Middle East News: World Press Roundup

The director of operations for the UN's refugee agency in Gaza criticizes both Israel's blockade and Hamas' leadership (1). The Christian Science Monitor examines how Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's angry remarks at the Davos conference may have damaged his credibility as a go-between (2). After accusing the Hamas government of stealing hundreds of tons of food supplies intended for civilians, the United Nations suspends all shipments of aid into Gaza (3). With Israeli elections set to take place next Tuesday, speculation about outcomes continues to grow as the gap between the parties appears to have narrowed considerably (4) (11). Recently released poll results show that Israel's Gaza offensive has boosted Palestinian support for Hamas (6), as the political divide between Hamas and Fatah continues to grow (10). The National looks at Egypt's role as regional mediator (9). A commentary article in the Daily Star by ATFP Senior Fellow Hussein Ibish examines the rise in Arab political discourse of the myth of "the martyrs versus the traitors." (13).

U.N.’s Gaza Refugee Director Criticizes Israel and Hamas
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Neil MacFarquhar - February 5, 2009 - 1:00am

John Ging, the director of operations for the United Nations refugee agency in Gaza, said Thursday that Israel’s blockade was creating growing misery there by choking off basic humanitarian supplies like food, medicine, clothes and blankets as well as school supplies. He also criticized the leadership of Hamas for letting its police force run wild, attacking a distribution center for the needy to cart off supplies.

A setback for Turkey as Mideast broker
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Christian Science Monitor
by Yigal Schleifer - February 6, 2009 - 1:00am

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent outburst at the World Economic Forum, where he berated Israeli President Shimon Peres for Israel's attack on Gaza, has won him unprecedented popularity in the Arab world. Mr. Erdogan's tirade may help Turkey reconnect with the region after decades of being estranged. But it could also damage Turkey's aspirations to be a mediating power in the Middle East, particularly between Israel and its neighbors.

UN halts Gaza aid over 'thefts'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from BBC News
February 6, 2009 - 1:00am

The UN aid agency in Gaza says it has suspended all aid shipments, accusing the Hamas government of seizing hundreds of tonnes of food supplies. Ten lorries carrying flour and rice were taken from the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the UN's Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) said. Hamas admitted a "mistake" had been made and says it will return the goods. But Unwra says deliveries will not restart until it has assurances that such seizures will not happen again. Gaza is facing a humanitarian crisis after Israel's three-week offensive.

Israeli race tightens with Livni gains
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Financial Times
by Tobias Buck - February 6, 2009 - 1:00am

The race to become Israel’s next prime minister has tightened, with the latest polls showing the right-wing Likud party under Benjamin Netanyahu is losing ground to his centrist challenger, Tzipi Livni. Ms Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, has led her Kadima party to a late sprint that has seen it catch up on Likud. Polls show that Kadima is not only gaining ground, but that Likud is losing support to the far-right Yisraeli Beiteinu group.

Israeli politicians offer territory swaps and tunnels to solve the endless crisis
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Times
by James Hider - February 6, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel's hard-fought election campaign is throwing out a number of grand plans reminiscent of some of the treaties that carved up the Middle East in the 20th century, including a scheme to transfer Jewish-held areas of the West Bank to Israel in exchange for Arab-populated territories. As well as extreme right-wing plans to redraw boundaries Ehud Barak, the Labour Party leader and current Defence Minister, has proposed digging a 30-mile tunnel between the blockaded Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, to allow Palestinians the territorial continuity they are demanding in any peace deal.

Gaza offensive boosted Hamas, poll concludes
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Financial Times
by Tobias Buck - February 6, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian support for the Islamist Hamas movement has soared in the wake of Israel’s three-week offensive against the Gaza Strip, according to a poll released on Thursday. The survey, by the independent Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, also found that the majority of Palestinians thought the group had emerged victorious from the conflict. Almost one in two Palestinians said Hamas won the Gaza war, while less than 10 per cent said Israel had triumphed.

Rise of the moderates
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by Antony Lerman - (Opinion) February 6, 2009 - 1:00am

Each and every Jew who protested as a Jew against the Gaza war had a personal Jewish imperative for doing so. Some simply expressed dismay; most demanded action to end the carnage. To say that we failed is neither an expression of despair nor a statement that dissent wasn't worthwhile. Realism suggests that it was inevitable.

Egypt savours peace mediator role
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The National
by Matt Bradley - February 6, 2009 - 1:00am

Representatives from more than half a dozen Arab nations may have met this week, but the fact that they all agreed to a plan drafted by Egyptians has not been lost on analysts here. After years of watching Saudi Arabia take the lead in the Middle East peace process and after more than a month of facing the collective anger of the Muslim world for its refusal to open its border crossing with the Gaza Strip, Egypt, many here say, has once again taken its seat at the head of the Middle East’s diplomatic table.

Political Divide Between Hamas, Fatah Deepens
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Middle East Times
by Mel Frykberg - February 6, 2009 - 1:00am

Hamas security men are back on the streets, directing traffic and trying to restore some semblance of law and order following isolated incidents of looting in the wake of Israel's 23-day military assault on Gaza. Operation Cast Lead left over 1,300 Palestinians dead and nearly 500 wounded, most of them civilian, and also left the infrastructure of the coastal territory decimated. The smuggling of weapons, and everyday essential items, into Gaza and sporadic rocket fire on Israel has resumed.

Haaretz Poll: Kadima, Likud are neck-and-neck with 4 days to go
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Mazal Mualem, Yossi Verter - February 6, 2009 - 1:00am

Likud and Kadima are in a neck-and-neck race to be the next Knesset's largest party, according to the latest Haaretz-Dialog poll. The poll, the last to be published before next Tuesday's election, showed the gap between the two parties continuing to narrow: It is now down to only two seats in Likud's favor.

Gaza aftermath: IDF bides its time, Hamas leaders hide out, everyone awaits truce
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff - February 6, 2009 - 1:00am

Just days before the Knesset elections, the decision on whether to continue the confrontation in the south lies in the hands of Hamas. If the organization accepts the Egyptian cease-fire initiative, this will likely restore calm to the region along the border with the Gaza Strip, at least for a few months; a negative reply will set Israel back on the road of assassinating Hamas leaders, eventually leading to a new round of hostilities.

UN to probe Hamas for use of children
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Ruth Eglash - February 6, 2009 - 1:00am

The United Nations is ready to address Hamas's use of children as human shields during last month's IDF offensive in Gaza, the UN special representative for children and armed conflict told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. "We have not yet dealt directly with the human shield issue, but we will now mention it in our reports," Radhika Coomaraswamy said in an exclusive interview following a four-day visit to the region.

The myth of Martyrs versus Traitors
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from
by Hussein Ibish - (Opinion) February 6, 2009 - 1:00am

The recent 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 their 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.

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