Middle East News: World Press Roundup

US diplomacy in the Middle East continues as Israel moves to form a new government (1), (9), (11), (14). Palestinians explore possibilities for a “National Accord” government or other forms of political reunification (3), (5), (12). Israel’s new cabinet seems poised to take a sharp turn to the right (2) (8), while more Palestinians are being pushed out of their homes in Jerusalem (10). Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad continues to seek reconstruction aid for Gaza (4), (6).

U.S. envoy, Netanyahu meet on peace efforts
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Barak Ravid - February 26, 2009 - 1:00am

The special U.S. envoy tasked with jump-starting flagging peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians huddled Thursday with designated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a vocal opponent of the negotiations. The meeting was the first between Netanyahu and George Mitchell since Netanyahu was tapped to lead Israel's next government.

Israel's next government will be 'more Jewish and more Zionist'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
February 26, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel's next government will be "more Jewish and more Zionist", the confident faction leader of the right-wing National Union party declared Thursday, following coalition talks with members of Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party. "There was very positive atmosphere at the meeting [with Netanyahu]," said Yaakov Katz, as he emerged from the talks at Kfar Maccabiah in central Israel. "...There is an understanding with Likud that the next government will be more Jewish and more Zionist."

Egypt to Hamas, Fatah: Reconcile for Palestinian statehood
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
February 26, 2009 - 1:00am

Egyptian intelligence head Omar Suleiman on Thursday urged rival factions Hamas and Fatah to unite in order to establish a Palestinian state. "Everyone is looking towards you ... and are hanging their hopes on you. So do not prolong the disagreement and deepen the division. Unite ranks to fulfill the hopes of all for an independent Palestinian state," said Suleiman, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's right hand-man.

Fayyad asks donors to channel Gaza aid through him
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
February 26, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is asking donor countries to channel hundreds of millions in expected aid for Gaza "first and foremost" through his government. Fayyad's request is part of a 53-page report he presented to donors ahead of a pledging conference for Gaza next week. The report was obtained Thursday by The Associated Press. Gaza's Hamas rulers are not invited to the conference. Instead, the Palestinians will be represented by Fayyad, a US-backed moderate and Hamas rival.

Egypt urges Palestinian reconciliation
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Associated Press
February 26, 2009 - 1:00am

Egypt urged all Palestinian factions on Thursday to work on ending their internal chasm in reconciliation talks aimed at pushing rivals Hamas and Fatah to form an interim unity government. "Your people are looking forward to seeing the beginning of your unity," said Gen. Omar Sulieman, Egypt's intelligence head, in nationally televised comments Thursday. Distrust between the groups runs deep after a power struggle including Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza in 2007, leaving Fatah in charge of only the West Bank.

PA to seek $2.8 billion to rebuild war-ravaged Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Agence France Presse (AFP)
February 26, 2009 - 1:00am

The Palestinian Authority said on Wednesday it will seek $2.8 billion to rebuild Gaza, as Israel threatened another military offensive if alleged arms smuggling into the Hamas-run enclave continues. "We have prepared a document on the basis of which donors will make their aid pledges. It foresees a total of $2.8 billion for all sectors," Palestinian Premier Salam Fayyad said at the headquarters of his Western-backed government in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

A battle worth fighting
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
(Editorial) February 26, 2009 - 1:00am

Are we seeing the return of the US as an active mediator in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Reported US displeasure with Israeli foot-dragging in allowing in humanitarian aid to Gaza certainly signals that Israel will no longer be allowed to get away with just anything. That the US will also donate $900 million for the reconstruction of this poor and much-pummelled strip of land is also a positive sign, even if Western donors were happy in the past to pour money into Palestine and then see it all be blown away by Israel to no noticeable protest.

Netanyahu aide sees new approach to Palestinian state
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
by Jeffrey Heller, Alastair MacDonald - February 26, 2009 - 1:00am

Benjamin Netanyahu will move aggressively toward improving the Palestinian economy once he becomes Israel's prime minister, a senior adviser said, outlining a new approach toward the U.S.-backed peace process. The adviser, Dore Gold, told Reuters that while Netanyahu would make Iran's nuclear program his "highest priority," he would not neglect the Palestinian issue even though he envisions a state with only limited sovereign powers.

Clinton dips into Arab-Israeli peacemaking
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
by Sue Pleming - February 26, 2009 - 1:00am

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes her first foray into Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking next week, promising more than $900 million in aid for Gaza but with dim prospects of reviving talks soon. Middle East experts say the timing could not be worse, with a new Israeli government being cobbled together after last week's election and Egyptian efforts making no headway yet in forging a Palestinian unity government.

Why 88 Arab homes received eviction notices
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Christian Science Monitor
by Ilene Prusher - February 26, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel plans to demolish 88 homes in Silwan, a Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem, to make way for a new archaeological park, adding new fuel the slow-burning dispute over Jerusalem. A variety of neighborhood activists, Muslim leaders in Jerusalem, and even figures from the Palestinian Authority (PA) held a press conference Wednesday, saying that Israel was trying to minimize the Arab presence in this city claimed by both Palestinians and Jews as their capital. They say such a move amounts to ethnic cleansing.

Trade-off that ‘could be a positive development’
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
by Michael Jansen - (Opinion) February 26, 2009 - 1:00am

The Obama administration seems to be following a two-track policy on this region, starting with Syria and the Palestinians. On the declaratory track, US spokesmen and officials reiterate the timeworn mantras adopted by the Bush administration, conditioning renewal of relations on “a change in behaviour” in Damascus. Senator Benjamin Cardin, who took part in a five-member congressional delegation that visited the Syrian capital, stated, arrogantly: “We came here to see if Syria is ready to move forward and we will be watching its actions over the next weeks and months.”

‘Unity, only choice for Palestinians’
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
by Daoud Kuttab - (Opinion) February 26, 2009 - 1:00am

For the first time since the Hamas takeover in June 2007, Palestinian national unity talks have a better chance of success than in previous times, and the Gaza situation is probably the reason. This optimistic prediction can turn out terribly wrong, but I think the time is now ripe: the parties are much more realistic in their expectations and the public disgust with both sides after Gaza might produce the needed tipping point in favour of genuine reconciliation. Both negative and positive factors appear to favour such national unity among Palestinians today.

Clinton to press Israel on Gaza as children suffer
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Times
by Dale Gavlak - February 26, 2009 - 1:00am

Assistance to the Gaza Strip, where tens of thousands of displaced people are living in flimsy U.N. tents despite freezing winter temperatures and rain, will be "at the top of [the] agenda" when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visits the region next week, a U.S. official in Jerusalem said Wednesday. A month after a cease-fire ended Israel's military offensive in Gaza, many sleep on thin mats on the muddy ground and traumatized children burst into tears at any loud noise. Lots where they once played are littered with crushed concrete and other debris.

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