Middle East News: World Press Roundup

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).

West Bank Land Seized As Israel Looks to Build
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Post
by Karin Laub - February 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Plans to expand a West Bank settlement by up to 2,500 homes drew Palestinian condemnation Monday and presented an early test for President Obama, whose Middle East envoy is well known for opposing such construction. Israel opened the way for possible expansion of the Efrat settlement by taking control of a nearby West Bank hill of 423 acres. The rocky plot was recently designated state land and is part of a master plan that envisions the settlement growing from 9,000 to 30,000 residents, Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi said.

A new enemy for Gaza smugglers
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Ashraf Khalil - February 16, 2009 - 1:00am

Reporting from Rafah, Gaza Strip -- The tunnel owners sit around the fire, passing cups of sweet tea and talking bitterly about the siege. But on this early February morning they're not talking about the Israeli jets and their occasional airstrikes on the hundreds of tunnels that worm their way from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, slipping in supplies and, some say, weapons. Instead, the Palestinians' fury is directed at the Egyptian government, which in the wake of this winter's Israeli offensive has cracked down on the Gaza tunnel trade, choking the flow of goods.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Iran
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
by Mehdi Khalaji - February 12, 2009 - 1:00am

During a February trip to Iran, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal praised Iranian leaders for their support during the conflict in the Gaza Strip, a further indication of the strengthening ties between the Sunni Islamist group, which the United States has designated as a terrorist organization, and the Shiite regime in Tehran. Mashal's statements come on the heels of the U.S. Treasury Department's terrorist designations of al-Qaeda leaders and operatives sheltered in Iran.

Israel Takes Control of More West Bank Land
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Asharq Alawsat
February 16, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel has taken control of a large chunk of land near a prominent West Bank settlement, paving the way for the possible construction of 2,500 settlement homes, officials said Monday, in a new challenge to Mideast peacemaking.

Transitional Palestinian Government by April
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Asharq Alawsat
by Salaah Jum'ah - February 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian sources said that Egypt informed all the Palestinian factions, which have been invited to attend inter-Palestinian dialogue in Cairo on 22 February, of the need to form a transitional Palestinian government by no later than April. The sources said that this government's task will be to run the PNA affairs, prepare for presidential and legislative elections to be held in January next year, and to coordinate with the donor parties to rebuild what the Israeli war machine destroyed until a new government takes office.

A ‘second life’ for public diplomacy in the Middle East
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The National
by Muhammad Ayish - February 16, 2009 - 1:00am

Last month’s inauguration of US President Barack Obama has sent a gripping sense of anticipation throughout the Arab region where a potential shift in how America sees its image around the world is being received with optimism. We have come to learn that improving the United States’s image among Muslim populations in particular has topped the list of urgent issues requiring the attention of President Obama and Congress.

One on One: 'I was the resident skeptic'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Ruthie Blum Leibowitz - (Interview) February 12, 2009 - 1:00am

The one thing Elliott Abrams and I do not discuss during our hour-long interview in Jerusalem this week is his imminent career move. More specifically, how someone who has spent the better part of the last three decades vilified by those who consider "neoconservatism" a four-letter word will fare as a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a key part of the liberal establishment.

Why has Israel backtracked on Shalit deal?
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Amos Harel - (Analysis) February 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel's behavior in the past few days in the discussions for the Shalit deal and the cease-fire agreement has put the Egyptian mediators off balance.

Report: Ahmed Qureia dismissed as PA negotiator in Israel talks
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Jackie Khoury - February 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has dismissed Ahmed Qureia from his position as the PA's senior negotiator in talks with Israel, the pan-Arab paper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported Tuesday. Abbas has shifted responsibility for the peace negotiations from Qureia, a veteran PA official, to Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Liberation Organization's representative for the negotiations, the London-based paper said.

Lasting Gaza ceasefire remains elusive
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Gulf News
February 16, 2009 - 1:00am

The talks on turning the ceasefire in Gaza into a more lasting truce have broken down, but it is important for both Israelis and Palestinians that a proper truce is established. Egypt has the thankless task of mediating between the two sides, trying to find the conditions that would lead to a lasting truce.

New proposals
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
February 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Russia is pushing for a Middle East peace conference in Moscow this summer, to follow up on the 2007 Annapolis meeting that failed to deliver on its promises. During hisrecent visit for talks with Israeli leaders, including President Shimon Peres, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and Kadima and Likud leaders Tzipi Livni and Benjamin Netanyahu, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov raised this Russian idea and offered additional assurances that the peace process will not be complicated by inviting Hamas for talks or pushing for a fast Syrian-track negotiations.

In Morocco, anger at Arab collusion against Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Daily Star
by Anouar Boukhars - (Opinion) February 17, 2009 - 1:00am

I have just returned from Morocco where I witnessed first-hand the massive emotional reaction to Israel's brutal destruction of Gaza. Wherever I went, I could not help but notice the pervasive sense of popular anger and despair, powerlessness and humiliation, guilt and shamefulness. The country was a pot of boiling emotions and ardent indignation at both Israel's indiscriminate killing of innocent children and women and the stunning collusion of a number of Arab regimes in Israel's deadly assault on Gaza.

Egypt's strategy toward Gaza is an incremental, long-term one
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Daily Star
by Gamal A. G. Soltan - (Opinion) February 17, 2009 - 1:00am

The Gaza war was seemingly an inevitable conflict. The pre-war reality was unacceptable to any of the concerned parties. Hamas was not satisfied with a ceasefire that kept the tiny Gaza Strip isolated from the world. Palestinian suffering in besieged Gaza challenged Hamas' claim of effectiveness as an elected government capable of providing for the wellbeing of its people. Nor did the terms of the ceasefire allow Hamas to pursue the program of resilient resistance that is so central to the movement's identity. The war was Hamas' way out of this entrapment.

Optimism and the Dangers of Relapse
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Dar Al-Hayat
by Abdullah Iskandar - February 16, 2009 - 1:00am

There are conflicting signs related to the two main areas of conflict in our region, Lebanon and Palestine. On the one hand, there is optimistic talk about defusing the crises that have recently swept the region, in a manner that enhances the inter-Arab reconciliation and cements optimism. On the other hand, there are warnings that herald a potential relapse and a return to square one.

From Dividing the Palestinians to Threatening Bahrain
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Asharq Alawsat
by Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed - February 15, 2009 - 1:00am

Some people still think that all that is said about Iran is mere lies. However, Iran's latest hostile claim to Bahrain has made the picture all the clearer, and that Iran is a big problem for the Arab region in all the sense of the word. Iranian officials have again made statements claiming that the Kingdom of Bahrain is part of Iran and that it is the 14th province of Iran. It is as though Iran's occupation of the three UAE islands is not enough. That is not all.

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