to require U.S. banks to report all electronic money transfers into and out of the country to combat terrorism financing:

“Financial institutions are now required to report to the Treasury Department transactions in excess of $10,000 and others they deem suspicious. The new rule would require banks to disclose even the smallest transfers.”

The Post also reports on the case of U.S.-born citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, a Muslim cleric believed to be in Yemen:

“Civil liberties groups sued the U.S. government on behalf of Aulaqi’s father, arguing that the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command’s placement of Aulaqi on a capture-or-kill list of suspected terrorists — outside a war zone and absent an imminent threat — amounted to an extrajudicial execution order against a U.S. citizen. They asked a U.S. district court in Washington to block the targeting.”

On Saturday, the government asked a judge to throw out the case, invoking the “state-secrets” argument.

NATO Launches Airstrikes in Pakistan

NATO helicopters in eastern Afghanistan launched airstrikes into Pakistan, reportedly killing more than 50 militants after an attack by insurgents on an Afghan security outpost in the eastern province of Khost, officials said Monday.

Southwest to Buy AirTran

Southwest Airlines said Monday it will buy AirTran for about $1.42 billion, which would give it a bigger share of the East Coast market. The acquisition is expected to close in the first half of next year. It requires both regulatory and shareholder approval. The airlines expect to fully blend their operations in 2012.

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