Middle East News: World Press Roundup

Pres. Abbas lays down conditions for returning to peace talks, rules out resumption of violence. The Washington Post's profile of two Palestinian brothers, one in the West Bank and the other in Gaza, illustrate growing political divisions in Palestinian society. The Christian Science Monitor says Egypt's Gaza border wall has deep strategic significance, and asks whether soldiers will obey extremist rabbis or PM Netanyahu. The Voice of America reviews the year of stalemated peace talks. PM Fayyad says Palestinian state building is underway. A report in Ha'aretz looks at tax exempt US funding for extremist settlers, including a rabbi who recently rationalized the killing of non-Jewish babies. Both Israel and the UK confirm that a British court issued and then withdrew an arrest warrant for former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. The Guardian profiles Palestinian "tunnel tycoons." The EU is formally reviewing its ties to Israel because of skepticism about its intentions on peace. Husam Itani says Palestinians are partly to blame for their own predicament and a commentary in the Arab News says Netanyahu is not serious about peace at all. In Bitter Lemons, Ghassan Khatib calls for increased international engagement to promote serious negotiations and Issa Samander suggests that Israelis would see realities differently if settlers were returned to Israel and behaved there as they do in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Abbas Sets Terms for Resuming Stalled Peace Talks
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
December 15, 2009 - 1:00am

President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday the Palestinians would only resume peace talks if Israel fully halted settlement building in the occupied West Bank, but ruled out any return to violence. Addressing a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's central council, which is expected to extend his term as president, Abbas dismissed Israel's partial settlement freeze and said the Israelis did not want negotiations.

The Palestinians' opposite poles
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Post
by Howard Schneider - December 15, 2009 - 1:00am

Sami and Tayseer Barakat grew up together in the concrete warrens of this refugee camp in Gaza, but the common thread ends there. As young adults, Tayseer moved to the West Bank while Sami remained in Gaza. The choices have shaped the brothers' lives, values, prosperity and opportunities, and they have placed the two at very different points in what is now a three-way feud among Israelis and Palestinians.

Gaza border: Why Egypt is building a steel underground wall
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Christian Science Monitor
by Sarah A. Topol - December 14, 2009 - 1:00am

Reports that Egypt is building a steel underground wall along its border with the Hamas-run Gaza Strip have fueled speculation about what exactly Cairo intends to accomplish with the project, which British newspapers claim is being carried out with the help of the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Israel: Who will soldiers obey on settlements – Netanyahu or rabbis?
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Christian Science Monitor
by Joshua Mitnick - December 14, 2009 - 1:00am

In an unprecedented move, Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday cut ties with one of the dozens of religious seminaries that feed students to the military amid concerns that its ideologically driven students might refuse orders to evacuate settlements. The military was concerned that the chief rabbi of the school, known as a “hesder” yeshiva and located in the West Bank settlement of Har Bracha, was educating students to become insubordinate soldiers.

A Year of Stalemate, Dashed Hopes in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Voice of America
by Luis Ramirez - December 14, 2009 - 1:00am

2009 saw no resumption of the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians. Both sides are beginning the New Year at a stalemate over Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and rising tensions over the status of Jerusalem. 2009 began with bombs and rockets as Israel launched a massive assault, Operation Cast Lead, aimed at stopping militants from firing rockets at Israel. During the assault, militants from Gaza continued to fire homemade missiles over the border, exploding in communities of southern Israel.

Abbas: Israel remains intransigent
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 15, 2009 - 1:00am

President Mahmoud Abbas told Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leaders that the Palestinian Authority (PA) will return to negotiations once Israel abides by its previous commitments, as well as reiterated that he will not seek reelection. “The PA will restart peace negotiations once Israel halts all settlement construction and recognizes the 1967 borders as the official borders of the future Palestinian state,” Abbas said.

Poll: 57% back Abbas not running
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 15, 2009 - 1:00am

A majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip support President Mahmoud Abbas' decision not to run in the next elections, results of an independent poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) showed Monday. From its findings, PSR concluded, "While the balance of power between Fatah and Hamas remains as it was before the eruption of the Goldstone report crisis, the majority do not blame Hamas for the continued split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip or for the failure to hold national elections.

Fayyad: Literal PA institution building underway
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 15, 2009 - 1:00am

The Palestinian caretaker government intends to undertake the construction of its institutions rather than depending on renting buildings that were originally designed for residential purposes, said the Ramallah-based government's Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Monday. Whilst pointing out that several PA institutions owned the buildings they worked in, such as the Ministry of Finance, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics and the Palestinian National Forces, the majority of headquarters of public sector institutions were rented, Fayyad said.

Akiva Eldar / U.S. tax dollars fund rabbi who excused killing gentile babies
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Akiva Eldar - (Opinion) December 15, 2009 - 1:00am

The White House condemns the torching of a mosque, yet respectable Americans contribute to a yeshiva whose rabbi said it's okay to kill gentile babies. It is no surprise that the American administration tacitly, if unenthusiastically, accepted the excuse that the map of national priority zones the cabinet approved on Sunday does not violate the decision to freeze construction in the settlements.

Hamas: Deal for Shalit release still a long way off
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Jack Khoury - December 15, 2009 - 1:00am

Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha said Tuesday that a prisoner exchange deal for the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces solider Gilad Shalit was still a long way off. President Shimon Peres told IDF soldiers Monday that the release Shalit did not depend solely on Israel, but was being hampered by disagreements between Hamas' wing in the Gaza Strip and its overseas wing.

'Recognition of '67 border before talks'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
December 15, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday told members of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)'s Central Council that he would not be willing to resume peace talks with Israel until the latter stops settlement construction in the West Bank and recognizes the borders of a future Palestinian state, the Chinese News Agency reported. "If settlement activity were to stop completely for a specific period and borders of a [Palestinian] state were declared within the 1967 borders, we would go to negotiations," Abbas said ahead of the meeting in Ramallah.

Israel condemns UK attempt to arrest Tzipi Livni
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from BBC World News
December 15, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel has reacted angrily to the issuing by a British court of an arrest warrant for the former Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni. The warrant, issued by a London court on Saturday, was revoked on Monday when it was found Ms Livni was not visiting the UK. Ms Livni was in post during Israel's controversial Gaza assault last winter. It is the first time a UK court has issued a warrant for an Israeli former minister. Pro-Palestinian campaigners have tried several times to have Israeli officials arrested under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Palestinian tunnel tycoons feeding demand for banned goods
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by Harriet Sherwood - December 15, 2009 - 1:00am

Mahmoud is proud of the motorbike he bought two months ago for $700, now parked in the sand at the entrance of one of the tunnels used to smuggle the machines into Gaza. It is all the more precious these days. After an influx of bikes through the deep underground passages between Gaza and Egypt resulted in carnage on the roads by young, untrained riders, the Hamas government ordered the imports to stop.

EU ‘concludes’ that Israel must step up peace pace
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
by Leslie Susser - December 14, 2009 - 1:00am

The new European Union document on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is being interpreted in Jerusalem as a warning to the Israelis: Do more to restart stalled peace talks or face mounting pressure from Europe.

Real Settlements and Imagined State
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Dar Al-Hayat
by Husam Itani - (Opinion) December 14, 2009 - 1:00am

The sympathy in the words of Israeli Minister Benny Begin and the attack of settlers against the mosque of the village of Yasuf in the West Bank, in addition to the tepid response to Palestinian efforts aimed at obtaining international recognition of the state which the Palestinian Authority is threatening to declare unilaterally, reveals the depth of the Palestinian predicament and its urgent need for a approach different from that which has proved bankrupt, in and from the side of the two camps dominating the Palestinian scene.

Netanyahu not at all serious about peace
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Arab News
by Hassan Tahsin - (Opinion) December 15, 2009 - 1:00am

PEACE with Palestinians has never been on the agenda of Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu. Nevertheless, he speaks about peace. In his view peace has only one meaning — the total surrender of Palestinians to Israel. In his opinion, all the Palestinians presently living in the occupied territories are terrorists because they demand freedom from Israel; they want East Jerusalem to be the capital of their independent state; they don’t want their children to die of malnutrition; they don’t want to be humiliated by Israeli soldiers or thrown arbitrarily out of their homes and farms.

The ball is now with the international community
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bitterlemons
by Ghassan Khatib - (Opinion) December 14, 2009 - 1:00am

Binyamin Netanyahu's announcement in late November that his government would implement a settlement freeze was not taken seriously by Palestinians, Arabs or other interested and involved parties. Palestinians warned that the announcement amounted to no more than a public relations gimmick aimed at reducing growing international criticism of Israel's settlement expansion policies. Palestinian officials made clear that the Israeli "freeze" did not signal any change to Israeli settlement expansion, which is responsible for preventing the resumption of negotiations.

The moment of truth
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bitterlemons
by Issa Samander - December 14, 2009 - 1:00am

The US administration was very quick to announce its appreciation of the Israeli right-wing government's decision to temporarily and partially halt settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories. In doing so, Washington has only shown its weakness. If the US cannot convince Israel even to properly freeze settlement construction in occupied territory, then how will it convince Israel to dismantle settlements? And if that doesn't happen, what then for the two-state solution?

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