Middle East News: World Press Roundup

Scott MacLeod defends Human Rights Watch against criticism that it's been unduly critical of Israel. A Reuters analysis argues that President Abbas is seeking to use Palestinian elections to reunite the West Bank and Gaza, and the President warns that Israel's measures are leading to potential violence and that Prime Minister Netanyahu "hasn't changed" since his first term in the 1990s. Special Envoy George Mitchell and Secretary of State Clinton are set to meet with Palestinian and Israeli leaders. Rabbi Eric Yoffie argues in Ha'aretz that settlements are antithetical to peace. The Independent highlights the exemplary plight of a student expelled by Israel from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip just before graduation. The National argues that Hamas opposition to Palestinian elections exposes its motivations and Daoud Kuttab says that elections are essential to the Palestinian people.

Bashing Human Rights Watch
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Scott MacLeod - (Opinion) October 30, 2009 - 12:00am

As a founder of Human Rights Watch, Robert L. Bernstein is a distinguished moral voice. So he stunned the human rights community last week when he leveled a devastating attack on the work of the organization he also chaired for two decades. He accused Human Rights Watch's Middle East division of giving Israel the "brunt" of its criticism while it "ignored" other countries in the region. The powerful denunciation in a New York Times Op-Ed article was swiftly endorsed by other eminent figures, including Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel.

Plan B for Abbas - Palestinian unity or bust
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
by Mohammed Assadi, Douglas Hamilton - (Analysis) October 29, 2009 - 12:00am

President Mahmoud Abbas has no intention of going down in history as the man who legitimised the permanent and possibly fatal division of the Palestinian independence movement. But he has called an election for January that could be a nail in the coffin of Palestinian unity, assuming his Islamist political rivals in control of the Gaza Strip are serious about their threat to ban the vote on their territory. The outcome of an election held in the West Bank but not in the Gaza Strip would be "worse than the two Koreas", said Zakaria al-Qaq, an expert on national security issues.

Mitchell to meet with Netanyahu in Jerusalem
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
October 30, 2009 - 12:00am

Special US Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell returned to Jerusalem on Thursday night to attempt a second round of peace talk initiation, the US State Department said. Mitchell's arrival comes two days in advance of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's planned visit; he will meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Officials called Mitchell's trip preparatory, and said he met with Israeli army minister Ehud Barak.

Report: Abbas fears violence without change in Israeli tactics
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
October 30, 2009 - 12:00am

President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly told Israeli officials that without movement in the peace process, he fears conditions in the region will rapidly deteriorate, the daily newspaper Haaretz reported Friday. Haaretz reported that Abbas feared the “descent into violence,” and noted there was a window of “two to three weeks” in which changes must take place in order to stabilize the area.

Abbas: Netanyahu hasn't changed since last stint as PM
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Barak Ravid - October 30, 2009 - 12:00am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is deeply suspicious of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and is losing faith in his intentions to reach a peace agreement, Israeli officials have told Haaretz. "I know Netanyahu is pragmatic and everyone tells me he has changed," Abbas reportedly told the officials recently. "But I don't see it. I fear it's the same Netanyahu of 1996. How much longer can I still give him credit?" Abbas reportedly said he missed former prime minister Ehud Olmert, with whom he had "almost closed [a deal]."

Palestinian anger over Jerusalem is affecting Abbas
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Avi Issacharoff - October 30, 2009 - 12:00am

The pattern repeats itself: A relatively marginal Jewish organization calls upon the public to hold prayers on the Temple Mount to mark Yom Kippur, Sukkot or, as was the case this week, "Rambam Day" (commemorating Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon's visit to the Land of Israel in the 12th century). These announcements win a great deal of attention in the Palestinian and Arab media, of course.

Netanyahu: Iran nuclear draft a `positive first step`
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Associated Press
October 30, 2009 - 12:00am

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday offered cautious praise of a U.S.-backed, United Nations-drafted deal to curb Iran's contentious nuclear program. Netanyahu called the deal "a positive first step" toward denying Tehran the means to make nuclear weaponry. U.S. President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell held talks Friday with Netanyahu in Jerusalem as part of an intense and ongoing bid to revive broken-off peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

No to settlements is yes to peace
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Eric Yoffie - (Opinion) October 30, 2009 - 12:00am

Too many American Jewish groups have their heads in the sand when it comes to the damage the settlement project has done to Israel. They embrace those on the American religious right who endorse settlement as a religious principle, without realizing that the influence of these groups is declining. They talk to each other or to themselves, but not to their own children on campus who must deal with this topic every day. Yet those of us who do the actual work of making Israel's case in local communities know full well the damage the settlement issue causes in grassroots America.

'Waqf quietly pleased at Salah's arrest'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Khaled Abu Toameh - October 29, 2009 - 12:00am

Heads of the Waqf Department have quietly expressed their satisfaction with the Israeli authorities' recent measures against Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and top Fatah operative Hatem Abdel Qader, a senior official with the Ministry for Internal Security said on Thursday. Salah and Abdel Qader have each been arrested by the Jerusalem Police for their role in instigating the latest wave of violent protests at the Temple Mount.

Student expelled to Gaza Strip by force
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Independent
by Ben Lynfield - October 30, 2009 - 12:00am

A Palestinian student has been handcuffed, blindfolded and forcibly expelled to the Gaza Strip by Israeli troops just two months before she was due to graduate from university. Berlanty Azzam, 21, who was studying for a business degree at Bethlehem University, said she was coming home in a shared taxi from a job interview in Ramallah on Wednesday when soldiers at the "Container" checkpoint took her identity card and that of another passenger with a Gaza address.

Israel must break growing stranglehold of religion
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
by Stanley Gold, Uri Regev - (Opinion) October 28, 2009 - 12:00am

How does it happen that thousands of Israelis travel each year to Cyprus and Eastern Europe to get married? Is this an Israeli custom, to elope? Not at all. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens cannot marry in Israel due to state law, including numerous Russian olim, all non-Orthodox converts to Judaism and native-born Israeli Jews who want an egalitarian marriage ceremony. Israeli democracy is enlightened and progressive in most respects, but in the area of religious freedom it lags all Western democracies.

Clinton to meet Abbas in Abu Dhabi
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The National
October 30, 2009 - 12:00am

Abu Dhabi will host a meeting between the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas as part of a weekend effort to push both Palestinian and Israeli leaders to resume peace talks, a US official said today. After her meetings in Abu Dhabi tomorrow, Mrs Clinton will travel to Israel to meet with the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. She will be joined by the Obama administration’s special Middle East peace envoy, George Mitchell.

Hamas gambles, and will lose
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The National
(Editorial) October 29, 2009 - 12:00am

The game of one-upmanship between Hamas and Fatah grows increasingly tiresome, and the latest row over elections in January is especially so. Hamas has responded to Fatah’s election call by banning them in Gaza. But in doing so, Hamas risks not only alienating itself abroad but lowering its stature even further in the eyes of the Palestinians.

Hamas-Fatah Dispute "Pity" says Arab League SecGen
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Asharq Alawsat
by Ali Ibrahim - October 29, 2009 - 12:00am

Secretary General, Amr Musa to London lasted just over 24 hours, a great part of which he spent communicating with Arab communities and organizations in Britain. He met with representatives of British Arab societies which are trying to be politically effective in British society, and he was a main speaker at the British Arab Economic Forum which was inaugurated on Tuesday. After that he went to the British House of Lords, within the framework of Arab League efforts to keep in touch with Arab communities around the world.

Will elections help or hurt Palestinian reconciliation?
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
by Daoud Kuttab - (Opinion) October 30, 2009 - 12:00am

The decree issued by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has pushed the conflict between PLO’s main faction, Fateh, and the Islamic Hamas movement to yet another stage. While many consider this move very risky for the future of Palestine, others feel that it is the only democratic way out of the impasse.

After nine months
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
by Rami Khouri - (Opinion) October 30, 2009 - 12:00am

A month after US President Barack Obama met in New York with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this week gave him the progress report on Arab-Israeli peace making that he had requested. As expected, it said that very slight progress has been made and that the hard work of resuming meaningful peace negotiations remained ahead.

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