NEWS: Israeli and Palestinian officials continue low-key meetings in Jordan. A proposed law in Israel would make it a crime to compare people to Nazis. A right-wing Israeli MK who threw water on a Palestinian MK is suspended from the Knesset for a month. Israel says it's ready to absorb Syrian refugees if the Assad regime falls. The Middle East Quartet has reportedly asked Israel for “confidence building gestures” towards the Palestinians, and PM Netanyahu is reportedly considering such steps. Peace Now says Israel began building 1,850 settlement housing units in the occupied West Bank in 2011. A Hamas leader in Gaza says “the future is ours” because Islamists will come to power throughout the Middle East. Amira Hass looks at how roads are segregated in practice in the occupied territories. COMMENTARY: Hussein Ibish explains why Gaza is still occupied territory. Sefi Rachlevsky says that if Israeli secularists and Arabs all voted, Netanyahu would be out of office. Khaled Abu Toameh says Pres. Abbas is sending conflicting and confusing messages to his own public. Tova Norlen says Israel has to explain what it wants from a peace agreement. Catrina Stewart says a push-back against religiously-driven sexism in Israel has begun. JJ Goldberg says Egypt's new democracy brings important opportunities for Israel. Hussein Shobokshi says Israel remains a national priority in American politics. Abdulateef Al-Mulhim says Saudi Arabia has a major role to play in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Yossi Alpher says 2012 will be a year of reassessment. Ghassan Khatib says nothing driving last year's period of diplomatic stagnation has changed.

A grim staging ground
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bitterlemons
by Ghassan Khatib - (Opinion) January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

The two main Middle East-related events of 2011 appear to be continuing into the new year. One is the complete stagnation of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, and the other is the roiling wave of Arab revolutions and uprisings, which also carry weighty implications for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

At best, a year of reassessment
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bitterlemons
by Yossi Alpher - (Opinion) January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

The year 2012 will almost certainly not witness any progress toward agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. We'll be lucky if there is no serious backsliding in the form of violence or formal withdrawal from negotiating frameworks. Meanwhile, however, we can and should be making good use of this year to reassess the entire peace process and find ways to reconstitute it in a more useful format. There are multiple reasons for a pessimistic prognosis regarding the year ahead.

A Saudi-Israeli-Palestinian negotiation table
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Arab News
by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim - (Opinion) January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

The Palestinians met the Israelis in Jordan for the first time in 16 months. And these days there is talk about what is the best solution to end the issue of the Palestinian refugees before the UN withdraws its financial support. In addition to serious talks about a two-state solution. But, the whole world heard this many times before. So, is the Palestinian issue solvable and who can really have a solution? Could it be some one the Israelis never met? Here is my humble opinion:

Israel remains the main priority
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Asharq Alawsat
by Hussein Shobokshi - (Opinion) January 9, 2012 - 1:00am

It appears that US President Barack Obama is on his way to being re-elected. There are many positive indicators working strongly in his favour. There he is fulfilling his pledge and withdrawing "militarily" from Iraqi territories, reducing his military presence in Afghanistan, and re-structuring the US defense budget as a kind of economic belt-tightening measure which is required in practical terms to meet the problem of the budget deficit.

Two Mideast Democracies, Side by Side
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jewish Daily Forward
by J.J. Goldberg - (Opinion) January 9, 2012 - 1:00am

Advocates of democracy in the Middle East have been deeply alarmed since December 29, when Egyptian security forces staged lightning raids on the offices of three American nonprofits that work to promote democracy and fair elections overseas. Egyptian officials say they seized the organizations’ books and computers because they suspect them of fomenting the unrest that led to the overthrow of the Mubarak dictatorship last year and the imposing of Egypt’s first open, democratic election, which the army has pledged to support after it’s done arresting the people who started it.

Sexism and the state of Israel
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Independent
by Catrina Stewart - (Analysis) January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

As dusk falls in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem's most pious neighbourhood, black-clad and hatted Jewish men hurry home along the narrow streets lined by medieval-style houses where lights burn dimly in darkened windows. Less than half a mile away, young Israelis mix in bustling bars in central Jerusalem, anathema to this religious ultraorthodox community that has tried its hardest to hide itself away from the temptations of secular life, and ensure a rigorous separation between men and women.

Death of peace process means opportunity for new ideas
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Tovah Norlen - (Opinion) January 9, 2012 - 1:00am

The recent attempts by Jordan’s King Abdullah to restart the peace process do bring to mind several lingering questions: Is the peace process dead, as some people maintain, and if so, who killed it? If the answer to the first question is yes (never mind about the second one), a third immediately comes to mind: What do we do now?

The many contradictions of Mahmoud Abbas
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Khaled Abu Toameh - (Opinion) January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

Seven years have passed since Mahmoud Abbas was elected to succeed Yasser Arafat as president of the Palestinian Authority, and many Palestinians appear to be as confused as ever regarding their leader’s true intentions. Abbas ran in the January 2005 presidential election for a four-year term on a platform that promised massive reforms and changes both in the PA and the ruling Fatah faction, which he also heads.

Israel's Arabs and seculars will return to the polls
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Sefi Rachlevsky - (Opinion) January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

Sometimes, numbers say it all. In the 1999 elections, some 3.3 million citizens voted. A similar number voted in 2009. But in the meantime, about 1 million eligible voters had been added to the rolls. Had the 80 percent turnout rate that prevailed in Israel until 1999 been maintained, another 800,000 people would have voted; instead, they stayed away. Those absent voters are now about to shake up Israel.

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