Middle East News: World Press Roundup

An underground barrier being constructed by Egypt along the border with Gaza comes under heavy criticism. A prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas continues to be negotiated. An American-style college program has opened for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. Extremist rabbis from government-affiliated religious institutions continue to urge Israeli soldiers to disobey orders. Israel has jailed the leader of the nonviolent Stop The Wall campaign. Pres. Abbas says he's not optimistic about peace. A commentary in Ha'aretz says the Israeli peace camp needs to focus on a return to the 1967 borders, and another in YNet says that Israel is squandering an opportunity to make peace with the best Palestinian partners it has ever had. A Labor MK and former cabinet minister calls for a new American peace initiative to replace the Roadmap. Former Pres. Carter calls for the rebuilding of Gaza. A former Bush speechwriter says politicians from the religious right like Palin and Huckabee will find their encouragement of settlements has consequences. Leonard Fein expresses doubts about PM Netanyahu's intentions on peace. A new Palestinian opinion poll shows Pres. Abbas would beat Hamas leader Hanniyeh by 16 points in a new election. IPS reports that Europe's ties with Israel remained close in spite of recent tensions.

Egypt's barrier along Gaza border called 'wall of shame'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Jeffrey Fleishman, Amro Hassan - December 21, 2009 - 1:00am

An underground barrier to prevent tunneling by smugglers along Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip has been dubbed a "wall of shame" by Arab writers and politicians who charge that Cairo is siding with Israel in isolating the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the seaside enclave.

ISRAEL: Gilad Shalit talks said to be at key juncture -- again, or still
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Batsheva Sobelman - (Blog) December 19, 2009 - 1:00am

Talks to secure a deal to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit have advanced, sputtered and stalled many times during his three years of captivity in the Gaza Strip. Israel is now on its second prime minister since Shalit was dragged from an army post in a cross-border attack in 2006 -- and its second special coordinator to the indirect negotiations with Hamas that had been brokered by Egypt. The last time things seemed within reach, Israeli elections interfered. Things began moving when the German mediator stepped in a while ago and talks are again reported at that make it-or-break it stage.

Steps to create an Israel-Palestine
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Jonathan Kuttab - (Opinion) December 20, 2009 - 1:00am

For a while, it seemed that a two-state solution might actually be achievable and that a sovereign Palestinian state would be created in the West Bank and Gaza, allowing Jews and Palestinians at last to go their separate ways. But these days, that looks less and less likely.

Israel: American-style college for Palestinians hopes students stay
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Danielle Cheslow - (Blog) December 18, 2009 - 1:00am

On a crisp November morning, six Palestinian men and women read passages aloud in halting English about a Mexican-American boy struggling with his Hispanic identity. Their professor, Rebecca Granato, pushes them: “What does this metaphor mean? What’s going on here?”

Israel settlements: rabbis say soldiers' loyalty to God trumps army orders
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Christian Science Monitor
by Joshua Mitnick - December 18, 2009 - 1:00am

In Israel, a standoff is escalating between the Israeli defense establishment and religious nationalists over the possible evacuation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. On Thursday, a group of rabbis published a letter saying a soldiers' loyalty to the divine takes precedence over their commanders.

Israel jails anti-wall campaign leader
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 20, 2009 - 1:00am

The Stop the Wall Campaign announced on Sunday that its coordinator, Jamal Juma, has been imprisoned by Israel since 16 December. Juma’s arrest follows what activists say is a military-legal crackdown on popular expressions of rejection of Israeli occupation. Dozens of protest leaders, boycott campaigners, and other civil society advocates have been arrested in recent weeks.

Abbas pessimistic about peace process
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 21, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed despair about the Middle East peace process in an interview that appeared on Sundaay. “I found all ways blocked, then I decided not to rerun for another term, and that is not fleeing responsibility,” he told the pan-Arab newspaper Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat. “I am not optimistic and I do not want to have illusions,” he also said. He also revealed that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered him a proposal for a peace agreement that, with land swaps, would give Palestinians land equal to 100% of the territory of the West Bank.

Aviva Shalit: Netanyahu said decision would be made in coming hours
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Jack Khoury, Jonathan Lis, Barak Ravid - December 21, 2009 - 1:00am

The mother of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on Monday said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had told her that ministers would make a decision in the "coming hours" on a deal with Hamas for her son's release. "They hope the decision will be made this evening, and if not ? then tomorrow morning," Aviva Shalit told reporters in Jerusalem, where she was waiting in a protest tent opposite Netanyahu's office. Her comments came as top cabinet members met for a fifth meeting consecutive meeting on the proposed prisoner exchange with Hamas.

Talk about 1967 borders, not settlement blocs
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Akiva Eldar - (Opinion) December 21, 2009 - 1:00am

These days, it's tough to find a used car with a bumper sticker that reads "Peace is better than a Greater Israel." Nowadays, everyone seems to favor the latest formula: two states for two peoples. A few people on the right-hand margins are sticking to the belief that there's no difference between Yitzhar and Herzliya, but turbulent debates about the "heritage of the fathers" have given way to a consensus over "dividing the land." Instead of talking about the country's "narrow hips," we are erecting a fence that approximates the route of the Green Line.

Despair in Ramallah
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Uri Misgav - (Opinion) December 19, 2009 - 1:00am

I recently committed a criminal act. I cannot even plead ignorance. A large red sign at the roadblock near the Qalandiya refugee camp made it clear. Israelis are forbidden from entering Area A in the West Bank. It may be a security constraint, but it also has a symbolic significance. The moderate and quiet capital of the Palestinian Authority is located a few minutes away from Jerusalem, yet visiting it is a crime.

The conflict awaits Obama's program
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Ophir Paz-Pines - (Opinion) December 20, 2009 - 1:00am

The peace train between Israel and the Palestinians has been derailed for some time. World leaders are at a loss and have perhaps given up altogether; both sides in the conflict are busy explaining why the other is the real peace "refuser," while real negotiations over a peace agreement are replaced by endless internal discussions.

Gaza must be rebuilt now
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by Jimmy Carter - (Opinion) December 19, 2009 - 1:00am

It is generally recognised that the Middle East peace process is in the doldrums, almost moribund. Israeli settlement expansion within Palestine continues, and PLO leaders refuse to join in renewed peace talks without a settlement freeze, knowing that no Arab or Islamic nation will accept any comprehensive agreement while Israel retains control of East Jerusalem.

The two-wheel guide to a troubled land
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Independent
by Lauren Booth - (Opinion) December 20, 2009 - 1:00am

Fifteen minutes' ride into the hills above the West Bank city of Nablus, our convoy of European and Palestinian cyclists takes an unplanned breather beside an Israeli army roadblock. Nearby, a Palestinian farming family shelters beneath twisted olive trees, enjoying a simple iftar (breakfast) of bread, water and dates. Visitors to the West Bank soon become familiar with its blend of ancient culture and modern occupation. Welcome to Palestine, 2009.

Why Palin and Huckabee Dig Settlements
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jewish Daily Forward
by Noam Neusner - (Opinion) December 16, 2009 - 1:00am

The Republican field for 2012 is beginning to stretch its legs. Not surprisingly, presidential hopefuls have started to define themselves by what they are not: Barack Obama.

A Netanyahu Conversion? The Case for Skepticism
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jewish Daily Forward
by Leonard Fein - (Opinion) December 16, 2009 - 1:00am

Too transparent to be a scam, more nearly a farce. I refer to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s 10-month “freeze” in settlement construction on the West Bank, about as gummy a freeze as can be imagined, a freeze meant to change nothing, only to placate the Americans.

Survey finds Abbas would win election
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The National
by Omar Karmi - December 19, 2009 - 1:00am

In spite of political stalemates on all fronts, it was a relatively good week for Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and the head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

The Palestinian Situation and the Egyptian Fig Leaf
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Dar Al-Hayat
by Mohammad Salah - (Opinion) December 20, 2009 - 1:00am

An Arab official challenged me and affirmed his conviction that no reconciliation will take place between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. He said that the current situation achieves the interests of the two sides, irrespective of the interest of the Palestinian people. When I asked about the Egyptian mediation efforts and their benefit, and Cairo’s expectation of a response by Hamas to the Egyptian negotiating card, the official said he was certain that Hamas would not agree to it as is.

EUROPE: Cosy With Israel, Despite the Headlines
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Inter Press Service (IPS)
by David Cronin - (Analysis) December 18, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel's relations with the European Union were tense for most of 2009 - if newspaper headlines are to be believed. In the past week, a British court drew fierce criticism from Israeli politicians after it issued an arrest warrant for Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister, following a complaint that she had authorised war crimes in Gaza.

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