February 28th

The following special Saturday ATFP Middle East News: World Press Roundup focuses entirely on announced new major Israeli settlement expansion plans in the occupied West Bank. It includes ATFP's press release on the subject from Friday, Feb. 27.

February 27th

An op-ed by ATFP President Ziad Asali in The Daily Star urges swift action on all sides to rebuild Gaza and preserve the potential for peace in the Middle East (1). In The Nation, ATFP Senior Fellow Hussein Ibish (psycho)analyzes the Israeli film "Waltz With Bashir"(2). After meeting in Cairo, Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas announce that first steps towards a unity government have been taken (3) (7) (8). The New York Times profiles US efforts to fund and train Palestinian Security Forces in the West Bank (4). Secretary of State Clinton faces criticism from some Jewish Americans as she pressures Israel to speed up the delivery of aid to Gaza (5). Israel's Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US Mideast Envoy George Mitchell (6).

February 26th

US diplomacy in the Middle East continues as Israel moves to form a new government (1), (9), (11), (14). Palestinians explore possibilities for a “National Accord” government or other forms of political reunification (3), (5), (12). Israel’s new cabinet seems poised to take a sharp turn to the right (2) (8), while more Palestinians are being pushed out of their homes in Jerusalem (10). Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad continues to seek reconstruction aid for Gaza (4), (6).

February 25th

President Obama calls for diplomatic outreach and encourages peace between Israel and its neighbors in his address to Congress (1). Mideast Envoy George Mitchell embarks on his second trip to the region (2). Americans for Peace Now reports that Israel issued a number of new land seizure orders during the Gaza war (3). Veteran Mideast negotiator Dennis Ross is appointed to be Secretary Clinton’s special advisor on Iran (4). The first female Islamic judges in the Palestinian territories are appointed in the West Bank (5). Just ahead of reconciliation talks in Cairo, thousands of Palestinians rally in Nablus in support of President Mahmoud Abbas (10). Secretary of State Clinton expresses frustration as Israel delays delivery of the United States’ pledged $900 million in humanitarian aid for Gaza (14).

February 24th

Raghida Dergham examines challenges facing the Arab world in the evolving strategic situation in the Middle East (1). Obama administration officials say the U.S. intends to provide $900 million in aid to Gaza (2). Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to form a coalition government in Israel continue (3). Christopher Hitchens draws a vivid portrait of Israeli ultra right-wing politician Avigdor Liberman (5). In separate statements, Palestinian President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad call for Hamas to join a Palestinian unity government that meets international conditions (6) (8). Secretary of State Clinton plans to travel to Israel and the West Bank next week, in her first official visit as Secretary (7). The U.S. is reportedly planning to open a permanent office in Jerusalem for Special Mideast Envoy George Mitchell (14).

February 23rd

The Media Line’s Felice Friedson sits down for an interview with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (1). Amnesty International calls for a freeze on arms sales to both Israel and Hamas (2). Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announces that Israel will replace their lead-envoy to the Egyptian-brokered truce talks with Hamas (3), while Al Qaeda’s second-in-command urges Hamas not to ‘succumb to pressure’ for a truce (4). Egypt opens the Rafah crossing for three days, allowing hundreds of Gazans to cross out of the Gaza strip (5). Four Palestinians are killed when a smuggling tunnel on the Egyptian border collapses (6). Talks concerning the formation of a coalition government in Israel continue (8). An op-ed in Asharq Alwasat examines Hamas’ attitude on relations with the U.S. (11).

February 20th

President Shimon Peres invites Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new Israeli government (1) (2), while Kadima leader Tzipi Livni expresses her reservations about some of the extremist parties that may be included (3). The three U.S. legislators who visited Gaza yesterday issue statements about the destruction and reiterate the American position on conditions for engaging Hamas (4) (8). An editorial in Haaretz warns against allowing a place for ultra-rightist Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman in the new government (5). An editorial in the Boston Globe speculates on John Kerry's upcoming visit to Syria (7). In Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria expresses concern over the rightward and intolerant direction of Israeli politics (10). Mideast envoy George Mitchell voices his support for Egyptian mediated Palestinian unity talks (13).

February 19th

Three U.S legislators, including Senator John Kerry, visit Gaza (1), where Hamas has reportedly given them a letter to deliver to President Obama (2). Prime Minister hopeful and Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu wins the important backing of a leading right-wing Israeli party (3). The Christian Science Monitor looks at the possible prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel (4). The classified Israeli government settlement data made public last month has prompted discussion of Palestinian lawsuits (6). Le Monde Diplomatique examines the political fallout of the Gaza war (7). The Media Line interviews the famously bereaved Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish who lost several daughters in an Israeli attack on his home during the Gaza war (11).

February 18th

Israel’s Security cabinet announces that it will not lift the Gaza blockade until captured soldier Gilad Shalit is freed (1). The UN says a large stockpile of unexploded weapons is missing in Gaza (2). Kadima party leader Tzipi Livni says that Israel must be prepared to give up ‘considerable territory in exchange for peace’ (3). Israel launches air strikes on sites in southern Gaza (4). Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad says he wants aid for rebuilding Gaza to be sent directly to the needy (5). Speculation continues about holding Israel accountable for alleged war crimes (6). Former U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer warns against a possible Netanyahu-Lieberman Israeli government (12).

February 17th

Israel’s seizure of land in the West Bank for a planned settlement expansion draws international criticism and poses an early test for the Obama administration (1) (4). Egypt cracks down on Gaza smuggling tunnels (2). The Washington Institute looks at relations between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Iran on issues including Palestine (3). Palestinian factions are invited to Egypt on February 22nd for a dialogue with the goal of creating a transitional government (5). The Jerusalem Post sits down for an interview with former Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams (7). Haaretz analyzes Israel’s recent actions regarding hostage Gilad Shalit (8). A long-term ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel remains elusive (10) (13).

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