Middle East News: World Press Roundup

Raghida Dergham examines challenges facing the Arab world in the evolving strategic situation in the Middle East (1). Obama administration officials say the U.S. intends to provide $900 million in aid to Gaza (2). Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to form a coalition government in Israel continue (3). Christopher Hitchens draws a vivid portrait of Israeli ultra right-wing politician Avigdor Liberman (5). In separate statements, Palestinian President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad call for Hamas to join a Palestinian unity government that meets international conditions (6) (8). Secretary of State Clinton plans to travel to Israel and the West Bank next week, in her first official visit as Secretary (7). The U.S. is reportedly planning to open a permanent office in Jerusalem for Special Mideast Envoy George Mitchell (14).

Hasty Interpretations of Developments...and of US Dialogue with Iran and Syria
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Dar Al-Hayat
by Raghida Dergham - February 20, 2009 - 1:00am

There is an urgent need for redefining priorities and for profound thinking about the choices available to issues that pertain to the fate of the Middle East and of its relations with the outside world, with the aim of setting a comprehensive and lucid framework to prevent the shower of rumors, claims, predictions and impressions, as well as their harmful results. Among the issues that require responsible focus are the following:

U.S. to give $900 million in aid to Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from International Herald Tribune
by Helene Cooper - February 24, 2009 - 1:00am

The Obama administration intends to provide some $900 million to help rebuild Gaza after the Israeli incursion that ended last month, administration officials said Monday. In an early sign of how the administration plans to deal with Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls Gaza, an official said that the aid would not go to Hamas but would be funneled through nongovernmental organizations.

Netanyahu Rebuffed Again in Efforts to Form Coalition
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Isabel Kershner - February 24, 2009 - 1:00am

Ehud Barak, the leader of Israel’s center-left Labor Party, turned down a proposal on Monday by the prime minister-designate, Benjamin Netanyahu of the conservative Likud Party, to join a broad governing coalition. The refusal dealt a further blow to Mr. Netanyahu’s efforts to forge a unity government. His meeting on Sunday with Tzipi Livni, the leader of the centrist Kadima Party, ended without agreement.

Obama's goad to Damascus
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Christian Science Monitor
February 24, 2009 - 1:00am

As a Middle East way station for terrorists, Syria can't be ignored. Candidate Barack Obama pledged during the campaign to engage Syria in contrast to President Bush's attempt to isolate it. Now a limited engagement has begun and it's time to ask what President Obama will give up as he tiptoes toward the likelihood of bazaar-like haggling with Damascus.

Avigdor Lieberman's ChutzpahThe right to return cannot confer the right to expel.
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Slate
by Christopher Hitchens - February 23, 2009 - 1:00am

A reliable friend and colleague swears that he saw the following incident in the Israeli-occupied territories a couple of years ago. A Palestinian physician, in urgent need of permission to travel, was trying to persuade a soldier at a roadblock to allow him to hurry on to the next town. He first tried the stone-faced guard in Hebrew, in which many Arabs are fluent, but he received no response. He then made an attempt in English, which is something of a local lingua franca, yet he fared no better.

Prime Minister Salam Fayyad: Palestinian factions should unite and make peace with Israel
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Israel Policy Forum
by Sadie Goldman - (Interview) February 24, 2009 - 1:00am

In an interview released yesterday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, called for a united Palestinian government that includes Fatah and Hamas, and would continue the peace process with Israel. The following are key excerpts: On Palestinian reconciliation,

Hillary Clinton said to be planning Middle East trip
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Associated Press
February 24, 2009 - 1:00am

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will visit Israel and the West Bank next week for her first trip to the region as America's top diplomat, Israeli and Palestinian officials said Monday. The Israeli officials said Clinton would arrive in Israel on March 2 for two days of meetings with leaders. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the visit had not been announced by the State Department, which had not released Clinton's schedule for next week.

Abbas: Hamas must recognize Israel to gain world legitimacy
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Associated Press
February 24, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday a new national unity government that includes rival Hamas must be in place and internationally recognized to manage humanitarian aid for Gaza and the West Bank. Abbas said he hopes the upcoming round of reconciliation talks would lead Hamas to accept deals with Israel agreed to by previous Palestinian administrations even if they are not in line with the group's own political platform.

Peace With Syria Could Catalyze Middle East Process
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Middle East Times
by Cesar Chelala - February 24, 2009 - 1:00am

Benjamin Netanyahu plants trees in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights with his family and friends from his political party such as Moshe Bugi Yealon (Former IDF Chief of Staff-pictured L). ... (Rapport via Newscom)

Syria has more need to talk than the US
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The National
February 24, 2009 - 1:00am

With two congressional delegations having visited Damascus since the US presidential election, Barack Obama appears to be keeping his promise to engage with Syria as part of his regional diplomacy strategy. The heads of the foreign relations committees of both the House of Representatives and the Senate met the Syrian president, Bashir al Assad, purportedly to gauge the country’s openness to negotiation.

An Intra-Arab Calm before the Dialogue
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Dar Al-Hayat
by Mohammad Salah - (Opinion) February 22, 2009 - 1:00am

Postponing the intra-Palestinian dialogue came as no surprise, as all indications have shown that the Palestinians are not yet ready for dialogue. However, the real surprise was when Egypt announced a few weeks ago that the Palestinian factions would embark on dialogue on February 22nd. At that time, dialogue seemed illogical in light of the conflicting interests, clashing positions and different agendas. Also, it was not logical for the "brother enemies" to hold a dialogue before Egypt secures a truce between Israel and Hamas.

Israel is blind to its own Arab citizens
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Daily Star
by Fareed Zakaria - (Opinion) February 24, 2009 - 1:00am

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

Israeli paralysis calls for Arab action
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
by James J. Zogby - February 24, 2009 - 1:00am

Some elections serve as clarifying moments in a nation’s history, others resolve little and serve only as a reflection of internal division. The former provide direction, the latter create paralysis. The recently completed Israeli elections and ongoing deliberations over to the shape of the next government serve to demonstrate the profound divisions that exist in Israel and the dysfunctional state of its political system.

Report: U.S. to open permanent Jerusalem office for envoy
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Yoav Stern - February 24, 2009 - 1:00am

The United States is planning to open a permanent office in Jerusalem for its special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Tuesday. Mitchell has been tasked with advancing stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. He is set to make his second visit to Israel in his current capacity in the last week of February. Last week, Mitchell told the heads of several U.S. Jewish groups that while the issue of Israeli settlements comes up in every conversation with Arab leaders, "it is not the only issue." Advertisement

'Re-education' for West Bank mosque preachers
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Ali Waked - February 24, 2009 - 1:00am

Last Friday's sermon in one of the mosques near Ramallah, the sheikh opened with the words, "Today we won't talk politics; we will talk about issues of religion." As basic as this comment may seem to an outsider, those familiar with internal Palestinian politics understood that this was a veiled attack aimed at Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's government and his policy on religion, sermons, mosques, and the way they are run.

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