Middle East News: World Press Roundup

Hamas announces it will ban elections in Gaza, as NPR highlights the group's declining popularity and the New York Times profiles the threat to its rule from more extreme Islamic groups. A number of articles and commentaries consider the implications of the first J Street conference. The 2009 State Department International Religious Freedom Report says Israel continues to discriminate against religious minorities. Ha'aretz reports that the US is considering "indirect" Israeli-Palestinian talks as the next phase of the peace process, but other reports suggest that Arab states are urging the Palestinians to reenter negotiations without preconditions. In The Guardian, Ahmad Khalidi argues that the PA plan for institution building focuses too much on the West Bank and might weaken the Palestinian hand in negotiations with Israel.

Hamas to ban holding of elections in Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Google News
October 28, 2009 - 12:00am

The Hamas-run interior ministry in the Gaza Strip said on Wednesday that it would ban the holding of elections called for by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the coastal territory. "The ministry will hold accountable anyone involved in the elections," the interior ministry said in a statement. The ministry added that it "rejects the holding of elections in the Gaza Strip because they were announced by someone who has no right to make such an announcement and because they came without national agreement."

In Gaza, Hamas Finds Popularity Waning
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from National Public Radio (NPR)
by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro - October 27, 2009 - 12:00am

It has been more than two years since the militant Palestinian group Hamas took over the Gaza Strip after a short but bloody war with the rival Fatah movement, which rules the West Bank. Since then, Hamas has been consolidating its political power. But the recent conflict with Israel and Gaza's continuing isolation are taking a toll on the group's popularity on the streets.

Salafism: A New Threat to Hamas
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Dan Williams - October 27, 2009 - 12:00am

On the streets of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, clusters of men wear long tunics over baggy trousers, a costume common in Pakistan but virtually unknown among Palestinians — until recently. It is an emblem of Salafism, a branch of Islam that advocates restoring a Muslim empire across the Middle East and into Spain. Some Salafis preach violence, even killing Muslims deemed not pious enough. While historically a fringe group in the southeastern Mediterranean, Salafis have sought inroads in Lebanon and Jordan and are battling Hamas in Gaza.

Does J Street arrival signal a split in America's Israel lobby?
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Christian Science Monitor
by Ilene Prusher - October 27, 2009 - 12:00am

Since the 1950s the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has been the mainstream voice of the Jewish-American community and its efforts to strengthen support for Israel in Washington. Along comes J Street, a young upstart founded last year, in part as an answer to AIPAC – perceived by many progressive American Jews to have a clear right-wing tilt, and hardly representative of those want to see a much more aggressive push towards a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Hamas to block elections in Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
October 28, 2009 - 12:00am

The Hamas-controlled Ministry of the Interior announced on Wednesday that it will not allow elections to go ahead in the Gaza Strip as decreed by President Mahmoud Abbas. The call for elections "came from someone who does not have the right to declare it," a ministry statement said in reference to Abbas. The ministry reiterated Hamas’ objection that the elections were called without a national unity agreement in place. The statement said furthermore that the ministry will "bring to account anyone who deals with these elections."

Fatah leader: Abbas will not run in elections unless asked
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
October 28, 2009 - 12:00am

The Palestinian President will not run for office in the 24 January elections, a Fatah leader announced on Tuesday. Fatah leader Abdullah Abu Samhadaneh issued a statement saying Abbas “is eager to rest from this long and arduous trip, which began with the revolution and continues to this day,” as part of a paper urging Hamas to sign the Egyptian unity proposal so unified elections can go forward. He also noted, however, that if Abbas is "instructed by the command [Palestinian leaders] he will accept the commission."

US: Israel discriminates against non-Jews
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
October 26, 2009 - 12:00am

Israel continues to discriminate against its religious minorities legally, financially and culturally, according to a US State Department review on worldwide religious freedom released on Monday. In its 2009 International Religious Freedom Report, the foreign service said that despite past documentation of prejudice against minorities, the status of respect for religious freedoms by Israel "was unchanged during the reporting period."

U.S. leaning toward indirect Mideast peace talks
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Barak Ravid - October 28, 2009 - 12:00am

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will arrive in Israel on Saturday night for her first official visit since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government was sworn in. Clinton's visit underscores the goal of reaching a compromise that could see the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. In light of the ever-wide gaps between the Israeli and Palestinian sides, voices are growing within the Obama administration to shift strategy and suffice with indirect - rather than direct - negotiations.

Avi Issacharoff / Obama demands may leave Abbas feeling betrayed
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Avi Issacharoff - October 28, 2009 - 12:00am

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will arrive on Sunday for a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority during which she will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas. George Mitchell, the U.S. Middle East envoy, will be in Israel Thursday to lay the groundwork for the secretary of state's visit. Clinton and Mitchell will attempt to persuade Abbas to reopen negotiations with Israel on a final peace agreement.

Arabs to Abbas: Renew talks with Israel without freeze
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Ali Waked - October 28, 2009 - 12:00am

As Israel and the Palestinians exchange blame for the failure to get peace talks off the ground, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is reportedly under pressure from the Arab camp to renew negotiations. Palestinian sources told Ynet that Arab officials have passed on messages to Abbas prodding him to agree to renewed peace talks without conditioning them on a total freeze of building in West Bank settlements.

Grassroots group aims to break deadlock over Israeli settlements
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by Rory McCarthy - October 28, 2009 - 12:00am

There are few more pressing issues for the Palestinians of Salfit, living deep in the rocky hills of the occupied West Bank, than the remarkable expansion of the Israeli settlements around them. Sitting along a broad hilltop range above them is Ariel, one of the largest and oldest settlements in the West Bank, and one that Israel is intent on retaining in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians. Dotted on the nearby hills are more settlements carving a deep swath through the area that reaches nearly 15 miles into the territory.

The Palestinian Authority's state-first mistake
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by Samih Khalidi - (Opinion) October 28, 2009 - 12:00am

As President Obama seeks to jumpstart the Middle East peace process with increasingly disappointing results, a new approach has begun to emerge from within the upper circles of the Palestinian Authority. In essence, this approach puts "statehood first" – without waiting for negotiations to resume, or for a full final status agreement with Israel. From this point of view, and in a kind of Zionism in reverse, unilateral actions on the ground can lay the foundations for an independent Palestinian state, irrespective of Israel's demands or strategy.

J Street confab shows generational divide on Israel
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
by Eric Fingerhut - October 27, 2009 - 12:00am

After all the arguing in recent weeks over J Street, one thing was clear at the inaugural conference of the self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group: Even among the 1,500 delegates who attended the parley, there are crucial disagreements over what’s best for Middle East peace.

Jones Signals White House Support for J-Street Cause
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Independent
by Spencer Ackerman - October 27, 2009 - 12:00am

Granting recognition to a new American Jewish lobby group pressing for peace between Israel and the Arab world, ret. Gen. James Jones, President Obama’s national security adviser, said that resolving the 60-year conflict was the crisis that the Obama administration would prioritize if it could “solve any one problem.”

Obama's welcome approach to Mideast peace
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The San Francisco Chronicle
by Maen Areikat - (Opinion) October 27, 2009 - 12:00am

President Obama's election and the shift in the U.S. attitude toward the Arab and Muslim worlds have given new hope to those seeking a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. This new approach is a welcome departure from the previous eight years of misguided policies - most notably toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Palestinian reconciliation and the peace process
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bitterlemons
by Walid Salem - (Opinion) October 26, 2009 - 12:00am

With the current paralysis in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process--which is due to the Israeli government's refusal to abide by its obligations under previously signed agreements, notably the roadmap--it might at first glance seem strange to ask what are the ramifications of Palestinian unity for Palestinian-Israeli relations.

Only lack of unity will produce two states
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bitterlemons
by Ron Pundak - (Opinion) October 26, 2009 - 12:00am

The Egyptian-mediated internal Palestinian dialogue between Hamas and Fateh involves a variety of issues, including security and elections, all of which affect the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

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