Middle East News: World Press Roundup

Israeli police seek to detain the organizers of a Palestinian cultural event in occupied East Jerusalem, and Pres. Abbas warns that Israel is seeking to expel Palestinians from the city. A UN official warns that there is a race against time on Middle East peace and confirms that the settlement moratorium fall short of what is required from Israel. Israeli troops claim they were fired on near Hebron in the occupied West Bank, and Egyptians claim to have been fired on from Gaza. Israeli FM Lieberman vows Israel will resume settlement building "in full force" after 10 months. A Ha'aretz editorial says Israel should pick up where PM Olmert left off on peace. Reports suggest Israel will give its latest response on a prisoner exchange with Hamas on Sunday. Israeli settlers used dogs to keep Palestinians from their own properties. The Guardian reports that CIA operatives are working with Palestinian police accused of abuses. The Forward reports that the United States is helping Israel keep a qualitative military edge over any potential adversaries. Several commentaries examine ways forward on peace talks, and Martin Indyk suggests an Israeli withdrawal to pre-intifada lines to facilitate Palestinian state building.

Stand-off over Palestinian demo in Jerusalem
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Agence France Presse (AFP)
December 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Israeli police surrounded the French cultural centre in mostly Arab east Jerusalem on Thursday, apparently to detain the organiser of a Palestinian cultural event, a French diplomat said. Around 50 people, including officials from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA), took part at an event at the centre in honour of Jerusalem's selection as the 2009 "capital of Arab culture" by UNESCO and the Arab League.

Middle East peace efforts face race against time, UN envoy warns
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Xinhua
December 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Efforts to forge a Middle East peace are "in a race against time" with both sides needing to do more -- Israel by fulfilling its commitments, including a settlement freeze, under an internationally endorsed plan for a two-State solution, and the Palestinians by resuming negotiations, a senior United Nations official warned here on Thursday.

Israeli forces report coming under fire in Hebron
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 18, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinians opened fire at Israeli forces at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron early Friday morning, an Israeli military spokesperson said. the troops were performing what was described as "a routine deployment" near the holy site when Palestinians opened fire, the spokesperson added. Other sources said a Palestinian car approached the group and fired three bullets, adding that the troops exchanged fire. The spokesperson did not comment on the exchange of fire. No one was injured in the incident, according to sources, and the car fled the scene.

Abbas: Israel wants to expel Palestinians from Jerusalem
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel is attempting to expel Palestinians from East Jerusalem, President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday evening. Speaking at the closing event of the Al-Quds Capital of Arab Culture festival in Nablus, Abbas said, “Jerusalem is suffering an unprecedented settlement attack aimed at eliminating its identity, separating it from its surroundings and suffocating every activity in order to achieve one goal, which is expulsion, and this will not be allowed to happen.” “There is no Palestine without Jerusalem no one will accept this. Without Jerusalem there will be no peace,” he also said.

Lieberman: We will be building again in 10 months
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 18, 2009 - 1:00am

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Thursday that the 10-month settlement freeze was simply a tactical move and not a real effort to stop settlement growth, Israeli media sources reported Friday. "It is clear to everyone that in 10 months, we will be building again [in] full force; anyone who understands anything knows this," he told gathered settlers at a meeting in the West Bank settlement town of Ariel as quoted in the Israeli daily Haaretz.

A basis for talks
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
(Editorial) December 18, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel has a supreme interest in achieving a peace agreement that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, delineate a border between the states and put an end to the mutual demands. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert's proposal for a final-status arrangement with the Palestinians, the details of which were revealed by Aluf Benn in Haaretz yesterday, can and should serve as a basis for resuming negotiations. There is no point in returning to "point zero" in the talks and ignoring previous offers and understandings.

Report: Israel to notify Egypt on Shalit deal decision within 2 days
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Roee Nahmias - December 18, 2009 - 1:00am

By Sunday Israel will notify Egypt of its decision regarding the release of 50 "heavy" prisoners that Hamas is unwilling to forego in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, sources close to the prisoner swap negotiations were quoted by London-based newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi. According to the report, published Friday, Israel has opposed the release of these prisoners thus far. The sources said that Israel's decision will determine whether the swap deal will succeed or fail.

UN official: Settlement freeze falls short
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Associated Press
December 17, 2009 - 1:00am

The situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate as neither Israel nor the Palestinians do enough to obtain peace, a senior UN official told the UN Security Council on Thursday. Robert Serry, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said Israel's announced 10-month suspension of settlement activity fell short of its commitments under the 2003 Road Map peace plan. He called on Palestinians to resume negotiations with Israel, which were suspended after military operations against Hamas left the Gaza strip in a state of calamity

Gazans fire at Egyptian workers in Rafah
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Roee Nahmias - December 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a number of different occasions in recent days at Egyptian construction workers building a steel fence meant to separate Egypt from the Gaza Strip, Egyptian media reported on Thursday. According to reports, the shootings took place near Rafah crossing and led to the temporary suspension of works. There were no reports of injuries in the incidents, and Egypt has increased its forces along the border.

Yesh Din: Ofra uses dogs to keep Palestinians off their own farmland
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Dan Izenberg - December 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Settlers in Ofra are using attack dogs to keep Palestinians from cultivating land they own near the settlement, the human rights organization Yesh Din charged in a petition filed in the High Court of Justice earlier this week. Yesh Din attorneys Michael Sfard, Shlomi Zachary and Avisar Lev filed the petition on behalf of the head of the Silwad village council, Nael Hamad, and three village residents.

Opening up the peace process
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by Petra Marquardt-Bigman - (Opinion) December 17, 2009 - 1:00am

In recent months, veteran Middle East experts such as Hussein Agha and Robert Malley or Aaron David Miller have done a good job explaining why peace between Israelis and Palestinians is likely a long way off. But it seems that the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, begs to differ: Haaretz reported that Abbas declared negotiations could be completed "within six months" if Israel halted all settlement construction.

CIA working with Palestinian security agents
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by Ian Cobain - December 17, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian security agents who have been detaining and allegedly torturing supporters of the Islamist organisation Hamas in the West Bank have been working closely with the CIA, the Guardian has learned. Less than a year after Barack Obama signed an executive order that prohibited torture and provided for the lawful interrogation of detainees in US custody, evidence is emerging the CIA is co-operating with security agents whose continuing use of torture has been widely documented by human rights groups.

U.S.-Israeli Arms Cooperation Quietly Growing
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jewish Daily Forward
by Nathan Guttman - December 16, 2009 - 1:00am

Leaders in Washington and Jerusalem have publicly locked horns over the issue of West Bank settlements. And Israeli public opinion has largely viewed America’s new administration as unfriendly. But behind the scenes, strategic security relations between the two countries are flourishing. Israeli officials have been singing the praises of President Obama for his willingness to address their defense concerns and for actions taken by his administration to bolster Israel’s qualitative military edge — an edge eroded, according to Israel, during the final year of the George W. Bush presidency.

Why the road to peace may run through Damascus
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The National
by Mohamad Bazzi - (Opinion) December 18, 2009 - 1:00am

Is peace possible between Syria and Israel? That question has taken on new urgency after the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered to negotiate with the Syrian president Bashar Assad “anytime, anywhere” – and Mr Assad rebuffed the approach.

Use the 'road map' out of the peace mud
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Daily Star
by Martin Indyk - (Opinion) December 18, 2009 - 1:00am

How can President Barack Obama drag the Middle East peace wagon out of the mud? He can’t – at least not until the region’s leaders feel enough of a sense of urgency to take the risks necessary to achieve breakthroughs. Right now, Arab and Israeli leaders are convinced that Obama is in more of a hurry than they are, so they are content to have him do the heavy lifting.

'Back to crisis management'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Al-Ahram
by Dina Ezzat - December 18, 2009 - 1:00am

Egyptian officials have expressed unreserved concern over the slow pace of development on the Palestinian scene, especially with regards to Gaza. Egypt's main concern, they privately admit, is not borne of sympathy with the Palestinians but concerns the consequences of the current stalemate on Egyptian interests.

Dealing with Mr. Yes and No
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bitterlemons
by Yossi Alpher - (Opinion) December 14, 2009 - 1:00am

Back in the days of Binyamin Netanyahu's first term as prime minister, more than ten years ago, he was satirized as Mr. Yes and No. For every "yes" he delivered to US President Bill Clinton or PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, there was also a "no" or, if you like, a "yes" to the settlers and other opponents of the peace process. That appears to be where we are today, once again.

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