Middle East News: World Press Roundup

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).

Kerry and 2 U.S. Representatives Visit Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Taghreed El-Khodary - February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

Three congressional Democrats, including Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, visited Gaza on Thursday, saying they wanted to see for themselves the destruction caused by Israel’s war last month and assess the area’s needs. They were the first American government officials to visit this Palestinian coastal strip run by Hamas in more than three years and the first American legislators to come here since 2000, according to a spokeswoman for the American Consulate in Jerusalem.

Hamas 'sends Barack Obama letter'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from BBC News
February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

The Palestinian group Hamas has sent a letter addressed to the US president via a US politician visiting Gaza, a senior UN official has said. UN relief agency chief Karen Abu Zayd told the BBC the letter had been received by the UN and passed on. She did not say if Senator John Kerry had accepted it, and there were no details about the letter's contents. The US views Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, as a terrorist organisation and will not deal with it.

Netanyahu PM bid wins key support
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from BBC News
February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Israel's right-wing Likud party, has won the backing of a leading far-right party for his bid to become PM. Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman said he wanted to see a "wide" coalition government taking in the three largest parties. But Mr Netanyahu's rival for PM, Tzipi Livni, indicated she would prefer opposition to a unity government. The process follows an inconclusive general election on 10 February. President Shimon Peres is holding consultations with Israeli political parties to determine who to task with forming a government.

Key prisoners at center of Israeli-Hamas negotiations
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Christian Science Monitor
by Ilene Prusher - February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel on Wednesday increased pressure on Hamas to free Gilad Shalit, the soldier held by the Gaza militants, by saying it would not agree to a long-term cease-fire deal, open borders into the coastal strip, or release the 1,000 prisoners that Hamas wants freed until they know he is coming home. The Israeli Security Cabinet's stance angered Egyptian mediators and Hamas officials who say a prisoner swap, which appeared imminent, should be a separate issue from truce talks.

The Middle East starts to feel the Obama effect
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Independent
February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

Sooner or later it had to happen: someone had to start talking to Hamas. Today we report that a back channel already exists. French parliamentarians have met the Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal, with Syria as the go-between. MPs from other European countries, including Britain, have met lower-level Hamas representatives since the start of the year. This makes perfect sense. It is the way all pariah groups or states are enticed in from the cold. Negotiations begin unofficially, through third parties and with the necessary element of deniability.

To Sue or Not? Palestinians Face Dilemma After Report On Settlements
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jewish Daily Forward
by Nathan Jeffay - February 18, 2009 - 1:00am

On paper, it has never been easier for Palestinians whose land has been appropriated by Israeli settlements to have their day in court. Classified government data on settlements, made public in late January, documents for the first time precisely where settlements and parts of settlements have been built in violation of Israel’s own laws. The data reveals that in more than 30 settlements, buildings — including homes, roads, schools, synagogues and police stations — have gone up on privately owned Palestinian land.

Gaza war changes Middle East equation at Israel’s expense
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Le Monde Diplomatique
by Alain Gresh - February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

“They’re still living in the War of Independence (1948) and the Sinai campaign (1956). With them, it’s all about tanks, about controlling territories or controlled territories, holding this or that hill. But these things are worthless. (…) The Lebanon war (2006) will go down in history as the first war in which the military leadership understood that classical warfare has become obsolete” (1).

Colleges join hands in U.S.-Palestinian venture
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from International Herald Tribune
by Ethan Bronner - February 16, 2009 - 1:00am

It would be hard to find two institutions of higher learning that seem more different than Bard College, an upscale, bucolic college in Dutchess County, New York, and Al Quds University, a struggling, sprawling Palestinian institution in and near this disputed capital.

Awaiting Israel's next step
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Gulf News
by George S. Hishmeh - (Analysis) February 18, 2009 - 1:00am

The optimists in the Middle East, and they hardly exceed the number of fingers on one's hand, are wondering whether Benjamin Netanyahu, who may be charged of forming the new Israeli government, will pull a Richard Nixon out of his bag. After all, it was this former conservative American president who paved the way for establishing diplomatic relations with Communist China when he visited there in 1972.

Break down the US-Arab door with mutual respect
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Daily Star
by Rami Khouri - (Opinion) February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

Is a new page being turned in relations between the Arab and Islamic world and the United States? It would seem so, to judge by many of the interactions at the three-day annual US-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar, hosted by the Brookings Institution's Saban Center and the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Doctor who lost daughters in Gaza war: We were created to live together
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Media Line
February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

One of the most dramatic and tragic stories to emerge from the 22 days of fighting in January 2009 between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip occurred on January 16 when three daughters and a niece of Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish died as a result of Israeli shelling. The tragedy resonated deeply in both the Israeli and Palestinian communities because Dr. Ezzeldeen, a gynaecologist who lives in Gaza and works in a hospital there, was previously at Beersheba's Soroka University Medical Center where his specialty was in vitro fertilization.

Palestinian unity talks delayed as new rift emerges
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Daily Star
February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

The Egyptian state news agency MENA quoted a senior Egyptian official as saying on Wednesday that Cairo-brokered talks aimed at reconciling feuding Palestinian factions have been delayed. "Palestinian reconciliation talks scheduled for February 22 have been delayed for a short period because more discussions are needed," the unidentified official said. The talks are part of an Egyptian-proposed plan to end Israel's massive three-week offensive against the Gaza Strip in December and January that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, two-thirds of whom the UN said were civilians.

U.S. to Send Clinton to Cairo Donors Conference
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Media Line
February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will represent the United States at the donors’ conference in Cairo next month to raise money for the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip. Clinton told reporters her goal was “to try to get humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.” Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, host of the conference, says at least 70 nations will be in attendance at the conference. Meanwhile, the first of back-to-back congressional visits to Damascus was held on Wednesday when Maryland Senator Ben Cardin met with Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad.

Livni: No Kadima fig-leaf for coalition that won't advance peace
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

Shortly after Avigdor Lieberman announced his endorsement of Likud Chair Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister, Kadima Chair Tzipi Livni said Thursday she would not sit in a government that fails to advance the peace process. "Kadima represents a number of things Israel needs, from advancing the peace process and fighting terror to domestic issues that have to be addressed," Livni said during a visit to southern Israel. "Kadima won't provide cover for a government of paralysis," she said, hinting that she would not join a rightist coalition headed by Netanyahu.

3 Qassam rockets strike western Negev; no one hurt
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Anshel Pfeffer - February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

Three Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip Thursday evening struck open areas in the western Negev, causing no damage or injuries. The first hit near Sderot and several hours later, two more rockets exploded near Netivot. Two Qassams were also fired into southern Israel Thursday morning. In response to the morning attack, Israel Air Force warplanes bombed six smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border, the army said.

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