Middle East News: World Press Roundup

The network of underground tunnels in southern Gaza are under repair, despite threats from Israel against reopening them (1). The Chicago Tribune features an op-ed by ATFP Senior Fellow Hussein Ibish (3). The Los Angeles Times reports on the background of recently appointed Mideast Envoy George Mitchell (5) who is expected to make his first official visit to the region next week (6). Israel and Hamas disagree over the terms of a new Egyptian mediated ceasefire (8). Benjamin Netanyahu vows that a Likud-led Israeli government would not allow the building of new settlements in the West Bank, but would allow for “natural growth” (12).

A Flurry of Tunnel Repairs Is Underway in Gaza's South
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Post
by Jonathan Finer - January 25, 2009 - 1:00am

While the neighborhoods of Gaza remain in ruins, and tens of thousands of residents still lack water and power, reconstruction of its more illicit infrastructure was well underway Saturday in this bustling town on the Egyptian border. A Caterpillar backhoe bored into the sandy earth. Generators rumbled under the cover of tattered white tents. And above and below ground, teams of workers set about restoring the warren of smuggling tunnels that the Israeli air assault had sought to destroy.

The Bullets in My In-Box
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Ethan Bronner - January 24, 2009 - 1:00am

Faisal Husseini, a Palestinian leader who died at the start of this decade, used to tell a story about his first visit to Israel. The 1967 war had just ended, borders were suddenly opened and he took a drive to Tel Aviv, where at some point he found himself detained by an Israeli policeman. Questions and answers ensued. At one point the policeman said to him, “As a proud Zionist, I must tell you ....” At which Mr. Husseini burst out laughing.

Martyrs vs. Traitors myth gains currency in Gaza war's wake
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Chicago Tribune
by Hussein Ibish - (Opinion) January 25, 2009 - 1:00am

The conflict in Gaza has the potential of becoming a transformative political event in the Middle East that allows Islamists to capture the Arab political imagination for at least a generation. Along with familiar appeals to religious and cultural "authenticity," and dubious claims regarding good governance and democracy, Islamists are beginning to consolidate an exclusive claim to the most powerful Arab political symbols: Palestine and nationalism.

This Is Not a Test
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Thomas L. Friedman - (Opinion) January 24, 2009 - 1:00am

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. “Guy walks into a bar ...” No, not that one — this one: “This is the most critical year ever for Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy. It is five minutes to midnight. If we don’t get diplomacy back on track soon, it will be the end of the two-state solution.” I’ve heard that line almost every year for the last 20, and I’ve never bought it. Well, today, I’m buying it.

Middle East envoy George Mitchell no stranger to conflicts
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Henry Chu, Paul Richter - January 24, 2009 - 1:00am

During a grinding 18-month stretch in the 1990s, U.S. envoy George J. Mitchell crossed the Atlantic more than 100 times in a dogged search for peace between Northern Ireland's Protestants and Catholics. Even though he had a Catholic upbringing, Mitchell convinced Protestant Unionists of his evenhandedness, eventually reaching the Good Friday agreement in 1998 to help settle the 800-year dispute.

Obama envoy expected in Middle East next week
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from
by Adam Entous, Arshad Mohammed - January 25, 2009 - 1:00am

President Barack Obama plans to dispatch his Middle East envoy to the region next week, in a quick start to the new administration's efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking and shore up a shaky Gaza truce. Obama has taken the Middle East by surprise with the speed of his diplomatic activism. Western, Arab and Israeli diplomats said his envoy, former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, plans to meet leaders in Egypt, Israel, the occupied West Bank and Jordan, but they ruled out direct contacts with Hamas Islamists who rule the Gaza Strip.

EU aid chief in Gaza condemns Israel and Hamas
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Associated Press
January 26, 2009 - 1:00am

The EU's foreign aid chief visited Gaza on Monday and condemned its Islamist rulers Hamas for acting like "a terrorist movement", while criticizing Israel's offensive and appealing to the Jewish state to let in more aid.

Hamas wants shorter truce
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
January 26, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel has proposed to Egyptian mediators an 18-month ceasefire with Hamas, but the Islamist group that controls Gaza said it wants a one-year ceasefire, a Hamas official said on Sunday. “Hamas listened to the Israeli proposal presented by [Israeli defence ministry official] Amos Gilad, and with it a proposal for a ceasefire for a year-and-a-half, but Hamas presented a counterproposal of one year only,” Ayman Taha told reporters in Cairo after talks with Egyptian intelligence officials.

Obama's Messages to the Arabs: With the Two-State Solution and against the "Jordanian Option"
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Dar Al-Hayat
by Raghida Dergham - (Opinion) January 23, 2009 - 1:00am

When change came to the White House last Tuesday, as Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as President of the United States, this unique man took it upon himself to call for taking responsibility and "setting aside childish things", asserting that America during his presidency will not seek isolationism but will take the responsibility of world leadership. He extends his hand but only if the hand that meets it is not a clenched fist.

Will Hamas win the peace?
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
by Mohammed Yaghi - January 26, 2009 - 1:00am

For generations to come, the Palestinians will remember the horrific war in Gaza with pain and bitterness. But what cannot yet be seen is how Palestinians will view Hamas. Whether Hamas can claim a victory and whether Palestinians will believe them will be determined by the type of ceasefire that is eventually agreed, if a formal one is eventually agreed. The endgame - for both Israel and Hamas - is thus crucially important.

Iran MPs plan Gaza visit to praise Hamas resistance against 'Zionist offensive'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
January 26, 2009 - 1:00am

Five Iranian parliament members intend to visit the Gaza Strip to congratulate the Palestinians on their resistance against the "Zionist offensive." The Iranian lawmakers will tour parts of Gaza to evaluate the damage sustained during Israel's three-week-long Operation cast Lead. Iranian parliament member Mahmoud Ahmadi said the group also plans to meet with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, whom Ahmadi called "the legitimate Prime Minister of Palestine." Another lawmaker said Tehran's foreign ministry is trying to expedite the visa process, so they can enter Gaza via Egypt.

Netanyahu: Likud-led coalition wouldn't build new settlements
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Barak Ravid - January 26, 2009 - 1:00am

A Likud-led government would not build new settlements in the West Bank but would allow for natural growth, Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu told Quartet envoy Tony Blair Sunday, in an apparent attempt to calm the international community before this week's arrival of George Mitchell, the newly appointed U.S. envoy to the Middle East.

Arab initiative, Israeli choice
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Akiva Eldar - (Opinion) January 26, 2009 - 1:00am

For the third time since the Arab League unanimously voted in favor of the peace plan with Israel, the people here are being called upon to vote for a new Knesset. In a normal country, the various parties' positions on this important initiative would be on full display. In Israel, for the third time, the Saudi initiative is being pushed to the margins. It is far easier to sell fear of the Iranians to the voters and to promise "a strong Israel." What does a peace plan made in Saudi Arabia have in common with an Iranian-produced bomb? Plenty, it would appear.

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