Middle East News: World Press Roundup

In an op-ed for The Daily Star, ATFP President Ziad Asali argues in favor of free and open Palestinian elections scheduled for next January and calls for the establishment of a new Palestinian Authority government in the meanwhile (1). Protestors clash with police at a demonstration by right-wing Jewish Israelis in the town of Umm al-Fahm (2). The Labor and Likud party leaderships form an agreement, moving Prime Minister-designate Netanyahu one step closer to forming a coalition government (3) (7) (8). More information comes out regarding the roadside bomb in Lebanon that killed a senior PLO official and three others yesterday (5) (11). Responding to international pressure, Israel decides not to limit food aid to Gaza (10). A group of UN human rights experts report that during the Gaza war the IDF used an 11-year old Palestinian boy as a human shield (13) and the UK newspaper The Guardian publishes a major investigation into Israeli military abuses during the war (4).

It's now or nothing for Palestine peace
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Daily Star
by Ziad Asali - (Opinion) March 24, 2009 - 12:00am

The recent Israeli attack on Gaza made little strategic difference leaving Hamas still in charge of the strip, diminished militarily but arguably strengthened politically. Israel's use of disproportionate military force yielded political and public relations setbacks, with the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit still in captivity and occasional rockets still being fired from Gaza.

Clash in tense Israeli-Arab town
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from BBC News
March 24, 2009 - 12:00am

Israeli-Arab protesters have clashed with police as Jewish Israeli right-wingers marched in the majority-Arab town of Umm al-Fahm. Stun grenades and tear gas were used as hundreds of Israeli-Arab protesters threw stones, police said. Israeli-Arab residents of the town view the march as highly provocative and had vowed to stop it. The High Court gave permission for the march, but police had postponed it several times, fearing violence. About 2,500 police in riot gear were deployed as about 100 far-right activists marched in the town, waving Israeli flags.

Rightists Proest as Netanyahu Moves Closer to Coalition
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Isabel Kershner - March 24, 2009 - 12:00am

JERUSALEM — Israel’s conservative Likud Party initialed a coalition agreement with the center-left Labor Party early Tuesday, taking the prime minister-designate and Likud leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, a significant step closer to forming a broad government and avoiding leading a narrow right-wing coalition.

A case to answer
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
(Editorial) March 24, 2009 - 12:00am

Evidence that Israel committed war crimes in its 23-day operation in Gaza mounts by the week. Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have both appealed for a United Nations inquiry, after conducting their own investigations. Last week Ha'aretz published the testimonies of Israeli soldiers who alleged that a sniper shot a Palestinian mother and her two children, and that a company commander ordered an elderly woman to be killed. Yesterday Physicians for Human Rights accused soldiers of ignoring the special protection that Palestinian medical teams are entitled to receive.

Lebanon Press says PLO Bomb 'Settling of Scores'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Agence France Presse (AFP)
March 24, 2009 - 12:00am

BEIRUT (AFP) – The killing of a top Palestine Liberation Organisation official in Lebanon could be a "settling of scores" between rival factions, Lebanese newspapers said on Tuesday. Kamal Medhat, the PLO's number two in Lebanon, was killed in a roadside bombing outside the Mieh Mieh refugee camp in southern Lebanon on Monday along with three other people, including two of his bodyguards. "Mieh Mieh: a fratricide?" said the French language L'Orient-Le Jour newspaper. As-Safir newspaper, which is close to the Syrian-backed Lebanese opposition, echoed the view.

Key Labor minister announces support for joining coalition
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Mazal Mualem - March 24, 2009 - 12:00am

Senior Labor minister Isaac Herzog on Tuesday announced his support for party leader Ehud Barak's bid to bring the center-left Labor into a coalition headed by Prime Minister-Designate Benjamin Netanyahu. "A far-right government could push us to the brink of catastrophe," he said. "If it was possible for a government to be formed in which we could have a truly dramatic influence over all aspects, then I would want to be there and think that my party will not be damaged as a result"

Netanyahu and Barak strike deal
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
March 24, 2009 - 12:00am

JERUSALEM // The prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu and the outgoing defence minister Ehud Barak drafted a pact that would unite their Likud and Labour parties in Israel’s next government, Israeli radio said. The preliminary coalition deal awaited ratification in an afternoon vote by centre-left Labour’s executive, many of whose members oppose playing junior partner to the rightist Likud given its limited interest in peace talks with the Palestinians. Under the agreement, Mr Barak would remain defence minister, the radio reports said.

Netanyahu made an offer Barak couldn't refuse
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Mazal Mualem - (Analysis) March 24, 2009 - 12:00am

There is no debate over two of the achievements of the Labor-Likud coalition agreement that initialed on Tuesday morning: It was reached after negotiations unprecedented in their brevity ? taking less than 24 hours ? and it grants Labor a scandalous package of positions for its mere 13 Knesset seats, almost out of generosity. The deal gives the party five cabinet posts, including two of the most senior ? Defense Minister and Trade and Industry Minister - and another two deputy ministerial positions.

Kadima: Barak giving political opportunism a bad name
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Atilla Somfalvi - March 24, 2009 - 12:00am

Defense Minister Ehud Barak's rivals in the Labor Party are furious over the coalition agreement he signed Tuesday morning with Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, just hours before the Central Committee meeting aimed at deciding whether the party should join a Likud-led government. Meanwhile, the Kadima party, which may find itself pretty much alone in the opposition, is not missing a chance to attack its two rival parties. "This is the dirty trick of 2009," said Knesset Member Yoel Hasson, referring to Barak's plan to join "an extreme right-wing party."

Government decides not to limit entry of food to Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Roni Sofer - March 24, 2009 - 12:00am

The government decided Sunday not to limit the entry of food product to the Gaza Strip, following criticism voiced by the United States and Europe over Israel's crossings policy. According to the new decision, "The Israeli government is instructing the elements engaged in the matter to allow the free transfer of food products to Gaza's residents from all relevant sources, after ensuring that they are indeed food products – as part of the humanitarian efforts. "The government's instruction is to guarantee that the aforesaid is implemented."

Senior PLO official killed in south Lebanon bombing
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Daily Star
by Mohammed Zaatari - March 24, 2009 - 12:00am

A top Palestinian official and three other people were killed in a roadside bombing outside a restive refugee camp in southern Lebanon on Monday. Senior Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) official Kamal Medhat, two of his bodyguards and another Palestinian official were traveling in a convoy when the bomb exploded at the entrance of the Mieh Mieh camp near the town of Sidon. Medhat had visited the Mieh Mieh refugee camp to pay condolences to the family of Raef Naufal, the head of Fatah's Committee in the southern camp who died during armed clashes over the weekend.

'US Jews back Obama's Mideast path'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Hilary Leila Krieger - March 23, 2009 - 12:00am

A new J Street poll finds that large majorities of American Jews support US President Barack Obama's active engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even if that means exerting pressure and publicly disagreeing with Israel. American Jews would also like the US to deal with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas in pursuit of a peace agreement, a position at odds with current US and Israel policy shunning Hamas.

UN report: 'IDF used Gaza boy as human shield'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Associated Press
March 24, 2009 - 12:00am

IDF soldiers used an 11-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield during the Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in Gaza, a group of UN human rights experts said Monday. The army ordered the boy to walk in front of soldiers being fired on in the Gaza neighborhood of Tel al-Hawa and enter buildings before them, said the UN secretary-general's envoy for protecting children in armed conflict. Radhika Coomaraswamy said the incident on Jan. 15, after IDF tanks had rolled into the neighborhood, was a violation of Israeli and international law.

Palestinian group wins literary award
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Associated Press
March 24, 2009 - 12:00am

A Palestinian organization that promotes children's reading on Tuesday was named the winner of the 2009 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for Literature by the Swedish Arts Council. The annual award, named after late Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren, is the world's largest children's book award and includes a cash prize of 5 million kronor ($620,000). The Palestinian Tamer Institute For Community Education received the award for its work to promote reading in the West Bank and Gaza.

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