Middle East News: World Press Roundup

President Shimon Peres invites Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new Israeli government (1) (2), while Kadima leader Tzipi Livni expresses her reservations about some of the extremist parties that may be included (3). The three U.S. legislators who visited Gaza yesterday issue statements about the destruction and reiterate the American position on conditions for engaging Hamas (4) (8). An editorial in Haaretz warns against allowing a place for ultra-rightist Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman in the new government (5). An editorial in the Boston Globe speculates on John Kerry's upcoming visit to Syria (7). In Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria expresses concern over the rightward and intolerant direction of Israeli politics (10). Mideast envoy George Mitchell voices his support for Egyptian mediated Palestinian unity talks (13).

Netanyahu Tapped to Form Israel’s New Government
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Isabel Kershner - February 20, 2009 - 1:00am

Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the conservative Likud Party, was invited by Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, on Friday to take the lead in assembling the next government. Whatever form that government takes, Mr. Netanyahu, 59, is widely expected to return as prime minister a decade after the last government he led fell apart.

A Second Chance
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Times
February 20, 2009 - 1:00am

Israeli prime ministers often achieve most in their second term. Yitzhak Rabin and Yitzhak Shamir were both able to launch the initiatives, garner the political support and conclude the agreements that brought peace closer when they returned to office after an unfocused first round in Israel's bruising political rink. It now looks likely that Binyamin Netanyahu, the leader of the right-wing Likud party, will return to office as prime minister for a second term.

Livni to Haaretz: I may consider a Likud-Yisrael Beitenu coalition
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Yossi Verter - February 20, 2009 - 1:00am

Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni will not join a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu that would include Shas, Habayit Hayehudi and National Union, but she would be willing to consider a Likud-Kadima-Yisrael Beiteinu coalition, she told Haaretz on Thursday. President Shimon Peres is expected to meet separately Friday with Netanyahu and Livni to try to promote a broad coalition that would include Kadima.

US lawmakers hear 'heart wrenching' tales during visit to Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Daily Star
February 20, 2009 - 1:00am

US Democratic representatives Brian Baird and Keith Ellison expressed shock at the plight of the war-shattered Gaza Strip during a rare visit to the Palestinian enclave on Thursday. "The amount of physical destruction and the depth of human suffering here is staggering" Baird said in a statement issued jointly with Ellison during their visit which coincided with a similar trip by US Senator John Kerry. The visits were the first by US lawmakers since Hamas, an Islamist movement Washington labels a terrorist outfit, took power in Gaza by force after having won legislative elections in 2006.

Keep Lieberman out of the government
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
February 20, 2009 - 1:00am

Israelis still don't know who won last week's elections, or who will put together the next government. The only clear result is that Avigdor Lieberman is trying to dictate the nature and composition of the new coalition. This is evident from the conditions he demanded of Likud and Kadima for Yisrael Beiteinu's joining the government and from his appearance yesterday at the President's Residence, where he stipulated that he wanted a broad coalition headed by Benjamin Netanyahu.

'Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps a time bomb’
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
February 20, 2009 - 1:00am

Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps are breeding grounds for extremist groups and constitute a “time bomb” that needs urgent attention, the International Crisis Group think tank said Thursday. Successive Lebanese governments were largely to blame for a “catastrophic” situation in the camps which were set up after the creation of Israel in 1948, the Brussels-based ICG said in a report.

John Kerry's role in Damascus
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Boston Globe
February 20, 2009 - 1:00am

Syria may not be as indispensable to Mideast peace as its president, Bashar Assad, says it is, but when John Kerry visits Damascus this weekend as the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he will have an opportunity to prepare the way for a new policy of dialogue with Syria.

Kerry shuns Hamas during Gaza visit
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Al-Jazeera English
February 20, 2009 - 1:00am

The US will not change its stance towards Hamas, John Kerry, the former democratic US presidential candidate, has said during a tour of Gaza. His comments came on Thursday during the highest-level visit by a US official to the territory since Hamas seized control two years ago. "I am here to listen with the UN personnel on the ground to hear ... the things we need to do is to improve the situation in the region," he said.

Unlocking Palestinian politics
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Common Ground News Service
by Jan Künzl, Michael Meyer-Resende - February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

With the world's focus on the recent war, a less-noticed aspect of the current Palestinian malaise is the expiry of President Mahmoud Abbas’ term this January. While the two-state peace solution with Israel is premised on an emerging Palestinian state with functioning institutions, the constitutional legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority is dwindling. Without a political process between Hamas and Fatah, the territories will become two statelets run by de-facto rulers.

Israel’s biggest danger
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Common Ground News Service
by Fareed Zakaria - February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

Even before a new coalition could emerge, Israel’s latest election was historic. It marked the collapse of Labour, the party that can plausibly claim to have founded Israel and produced its most celebrated prime ministers, from David Ben-Gurion (as head of Labour’s predecessor, Mapai), through Golda Meir to Yitzhak Rabin.

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.

The Cleanser: Lobby Whistles Up Cordesman to "Prove" Israel Waged a Clean War in Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Counterpunch
by Norman Finkelstein - February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

Anthony H. Cordesman, a leading military analyst from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has published a “strategic analysis” of the Gaza massacre.(1) He reaches the remarkable conclusion that “Israel did not violate the laws of war.” The report is based on “briefings in Israeli [sic] during and immediately after the fighting made possible by a visit sponsored by Project Interchange, and using day-to-day reporting issued by the Israeli Defense Spokesman.” Cordesman omits mention that Project Interchange is funded by the American Jewish Committee.

Mitchell could support PA unity gov't
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Counterpunch
by Alexander Cockburn, Hilary Leila Krieger - (Editorial) February 19, 2009 - 1:00am

US Middle East Envoy George Mitchell expressed support for Egyptian efforts to forge a Palestinian national unity government, indicating that America could take a new tack on Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, during a conference call Thursday with Jewish leaders.

Critics aside, Israeli officials see successes in Gaza operation
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
by Leslie Susser - February 16, 2009 - 1:00am

A month after the Gaza war, with Kassam rockets continuing to fall in southern Israel, many skeptical Israelis are questioning whether the war achieved anything. Since the cease-fire on Jan. 18, militiamen have fired nearly 50 rockets and mortars at civilian targets in the Gaza periphery. Israel has retaliated with targeted assassinations and airstrikes against smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egyptian border.

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