Middle East News: World Press Roundup

Most news reports and commentaries today focus on possible moves by the Palestinian leadership to declare statehood, although in an interview with IPS, lead Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says that the PLO is considering asking for recognition of Palestinian sovereignty in the occupied territories by the UN. Both the US and EU say that such moves are premature, and it has been angrily rejected by Hamas. Israel has responded by threatening to annex parts of the West Bank. The Washington Post highlights the holy places in Jerusalem as a persistent flashpoint. Roger Cohen argues that Israeli-Palestinian peace is presently unachievable and a truce would be the best option. The LA Times suggests the spirit of the late extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane is growing on the Israeli right. Mideast envoy George Mitchell reiterates US demands for a halt to settlement activity in occupied East Jerusalem. The Daily Star examines Hamas' strategic thinking. Time asks what the future of the new Palestinian security forces would be in the event of a resignation by Pres. Abbas.

A Mideast Truce
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Roger Cohen - (Opinion) November 16, 2009 - 1:00am

I’ve grown so pessimistic about Israel-Palestine that I find myself agreeing with Israel’s hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman: “Anyone who says that within the next few years an agreement can be reached ending the conflict simply doesn’t understand the situation and spreads delusions.” That’s the lesson of early Obama. The president tried to rekindle peace talks by confronting Israel on settlements, coaxing Palestinians to resume negotiations, and reaching out to the Muslim world. The effort has failed.

To two faiths, a holy patch of land; to the world, a powder keg
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Post
by Howard Schneider - November 17, 2009 - 1:00am

It is one of the most watched pieces of real estate in the world, 35 acres where an under-the-breath prayer or a whiff of a rumor can rouse warnings of war. In both Judaism and Islam, the area known respectively as the Temple Mount and the Noble Sanctuary is considered a formative location. Jews believe it to be the site of Solomon's Temple and key biblical events. Muslims regard it as the spot where Muhammad was brought by the angel Gabriel before embarking on a trip to heaven to visit the other prophets.

ISRAEL: Specter of Meir Kahane continues to haunt politics
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Batsheva Sobelman - November 16, 2009 - 1:00am

Two decades after his party was banned from running for seats in the parliament, Rabbi Meir Kahane and his ideas are once more on its agenda.

Q&A: No Unilateral Declaration of Palestinian State, Says Erekat
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Inter Press Service (IPS)
(Editorial) November 17, 2009 - 1:00am

The Palestinian Authority has embarked on a new strategic drive to get renewed international recognition for the borders of the future Palestinian state. Last Thursday it gained backing for this approach from the Arab League. Going into a meeting with European representatives in Ramallah on the West Bank to explain the Palestinian strategy, and hours before embarking with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on a three-nation tour of Latin America, the chief Palestinian peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, spoke exclusively Monday morning to IPS's Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler.

Would Palestinian Security Forces Survive if Abbas Quits?
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Time
by Tim McGirk - November 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' decision not to stand for re-election in January casts a pall over U.S. hopes to broker a two-state peace agreement with Israel. But it could also have dire consequences for the security situation in the West Bank. That's because Abbas' possible resignation threatens the future of the U.S.-funded Palestinian security forces that have begun to play a key role in preventing militants from launching attacks on Israel.

US envoy demands halt to settlement growth in E. Jerusalem
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
November 17, 2009 - 1:00am

US Special Envoy George Mitchell called on Israel to stop construction in the Israeli settlement of Gilo, in east Jerusalem, according to Israeli media on Tuesday. The demand was made during a meeting on Monday between George Mitchell and Yitzhak Molcho, an Israeli official with the country's envoy to Washington, concerning plans to build a new residential complex in Gilo that are currently awaiting authorization from Jerusalem municipality officials, according to the Israeli daily Ynet.

Israeli ministers threaten to annex West Bank
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
November 16, 2009 - 1:00am

Israeli ministers continued threatening to take unilateral measures if the Palestinian Authority (PA) declares statehood without a negotiated peace agreement. According to Israeli sources, Benjamin Netanyahu's administration may even consider withdrawing from the Oslo Accords. Israeli Minister of Environment Gilad Erian on Monday threatened to stop delivering taxes collected on behalf of the PA. He also threatened to erect more military checkpoints in the West Bank. "We will not allow the Palestinians to declare a state unilaterally."

US backs Palestinian state through talks - not UN
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
November 17, 2009 - 1:00am

The United States backs Palestinian efforts to achieve an independent state, but only through negotiations with Israel, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters on Monday. "We support the creation of a Palestinian state that is contiguous," he said. "We are convinced that has to be achieved through negotiations between two parties. We support a Palestinian state that arrives as a result of negotiations between two parties." Kelly also said he was unaware if the PLO had sought America's opinion, according to Agence France-Presse.

Palestinians under world pressure not to declare state unilaterally
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Natasha Mozgovaya - November 17, 2009 - 1:00am

The Palestinian Authority is coming under increasing pressure ­ from Israel and the international community ­to back down from its threat to unilaterally declare a state without first concluding a peace agreement with Israel. On Monday evening, The United States on Monday reaffirmed its support for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through negotiations, in its first official response to the Palestinian plan.

EU rejects Palestinian bid for unilateral declaration of state
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
November 17, 2009 - 1:00am

The European Union has rejected the Palestinian Authority's request to back its plan for gaining recognition as an independent state at the United Nations Security Council without Israeli consent. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country holds the EU presidency, explained that the EU does not believe conditions are ripe yet for such a move. The EU is not on the Security Council, but EU members France and Britain are permanent council members that wield veto power.

The return of the illusionist
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Yoel Marcus - (Opinion) November 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Let's say Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister in 1977 instead of Menachem Begin. Would he have gone the same way? Made a peace agreement with Egypt via Camp David? Renounced all the Pithat Rafiah settlements? Withdrawn to the last millimeter in Sinai? Signed an agreement affirming the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people?

Will settlers become illegal residents of Palestine?
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Daniel Edelson - November 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Legal experts told Ynet Monday that if the Palestinians go through with their plan of unilaterally declaring a state in the West Bank, the settlers there could find their status changed to that of illegal residents. The dean of Bar Ilan University's faculty of law, Professor Yaffa Zilbershatz, told Ynet that in the case of Palestinian statehood, "the settlers would become a minority that an enlightened state must respect".

Donald Macintyre: Palestinians throw down challenge to Obama and UN
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Independent
by Donald MacIntyre - (Analysis) November 17, 2009 - 1:00am

As so often in the Middle East, we have been here before. The latest suggestion – that a frustrated Palestinian leadership would unilaterally declare a state and invite international recognition for it – is not new. It was made a decade ago by Yasser Arafat when Benjamin Netanyahu, then as now, was Prime Minister. It was made again after the collapse of the Camp David talks a year later, when then Prime Minister Ehud Barak, like some of Mr Netanyahu's more hawkish ministers now, threatened to annex the most populous settlements in the West Bank in retaliation.

Palestinian threat to declare statehood seeks to put onus on Israel
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
by Leslie Susser - November 16, 2009 - 1:00am

Frustrated by a lack of progress toward statehood, the Palestinians are considering taking their case to the United Nations. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had hopes a more Muslim-friendly U.S. administration would press Israel into a peace deal on terms favorable to the Palestinians. When this failed to materialize, Abbas announced plans to resign. Now he is following up with a threat to go to the U.N. Security Council to ask for recognition of a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

Peace can be made despite Israel
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The National
(Editorial) November 16, 2009 - 1:00am

It might be tempting to dismiss as diplomatic bluster the statement by Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestinians, that the Palestinian Liberation Organisation would declare statehood unilaterally in the near future. Certainly it would not be a novel analysis given how rife the peace process is with grandstanding and brinkmanship on both sides. The PLO tried it twice before under Yasser Arafat, who backed down both times in return for concessions and reassurances. But this time is different.

Dilemma of the peace process
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
by Hassan Barari - (Opinion) November 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Now, in the absence of a peace process in the Middle East, one feels compelled to discuss two main obstacles to conciliation that have been debated time and again to no avail. First, Israel will not proceed towards peace if the Americans are not on board. This explains the explicit demand, mainly voiced by the Arabs, that a third party intervention be secured if we really aspire to a quick fix to the seemingly intractable conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours.

Why is Hamas keeping a low profile in the West Bank?
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Daily Star
by Omran Risheq - (Opinion) November 17, 2009 - 1:00am

A question one hears frequently among Palestinians these days is why Hamas Movement, a group some view with suspicion and others with sympathy, has become nearly invisible in the West Bank. Certainly Hamas has suffered a series of security blows in the last few years. Israel arrested roughly a thousand Hamas members, including elected delegates of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), following the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June 2006.

Hamas rejects PA’s UN move for statehood
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Arab News
by HIsham Abu Taha - November 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Hamas rejected Monday a Palestinian suggestion to seek UN Security Council support for unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Such a declaration would have no meaning and was merely an attempt by the rival Palestinian camp of President Mahmoud Abbas to pretend it had an alternative to faltering peace negotiations, other than armed struggle, said Hamas, which is ruling Gaza.

Recognize Palestinian statehood now
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bitterlemons
by Ghassan Khatib - November 17, 2009 - 1:00am

The failure of the Obama administration to launch a serious negotiating process between the PLO and Israel has led to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, announcing that he will not seek re-election. He cited Washington's inability to ensure an Israeli settlement construction freeze as well as American bias toward Israel as the main reasons.

American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017