Middle East News: World Press Roundup

Echoing the words of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in 2006, Hamas leaders express surprise at the scale of Israel’s attack, while the group claims “victory” (1), (2). Into the second day of the cease-fire, residents of Gaza continue to take stock (3), (4). Gaza reconstruction will cost “billions,” but Arab leaders have been unable to agree a strategy for rebuilding (6), (7). President Abbas is seen as “the big looser” in the conflict, but Ha’aretz reports that outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Olmert privately discussed dividing Jerusalem with Arab leaders (8), (9). An op-ed by ATFP President Ziad Asali and Tom Dine, former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, urges President Obama to take immediate steps to salvage a two state solution to Middle East peace (10). The Christian Science Monitor and the Middle East Times consider the return to government of former Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross (11), (12). The Guardian notes that Arab governments have been severely discredited during the conflict (14). Bret Stephens suggests that Israel scored a tactical “victory,” while David Grossman points to the futility of such violence (15), (16).

Hamas leader says he never expected scale of IDF op in Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
January 20, 2009 - 1:00am

The Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram quoted Hamas' political leader Khaled Meshal on Tuesday as saying his Islamist group was surprised by the force Israel recently used against it in the Gaza Strip. Meshal, who was speaking at an Arab conference on Gaza in the Qatari capital Doha, reportedly told a closed forum that Hamas had believed that Israel's 22-day campaign against it would last no longer than three days. The offensive ended Sunday, after Israel and Hamas separately declared a cease-fire.

Hamas claims victory, of sorts
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Ashraf Khalil - January 20, 2009 - 1:00am

Uniformed police officers returned to the streets of Gaza on Monday with machine guns in tow as Hamas sought to reassert control over the battered coastal enclave, declaring that Israel’s 22-day air and land assault had done nothing to weaken the militant group’s authority here. “Hamas emerged from this battle with its head held high,” said Hamad Ruqb, a Hamas official in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip. “Every Israeli attack only increases our support.”

In the Silence, Gazans Take Stock
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Post
by Reyham Abdel Kareem, Craig Whitlock - January 20, 2009 - 1:00am

For the first time in 24 days, there was no fighting in the Gaza Strip on Monday -- no shelling or shooting by Israeli soldiers, no launching of rockets by Hamas guerrillas. But there was still plenty of death, as rescue crews and survivors dug under demolished buildings to retrieve the last victims of the war.

Many Civilian Targets, but One Core Question Among Gazans: Why?
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Sabrina Tavernise - January 20, 2009 - 1:00am

Three young medical students were snapping photographs of a scene of devastation on Monday: five stories of mint-green, concrete rubble that until Israel’s war with Hamas began had been their science lab. “They hit my future with a rocket,” said Muhammad Baroud, one of the students at the Islamic University in Gaza City. “This is a university. What does it have to do with war?”

IAF bombs Gaza target after 8 mortar shells fired at Israel
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Amos Harel - January 20, 2009 - 1:00am

The Israel Air Force on Tuesday evening bombed a target in the Gaza Strip used earlier in the day Palestinian militants to fire eight mortar shells at Israel. Militants on Tuesday also opened fire at Israel Defense Forces soldiers in Gaza in two separate incidents, in the first violation of a shaky cease-fire in the coastal strip that ended Israel's 3-week offensive against Hamas. No IDF soldiers were wounded in the incidents, one of which took place near the Kissufim border crossing, and the other in the center of the Strip. In one of the incidents the troops returned fire.

Gaza rebuild 'to cost billions'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from BBC News
January 20, 2009 - 1:00am

Rebuilding the Gaza Strip after Israel's three-week offensive will cost billions of dollars, the UN has warned. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been left homeless and 400,000 people still have no running water, it says. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, is currently visiting northern Gaza to see what assistance can be provided. Ceasefires declared by Palestinian militant groups and Israel are holding, and Israeli troops are expected to complete their pull-out later.

Gaza agreement eludes Arab leaders
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Al-Jazeera English
January 20, 2009 - 1:00am

Arab leaders have failed to agree on a specific mechanism to support reconstruction in Gaza following Israel's offensive there, despite vowing to provide Gazans with "all forms of support". Disagreements over how aid should be chanelled to Palestinians blighted the Arab ministers' meeting, held on the sidelines of an Arab economic summit in Kuwait, on Tuesday. "We have not reached a conclusion because of time constraints and some positions," Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister, told Kuwait Television, without giving details.

Mahmoud Abbas seen as big loser after fight between Israel and Hamas
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Chicago Tribune
by Joel Greenberg - (Analysis) January 20, 2009 - 1:00am

The Gaza Strip has been devastated by Israel's punishing offensive against Hamas, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appears to be the war's most serious political casualty. Sidelined during the fighting and now struggling to play a role in Gaza's reconstruction, Abbas' Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank, is battling to stay relevant. "Marginalized is a very good choice of words," Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian government in the West Bank, told journalists on Monday.

Report: Olmert privately proposed division of Jerusalem to Arab leaders
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Akiva Eldar - January 20, 2009 - 1:00am

Were Ehud Olmert running in the upcoming election, his spokesmen would most likely hasten to deny the revelation of the Ir Amim organization, according to which the outgoing prime minister proposed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Jerusalem be divided along lines that strongly resemble the Clinton outline of December 2000.

As Obama takes office, Mideast needs his attention
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Philadelphia Inquirer
by Ziad Asali, Tom Dine - (Opinion) January 20, 2009 - 1:00am

Joe Biden predicted that Barack Obama would be tested by a foreign-policy crisis early in his term. The recent surge of violence in Gaza came even sooner than that. How Obama approaches Gaza will be critical not only for the immediate security of Israelis and Palestinians, but also for the resolution of the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict and U.S. relations with the world's Muslims.

Embers of Mideast peace in Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Christian Science Monitor
(Editorial) January 20, 2009 - 1:00am

With the Gaza war at a strategic pause with a cease-fire, hopes for peace may now depend on Barack Obama's likely point man for the Middle East, Dennis Ross. He promises a new style of "statecraft" in dealing with Israeli-Palestinian issues. His usual first tactic after such flare-ups is to look for small steps to rebuild trust. But is there any trust to come out of the ruins of Gaza? Yes, once the world decides to look for it and if a declining number of peacemakers on both sides don't give up hope for a solution.

The Return of Dennis Ross
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Middle East Times
January 20, 2009 - 1:00am

The return of veteran U.S. peace envoy Dennis Ross to his old beat on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process should receive a qualified welcome across the region: Ross and the policies of reconciliation that he can be guaranteed to energetically promote will be a vast improvement on the malign neglect of the past eight years practiced by President George W. Bush.

What Was the Gaza War About?
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Middle East Times
by Claude Salhani - (Opinion) January 20, 2009 - 1:00am

The 23-day war in Gaza ended almost as abruptly as it began. And it ended in a way that allows for both sides in the conflict to declare victory. That is an important point if the parties involved aspire to move forward toward peace. This is where the lessons of the June, 1967 Six-Day War are important.

Gaza has exposed the Arab leaders to fury and contempt
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by Ian Black - (Opinion) January 20, 2009 - 1:00am

It was Monday, so it had to be Kuwait. And there they were, 17 leaders and five senior representatives of all 22 members of the Arab League, gathered to discuss the impact of the global economic crisis, though the original agenda was hijacked by the end of Israel's devastating three-week onslaught against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Israel Scored a Tactical Victory
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Wall Street Journal
(Opinion) January 19, 2009 - 1:00am

Atop a little hill near the beleaguered Israeli town of Sderot, a gaggle of TV crews train their cameras on the Gaza Strip, sentinels to a unilateral Israeli cease-fire that's barely 12 hours old. Earlier the same day, Sunday, Hamas fired 20 rockets into Israel, raising questions about its intentions but causing little serious damage. Later, a pair of Israeli F-15s streak over Gaza City, releasing bursts of chaff but dropping no bombs.

Gaza success proves Israel is strong, not right
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by David Grossman - (Opinion) January 20, 2009 - 1:00am

Like the pairs of foxes in the biblical story of Samson, tied together by their tails, a flaming torch between them, so Israel and the Palestinians - despite the imbalance of power - drag each other along. Even when we try hard to wrest ourselves free, we burn those who are tethered to us - our double, our misfortune - as well as ourselves. And so, amidst the wave of nationalist hyperbole now sweeping the nation, it would not hurt to recall that in the final analysis, this last operation in Gaza is just another stop along a trail blazing with fire, violence and hatred.

American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017