Middle East News: World Press Roundup

Today's news again focuses on a possible Hamas-Israel prisoner swap, and the LA Times argues that an agreement would harm Pres. Abbas. Xinhua claims that Israel is rejecting the release of 40 prisoners, while Asharq Al-Awsat says the deal now hinges on a single prisoner. Hamas leaders say the next 24 hours are crucial and accuse Israel of manipulating the process. Speculation grows that the deal might include senior Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti. Mideast Envoy George Mitchell reportedly visits an Israeli settlement, and Libya is planning to introduce a Security Council resolution on the settlements. Abbas reiterates complaints that the US is not doing enough to promote peace. A commentary in the Guardian says Israeli-Syrian peace talks are a distraction. The Financial Times argues that Obama still has leverage over Israel, while Al-Hayat claims he has been outmaneuvered by "neoconservatives." The New York Times reviews a controversial new book on Jewish history by Israeli professor Shlomo Sand. An original ATFP translation of an Al-Ayyam article by Hassan Al-Batal analyzes Israeli reactions to the PA government state building plan.

Book Calls Jewish People an ‘Invention’
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Patricia Cohen - November 25, 2009 - 1:00am

Despite the fragmented and incomplete historical record, experts pretty much agree that some popular beliefs about Jewish history simply don’t hold up: there was no sudden expulsion of all Jews from Jerusalem in A.D. 70, for instance. What’s more, modern Jews owe their ancestry as much to converts from the first millennium and early Middle Ages as to the Jews of antiquity. Other theories, like the notion that many of today’s Palestinians can legitimately claim to be descended from the ancient Jews, are familiar and serious subjects of study, even if no definitive answer yet exists.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Mideast's big loser
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
(Editorial) November 25, 2009 - 1:00am

There are reports of a deal to exchange hundreds of Palestinian prisoners for captured Israeli Sgt. Gilad Shalit. This is welcome news because the Islamic militant group Hamas has held the 23-year-old soldier as a human pawn, virtually incommunicado, since his capture on the Gaza Strip border in June 2006.

Israel rejects to free 40 Palestinians, delaying prisoner exchange: source
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Xinhua
November 24, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel refuses to release 40 Palestinians whom the Islamic Hamas movement demands for freedom in a prisoner exchange deal a well-informed Palestinian source said on Tuesday. The Israeli reservations on the 40 names delayed the prisoner swap deal, which German and Egyptian mediators have tried to broker, the source told Xinhua. "Accomplishing the swap within one week is unexpected, it is almost impossible," the source said.

Mash'al to decide on prisoner deal
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
November 25, 2009 - 1:00am

Hamas’ senior-most leader Khalid Mash’al is expected to make a decision about a proposed prisoner exchange with Israel on Wednesday. A delegation of senior Hamas leaders were reported to be in Damascus Tuesday night, where Mash’al and other top Hamas figures in exile are based. They are reportedly discussing whether to go forward with a deal in which resistance groups in Gaza would release an Israeli soldier held in the Strip in return for some 1,000 Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas: Israel continues to manipulate swap talks
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
November 25, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel has exaggerated the progress of recent prisoner swap talks and manipulated the hopes and expectations of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, Hamas leaders proclaimed late Tuesday. The proclamation followed days of reports from Palestinian and Israeli media heralding the immanent release of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for an Israeli soldier captured in 2006. Talks have been proceeding with German mediation following the release of a video tape showing the Israeli soldier in good health.

Report: US officials survey settlements
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
November 25, 2009 - 1:00am

US officials, some of them aides to special envoy George Mitchell, have been visiting illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank as a part of an investigation, the Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported on Wednesday. In the first such visit on Monday, officials from the US consulate in Jerusalem and Mitchell’s team visited the settlement of Efrat, southwest of Bethlehem, the newspaper said. The officials were reportedly comparing the boundaries and number of buildings in the settlement with earlier maps to see whether settlements are expanding.

Hamas leader accuses Israel of holding up Shalit deal
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Avi Issacharoff, Jack Khoury - November 25, 2009 - 1:00am

Prisoner swap talks between Hamas and Israel have hit a snag over some of the top militants the Islamic group wants freed in return for Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, and a deal is unlikely in the coming days, Hamas officials said Wednesday. Israel is objecting to some of the names put forward by Hamas, a senior official of the militant group familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. He said the German mediator shuttling between the sides has presented an alternative list of names provided by Israel, and Hamas leaders are studying it.

Barghouti: Shalit abduction achieved what no dialogue could
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff - November 25, 2009 - 1:00am

Fatah strongman Marwan Barghouti said in an interview on Wednesday that he intends to run in the next Palestinian presidential election, and remarked that the abduction of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit by Gaza militants achieved what no negotiations could ever achieve.

Libya urges UN to take up Israeli settlements
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Agence France Presse (AFP)
November 25, 2009 - 1:00am

Libya indicated on Tuesday that it would introduce a fresh draft resolution before the United Nations Security Council demanding that Israel end its settlement activity in Palestinian territory. "We are discussing it with the Palestinians and other members of the Security Council. We are going to do that, yes," Libya's UN Ambassador Mohamed Shalgham told reporters about the plans. Arab countries could quickly reach an agreement on the principles and terms of the text, perhaps before the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday on Friday, he said.

Hamas leaders in Syria for '24 critical hours'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
November 25, 2009 - 1:00am

The next 24 hours will be critical in terms of the prisoner exchange deal with Israel, senior Hamas sources told Arab media on Wednesday morning. The organization's leaders, who left Cairo on Tuesday evening, are meeting in the offices of Hamas' political bureau in Damascus to decide whether to accept Jerusalem's latest offer.

Abbas: Obama doing nothing for peace
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
November 25, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday accused US President Barack Obama of doing "nothing" to achieve peace in the Middle East. Speaking to Argentinian newspaper Clarin, Abbas said he hoped that Obama would "take a more important role in the future." He went on to say that the Palestinian people were awaiting US pressure on Israel, "so that it respects international law and takes up the Road Map," stressing that the peace process could not be restarted without a halt to settlement construction.

Israel's pro-settlement soldiers worry leaders
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from BBC News
November 25, 2009 - 1:00am

In Israel, most men and women do military service. As a result, the public's attitude towards their military is rather familial and criticism is mostly expressed in private. But, suddenly, an increasing number of soldiers are openly protesting against their involvement in the evacuation of Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank, reports the BBC's Katya Adler.

Netanyahu's Syrian distraction
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by Chris Phillips - November 24, 2009 - 1:00am

A glimmer of hope in the moribund Middle East peace process surfaced in Paris recently when Nicolas Sarkozy separately hosted both the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. Reports suggested that Netanyahu passed on a message to his Syrian counterpart about reopening peace negotiations. Though both leaders were quick to play down any talk of detente, recent announcements in both Tel Aviv and Damascus suggest that talks "without preconditions" may not be far off.

Obama still has leverage over Israel
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Financial Times
by David Gardner - (Analysis) November 23, 2009 - 1:00am

Has Barack Obama made a hash of his Middle East peace diplomacy? That seems to be the verdict of international commentators and – more to the point – of Palestinian leaders in despair at ever getting their own state and an Israeli government exulting that it made the US president blink first. Yet, it is worth stepping outside the hothouse for a minute to examine whether it is that simple: whether Mr Obama will be content to see his ambitious strategy of reconciliation with the Arab and Muslim worlds held hostage by the obdurate obstruction of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Inside Israeli jails, the real victims of a cry for justice
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The National
by Jesse Rosenfeld - (Opinion) November 24, 2009 - 1:00am

Amid the growing media fever over a possible prisoner swap involving the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held by Hamas, another young captive has a less visible public profile – but personifies Israel’s chokehold on Palestinian self-expression.

Prisoner Swap Deal Stalled Over One Detainee
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Asharq Alawsat
by Saleh Al-Naeimi, Nazar Majli - November 24, 2009 - 1:00am

The prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel hinges upon one prisoner that Hamas insists is added to the hundreds of other Palestinian prisoners who will be released in exchange for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Asharq Al Awsat has learned.

Obama Under Siege
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Dar Al-Hayat
by Mostafa Zein - (Opinion) November 24, 2009 - 1:00am

The neoconservatives in the United States were defeated, but they were victorious in Israel and for Israel. They achieved a single victory during the administration of President George Bush, who spread chaos in the manner of the nihilists, believing, stupidly, that it was the way to spread American values.

As the enemy sees us
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Al-Ayyam
by Hassan Al-Battal - November 24, 2009 - 1:00am

Who is this man, this “dour official leading a revolutionary cultural change?” Salam Fayyad is not always formal, though mostly to be seen wearing a necktie. He did, however, wear shorts and ran in the handicap marathon in Nablus. And what are these “revolutionary cultural changes” as perceived by certain deep Israeli analyses, but dismissed as irrelevant by other Israeli analysts? According to Dr. Einat Wilf of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, Israel would do itself a favor if it took Mr. Fayyad seriously. Why?

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