An underground barrier being constructed by Egypt along the border with Gaza comes under heavy criticism. A prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas continues to be negotiated. An American-style college program has opened for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. Extremist rabbis from government-affiliated religious institutions continue to urge Israeli soldiers to disobey orders. Israel has jailed the leader of the nonviolent Stop The Wall campaign. Pres. Abbas says he's not optimistic about peace. A commentary in Ha'aretz says the Israeli peace camp needs to focus on a return to the 1967 borders, and another in YNet says that Israel is squandering an opportunity to make peace with the best Palestinian partners it has ever had. A Labor MK and former cabinet minister calls for a new American peace initiative to replace the Roadmap. Former Pres. Carter calls for the rebuilding of Gaza. A former Bush speechwriter says politicians from the religious right like Palin and Huckabee will find their encouragement of settlements has consequences. Leonard Fein expresses doubts about PM Netanyahu's intentions on peace. A new Palestinian opinion poll shows Pres. Abbas would beat Hamas leader Hanniyeh by 16 points in a new election. IPS reports that Europe's ties with Israel remained close in spite of recent tensions.

EUROPE: Cosy With Israel, Despite the Headlines
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Inter Press Service (IPS)
by David Cronin - (Analysis) December 18, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel's relations with the European Union were tense for most of 2009 - if newspaper headlines are to be believed. In the past week, a British court drew fierce criticism from Israeli politicians after it issued an arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister, following a complaint that she had authorised war crimes in Gaza.

The Palestinian Situation and the Egyptian Fig Leaf
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Dar Al-Hayat
by Mohammad Salah - (Opinion) December 20, 2009 - 1:00am

An Arab official challenged me and affirmed his conviction that no reconciliation will take place between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. He said that the current situation achieves the interests of the two sides, irrespective of the interest of the Palestinian people. When I asked about the Egyptian mediation efforts and their benefit, and Cairo’s expectation of a response by Hamas to the Egyptian negotiating card, the official said he was certain that Hamas would not agree to it as is.

Survey finds Abbas would win election
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The National
by Omar Karmi - December 19, 2009 - 1:00am

In spite of political stalemates on all fronts, it was a relatively good week for Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and the head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

A Netanyahu Conversion? The Case for Skepticism
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jewish Daily Forward
by Leonard Fein - (Opinion) December 16, 2009 - 1:00am

Too transparent to be a scam, more nearly a farce. I refer to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s 10-month “freeze” in settlement construction on the West Bank, about as gummy a freeze as can be imagined, a freeze meant to change nothing, only to placate the Americans.

Why Palin and Huckabee Dig Settlements
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jewish Daily Forward
by Noam Neusner - (Opinion) December 16, 2009 - 1:00am

The Republican field for 2012 is beginning to stretch its legs. Not surprisingly, presidential hopefuls have started to define themselves by what they are not: Barack Obama.

The two-wheel guide to a troubled land
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Independent
by Lauren Booth - (Opinion) December 20, 2009 - 1:00am

Fifteen minutes' ride into the hills above the West Bank city of Nablus, our convoy of European and Palestinian cyclists takes an unplanned breather beside an Israeli army roadblock. Nearby, a Palestinian farming family shelters beneath twisted olive trees, enjoying a simple iftar (breakfast) of bread, water and dates. Visitors to the West Bank soon become familiar with its blend of ancient culture and modern occupation. Welcome to Palestine, 2009.

Gaza must be rebuilt now
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by Jimmy Carter - (Opinion) December 19, 2009 - 1:00am

It is generally recognised that the Middle East peace process is in the doldrums, almost moribund. Israeli settlement expansion within Palestine continues, and PLO leaders refuse to join in renewed peace talks without a settlement freeze, knowing that no Arab or Islamic nation will accept any comprehensive agreement while Israel retains control of East Jerusalem.

The conflict awaits Obama's program
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Ophir Paz-Pines - (Opinion) December 20, 2009 - 1:00am

The peace train between Israel and the Palestinians has been derailed for some time. World leaders are at a loss and have perhaps given up altogether; both sides in the conflict are busy explaining why the other is the real peace "refuser," while real negotiations over a peace agreement are replaced by endless internal discussions.

Despair in Ramallah
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Uri Misgav - (Opinion) December 19, 2009 - 1:00am

I recently committed a criminal act. I cannot even plead ignorance. A large red sign at the roadblock near the Qalandiya refugee camp made it clear. Israelis are forbidden from entering Area A in the West Bank. It may be a security constraint, but it also has a symbolic significance. The moderate and quiet capital of the Palestinian Authority is located a few minutes away from Jerusalem, yet visiting it is a crime.

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