Middle East News: World Press Roundup

The New York Times blog investigates how Israel is attempting to use YouTube for propaganda purposes. A commentary in the Christian Science Monitor says Pres. Obama 's Nobel Prize does not sit well with Arabs or Palestinians because of the impasse in peace talks. Extremist West Bank settlers allegedly set fire to a mosque. Palestinian Christians call the occupation a "sin." An Israeli Cabinet minister predicts a settler population could grow by as much as 10,000 in the coming year. Israeli negotiations with the Vatican fail to change church policies. The EU calls the Palestinian police the cornerstone of a future state. The Jerusalem Post argues the US is scaling back Middle East diplomacy because of disappointment on peace talks. In the context of statehood, the PA is reportedly planning to resurrect the Palestinian pound. Reports continue that Egypt is building a wall along and underneath its border with Gaza, but the Egyptian government strongly denies this, and an editorial in the National says Israel and not Egypt is responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Israel's ambassador to the US calls J Street a "unique problem."

Graphic Glimpses of West Bank Struggle on YouTube
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Robert Mackey - (Blog) December 9, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel announced plans last week to use the Web to improve its image abroad in two ways: by setting up a new unit of the Israel Defense Forces devoted to fighting criticism on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and through what the Israeli newspaper Haaretz described as “an initiative by the Information and Diaspora Ministry to train people to represent Israel independently on the Internet.”

To the Arab world, Obama's Nobel leaves something to be desired
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Scott MacLeod - (Opinion) December 9, 2009 - 1:00am

The Nobel Peace Prize that President Obama receives in Oslo on Thursday seems to many in the Middle East like a cruel hoax. In June, Egyptians cheered him for pledging an intense personal effort to resolve the region's problems through negotiations rather than force, and his outreach to the Muslim world was surely on the mind of the Nobel committee when it made the award. In the last three months, however, the Obama administration has steadily undone the president's initial positive moves by seriously mishandling one of the Middle East's central issues: the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Clashes after settlers torch mosque
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 11, 2009 - 1:00am

Six Palestinians fainted after inhaling tear gas fired by the Israeli military during a protest east of Salfit on Friday. Yasouf village's mayor, Abed Ar-Rahim Musleh, said the injured were hospitalized in Salfit. He described their injuries as light. Residents took to the streets in the northern West Bank village after Israeli settlers set fire to a mosque the same day. Soldiers opened fire when the crowd arrived near the illegal Tapouh settlement, which was built on Yasouf village lands.

Palestinian Christians to declare occupation 'a sin'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 11, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian Christians from all denominations were in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Friday to demand sanctions on Israel and to jointly reject Christian Zionism. Clergy have termed their movement the Palestine Kairos Initiative, modeled after black South Africa's 1985 Kairos Document, a theological statement that called on churches to join the fight against apartheid.

Full text: 'A moment of truth'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 11, 2009 - 1:00am

A moment of truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering Introduction

Abbas: West Bank mosque torching is despicable
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Associated Press
December 11, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday said that Israel must rein in settlers' provocative actions, after assailants vandalized a mosque in the West Bank village of Yasuf, torching furniture and spraying Nazi slogans in Hebrew on the premises. "The torching of the mosque in Yasuf is a despicable crime, and the settlers are behaving with brutality," said Abbas, who called the act a violation of religious freedom. "The settlers' unruly behavior must be stopped," Abbas added after meeting on Friday with United Arab List-Ta'al chairman Ahmed Tibi in Amman.

Likud minister: Settler population could grow by 10,000 in next year
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
December 11, 2009 - 1:00am

The population of Israeli settlements in the West Bank could grow by 10,000 in the coming year despite a declared temporary freeze on Israeli building in the territory, Likud Minister Benny Begin has said. Begin told a conference on Thursday night that the moratorium would be painful but was not a full construction "freeze" in the accepted sense of the word. He noted that 3,000 homes already started would be completed regardless of the freeze, and said about 10,000 more settlers would move in, according to reports by Israel Israeli media.

U.S. not opposed to Israel pumping more funds into settlements
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Mazal Mualem, Barak Ravid - December 11, 2009 - 1:00am

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to seek cabinet approval for a new map of "national priority" zones does not contradict Israel's declaration of a 10-month construction freeze in West Bank settlements, the prime minister's bureau assured senior United States administration officials late Thursday. The new map would enable another 110,000 settlers - most of whom live outside the major settlement blocs - the economic benefits conferred on residents of zones already included on Israel's list.

Bibi, Barak at odds on priorities map
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Roni Sofer - December 10, 2009 - 1:00am

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is looking into possible amendments to the designation of national priority regions in Israel, while one of his main coalition partners, the Labor Party, is expressing its displeasure with the scheme. The PM is looking into various proposals presented to him, the PM's Office said Thursday evening in the wake of harsh criticism of the plan. The national priority designation, which includes the settlements, has irked the Labor party, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak announcing that he will attempt to delay a government discussion of the issue.

Israel's talks with Vatican fail
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Roni Sofer - December 10, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel's efforts to reach understandings and achieve reconciliation with the Vatican have failed for the time being. The talks between Israeli officials and the Vatican have hit a dead-end, Ynet learned Thursday. The failure mostly stems from disagreement in respect to the Vatican's demand for sovereignty at the Last Supper Room on Jerusalem's Mount Zion. The Vatican also upheld its objection to the confiscation of Church land across Israel for public purposes.

'PA police cornerstone of future state'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Yaakov Lappin - December 10, 2009 - 1:00am

The development of a fully functioning Palestinian civilian police force is a crucial cornerstone for the establishment of a Palestinian state, the head of an EU mission set up to bolster Palestinian police in the West Bank said during a press conference in Ramallah on Wednesday. British Chief Constable (ret.) Paul Kernaghan, the outgoing head of the EU Police Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EUPOL COPPS), said his vision was "to see the Palestinian Civil Police [PCP] operating alone on the streets of Palestine."

Disappointed US scales back its Middle East diplomacy
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Herb Keinon - December 11, 2009 - 1:00am

With the Palestinians refusing to return to the negotiations, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu not calling for a complete settlement freeze and the Arab world declining to make any gestures to Israel, the current sense in Jerusalem is that the US is scaling back its intensive involvement in the diplomatic process. The best example of this is that US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has not been to the region in over a month and is not now expected to come back until January, after the holiday season in the US.

PA plans dollar-pegged currency
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Jonathan Ferziger, Alisa Odenheimer - December 11, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinians plan to resurrect the pound from a six-decade hiatus if they manage to build a state, securing its value with a dollar or multicurrency peg, according to Palestine Monetary Authority Governor Jihad al-Wazir. Wazir, the closest thing Palestinians have to a central-bank chief, also said in an interview that he was fighting to stop Hamas from tampering with Gaza Strip banks and to strengthen the financial system for a "tough" year ahead. For advice, he sometimes turns to Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer.

Egypt constructs huge Gaza wall
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Independent
by Ben Lynfield - December 11, 2009 - 1:00am

Egypt has reportedly begun building an underground iron wall along its border with the Gaza Strip in a major upgrading of its efforts to end smuggling through tunnels. Egyptian security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the wall project is under way. Local residents reported Egyptian clearing work was in progress 90 metres from the border over the last three weeks.

State Dept. blames Goldstone for stalled peace talks
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
December 10, 2009 - 1:00am

The Goldstone report drove the Israelis and Palestinians apart, a U.S. State Department official said. The aside by Assistant U.S. Secretary of State P.J. Crowley in a briefing for reporters Tuesday was the clearest signal of U.S. frustration with the United Nations Human Rights Council report into last winter's Gaza war, authored by South African Justice Richard Goldstone, that recommended war crimes charges against Israel and Hamas.

In Shift, Oren Calls J Street ‘A Unique Problem’
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jewish Daily Forward
by Josh Nathan-Kazis - December 9, 2009 - 1:00am

Breaking with his previous restraint, Israel’s ambassador to the United States delivered an unprecedented blast against J Street, the new dovish Israel lobby that has made waves in Washington and throughout the Jewish community. Addressing a breakfast session at the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s biennial convention December 7, Ambassador Michael Oren described J Street as “a unique problem in that it not only opposes one policy of one Israeli government, it opposes all policies of all Israeli governments. It’s significantly out of the mainstream.”

Egypt’s wall is not the cause of Gaza’s woes
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The National
(Editorial) December 10, 2009 - 1:00am

The news is sure to inflame the Arab world: Egypt is building, with US help, a new wall to prevent Gazans from tunnelling into the country. This development becomes all the more contentious since it comes nearly one year after the devastating Israeli assault on the Palestinian territory. But cooler heads must prevail. Any backlash against Egyptian authorities would be undeserved. It is Israel’s blockade, not Egypt’s wall that is starving the Palestinians.

Egypt denies building 'Gaza wall'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Al-Jazeera English
December 10, 2009 - 1:00am

Egypt has denied it is constructing an underground steel barrier along its strip with the Gaza border in an attempt to seal off smuggling tunnels built by Palestinians. Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, reported that Egypt was installing a metal wall up to 30 metres deep along the strip used by Palestinians to break the Israeli blockade of the territory. The paper reported that the wall would be nearly 10km long as "impossible to cut or melt".

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