Middle East - Lebanon / West Bank / Israel - Thousands celebrate as Michel Aoun elected president / Lebanese president appoints Hariri as PM / Lebanon gets step closer to functioning govt / WBank settlers prepare for possible evacuation / Israeli PM Netanyahu criticizes the UN and Obama / Palestinian leader welcomes settlements vote
"The land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel. We do not agree to give up one centimetre of the land of Israel and we will not agree to that and even if sometimes you fall in battle, at the end we will win the war."
Israeli PM Netanyahu criticizes the UN and Obama
Gaash - 24 December 2016
13. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walking to podium
14. SOUNDBITE (Hebrew) Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister:
"The decision taken at the UN yesterday was part of the swan song of the old world biased against Israel. We are entering a new era and as the US President-elect (Donald) Trump said yesterday, this is going to happen much quicker than people think."
Palestinian leader welcomes settlements vote
Ramallah - 31 December 2016
15. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas walking toward grave of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ++NIGHT SHOT++
16. Abbas at ceremony at Arafat's grave ++NIGHT SHOT++
On October 31st 2016 thousands celebrated in Beirut as former army commander Michel Aoun was elected as the President of Lebanon, filling a post that had been vacant for more than two years and injecting hope that the country's long-running political paralysis would come to an end.
But the 81-year-old retired general who presided over the final bloody chapters of the Lebanese civil war and is a strong Hezbollah ally has an unenviable task ahead - forming a government out of the country's unruly political factions and dealing with an array of problems that includes what to do with more than 1 million Syrian refugees who have fled the war in neighbouring Syria.
Aoun, a Maronite Christian, enjoys a wide base of support among Lebanon's educated Christians, but is a deeply divisive figure for his role in the 1975-90 civil war and for his shifting alliances, especially with Hezbollah, the country's most powerful military and political force.
His election was seen by many as a clear victory for the pro-Iranian axis in the Middle East, giving a boost to Hezbollah and the Shiite Lebanese group's ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Lebanon has been without a head of state for 29 months after President Michel Suleiman stepped down at the end of his term in May 2014.
According to Lebanon's sectarian-based power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite Christian, its parliamentary speaker a Shiite Muslim and its prime minister a Sunni Muslim.
Parliament failed 45 times to elect a new president due to political infighting that led to a lack of a quorum as Aoun's bloc and allied Hezbollah lawmakers boycotted the sessions because his election was not guaranteed.
In the end, it took an about-face by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Lebanon's Saudi-backed Sunni leader, who formally endorsed Aoun for president the previous week - reportedly in exchange for Aoun promising him the position of prime minister.
Lebanon's newly-elected president, Michel Aoun, on November 3rd asked former Premier Saad Hariri to form a new government after he secured an overwhelming parliamentary majority to be named as the next prime minister.
Aoun's office made the announcement after two days of consultations with lawmakers over their choice of prime minister. The statement didn't say how many lawmakers supported Hariri for the post.
Aoun, a Christian leader and strong ally of the Shiite Hezbollah group, was elected by Parliament as president on October 31st, ending a 29-month presidential vacuum.
His election was made possible after Hariri endorsed him for president based on an understanding that Aoun would then appoint him as prime minister.
According to Lebanon's sectarian-based power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Muslim Sunni and the parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim.
The Aoun-Hariri deal is an unlikely partnership between rivals: Aoun, a long-time Syrian foe now allied with pro-Syrian forces, and Hariri, a vocal opponent of President Bashar Assad and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
Hariri is the son of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in a massive seaside bombing in 2005 in Beirut. Several Hezbollah members are being tried in absentia by a Netherlands-based UN-backed tribunal.
Hariri was a political novice thrown into politics when he took over his father's political mantle after he was killed.
He headed a 14-month national unity government from late 2009 until early 2011, which collapsed after Hezbollah and its allies resigned from the Cabinet in a dispute over upcoming indictments in Hariri's assassination.
Lebanon's government on December 21st held its first cabinet meeting headed by a president in two and a half years.
The 30-member national unity cabinet was announced on Sunday nearly two months after new President Michele Aoun was elected.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri vowed that his top priority would be to protect the country from the effects of the civil war in neighbouring Syria.
Residents living in a Jewish outpost in the West Bank who face being permanently evacuated from their homes stressed on December 15th that they wish to stay, saying "this is our land."
Settlers in the Amona outpost rejected an offer from the Israeli government to leave the 50 trailers that they live in voluntarily, and face being forcefully evicted by security on December 25th.
The settlement was deemed by an Israeli court in 2014 to have been illegally built on Palestinian land.
Residents have played down any expectations of violence, although stones and tyres were piled at the entrance to the outpost.
"The land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel, we do not agree to give up one centimetre of the land of Israel," said Avraham Eliyahu Landsberg, a yeshiva student.
Violent clashes took place in Amona a decade ago after a partial evacuation caused unrest between residents and security forces.
Israel's Prime Minister lashed out at US President Barack Obama on December 24th, accusing him of a "shameful" move at the United Nations over West Bank settlements and said he is looking forward to working with US President-elect Donald Trump.
December 23rd's resolution by the UN Security Council condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel rejected the resolution that got the green light after the US, Israel's closest ally, abstained.
It was a jarring rupture with past US vetoes.
Although the US opposes the settlements, it has traditionally used its veto power as a permanent member of the Security Council to block such resolutions.
Netanyahu said he spoke with U.S leaders who vowed to fight the move, including from the incoming Trump administration.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on December 31st said he was willing to work with US President-elect Donald Trump to try to bring about peace with Israel, based on a two-state solution.
Abbas was speaking in Ramallah at an event celebrating the 52nd anniversary of the founding of the Fatah party.
He also thanked the US administration of President Barack Obama for allowing the UN Security Council to adopt Resolution 2334, which declared Israeli settlements on occupied lands illegal.
The two-state solution has been the basis for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians under the past several US administrations.
Trump, whose election platform made no mention of a Palestinian state, has indicated more sympathy for Israel's settlement policies than the Obama administration has.
Palestinians are now setting their sights on a MidEast peace conference in France next month in a bid to rally support as they prepare for the uncertainty of the Trump administration.
The Palestinians are hopeful that a strong international endorsement in Paris will insulate them from what they fear will be a close alliance between the president-elect and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.