Middle East News: World Press Roundup

Israel and the Vatican fail to resolve an ongoing dispute over a site in occupied East Jerusalem at which the "Last Supper" is reputed to have taken place. The LA Times says Israel's partial settlement freeze is not perfect but could form the basis for progress on peace. Reports differ over what is delaying an Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange, including a dispute over key prisoners, the possibility of deportation of some, and a bitter dispute between Israeli civilian and military leaders. The Christian Science Monitor says in any event an agreement will not end the siege of Gaza. Jerusalem's Latin patriarch denounces the occupation. Palestinians west of the separation barrier report ongoing settlement construction. Israeli prosecutors indict the leader of nonviolent resistance to the barrier for incitement, and a commentary in Ha'aretz says Israel is waging a war of attrition against nonviolent resistance to the occupation. A Cambridge University choir is split over a possible boycott of Israel. Palestinians say Israel is cutting Bethlehem off to tourists. Asharq Al-Awsat conducts a lengthy interview with Pres. Abbas.

Vatican, Israel joust over Jerusalem site
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Edmund Sanders - December 23, 2009 - 1:00am

The government of Israel seems to be embracing the Christmas spirit. This week it is organizing carols and tree giveaways in Jerusalem, bus service to Bethlehem and even a fireworks show in Nazareth with an apparent eye on burnishing the nation's reputation for religious diversity. But Israel won't be giving the Christmas gift near the top of the Vatican's wish list this year: possession of a Mt. Zion holy site where Jesus is believed to have gathered his disciples for the Last Supper.

Building by not building in the West Bank
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
(Editorial) December 23, 2009 - 1:00am

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton fumbled in Jerusalem last month when she hailed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to temporarily freeze West Bank settlement construction as "unprecedented," thereby suggesting it was somehow optimal. The 10-month freeze is far from ideal, because it allows completion of nearly 3,000 housing units and 28 public buildings already underway in the West Bank, and it doesn't include development in contested East Jerusalem.

Israel-Hamas deal on Gilad Shalit won't include an end to Gaza blockade
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Christian Science Monitor
by Erin Cunningham - December 22, 2009 - 1:00am

Israel is abuzz with a flurry of media reports on a possibly imminent prisoner exchange that could return captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit to his parents after more than three years of captivity under Hamas. The deal would also release up to 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, but Gazans are dismayed that a major condition Israel had previously said was linked to any Shalit deal now appears to be missing from the negotiations: Israel’s two-year economic blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Patriarch's Christmas message: Mid East peace efforts failed
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 23, 2009 - 1:00am

Efforts to bring peace to the Middle East have failed, Jerusalem’s Latin patriarch Fuad Twal said Tuesday in his annual Christmas message. “Our dreams for a reconciled Holy Land seem to be utopia. Despite the praiseworthy efforts of politicians and men of good will to find a solution to the ongoing conflict, all of us, Palestinians and Israelis, have all failed in achieving peace,” saidTwal, the top Roman Catholic cleric in the Holy Land. “The reality contradicts our dreams,” he said.

West of the wall, settlement building continues
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 23, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinians in the Qalqiliya district, where Israel's separation wall extends 22 kilometers into the West Bank, have watched rapid construction in the settlement of Oranit continue despite the call for a partial freeze on building. A spokesman from Israel's Civil Administration confirms officials are "familiar with the issue and are working to resolve it."

Bil'in protest leader indicted over spent tear gas canisters
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 23, 2009 - 1:00am

Israeli prosecutors filed an indictment in a military court against Abdullah Abu Rahmah on Monday, a leader of popular demonstrations against the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in.

IDF chief: Bringing Shalit back is a national mission
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Yuval Azoulay, Avi Issacharoff, Jonathan Lis, Barak Ravid - December 23, 2009 - 1:00am

The Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, reiterated on Wednesday that securing the release of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit from Hamas captivity was of the utmost importance to Israel. "Bringing back Gilad Shalit is a national mission, and both covert and overt actions are being carried out to bring him back," Ashkenazi told a gathering in Ashdod.

Row between Israeli defense officials jeopardizing Shalit talks
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff - (Analysis) December 23, 2009 - 1:00am

Just as negotiations reached their most crucial juncture yet, they seemed in danger of being sidelined by a daft, superfluous clash between Netanyahu's political adviser Uzi Arad, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin Tuesday. Arad never hid his opposition to the deal, whose current format he considers a strategic error, but it now seems he could have been actively trying to undermine it.

Danger: Popular struggle
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Amira Hass - (Opinion) December 23, 2009 - 1:00am

There is an internal document that has not been leaked, or perhaps has not even been written, but all the forces are acting according to its inspiration: the Shin Bet, Israel Defense Forces, Border Police, police, and civil and military judges. They have found the true enemy who refuses to whither away: The popular struggle against the occupation.

Report: Israel refuses release of 7 prisoners
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Roee Nahmias - December 23, 2009 - 1:00am

Western diplomatic sources told al-Hayat newspaper that Israel agreed to release 443 of the 450 prisoners Hamas has demanded be freed in the first phase of a prisoner exchange deal for the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit. In addition, the sources said Israel has demanded that over 100 of the prisoners to be freed be banned from returning to the West Bank.

ATFP World Press Roundup Article from BBC News
by Tim Franks - December 23, 2009 - 1:00am

It should be a time of unalloyed joy for Tim Brown. The director of one of Britain's most well-regarded choirs is beginning a six-concert tour of Israel this week. The choir of Clare College, Cambridge, will be singing Bach's Christmas Oratorio with the Israel Camerata Orchestra. But the singers have not, as a choir, been able to perform in East Jerusalem or Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, after a Palestinian protest against the choir's tour of Israel. The choir has been caught in the passionate arguments over whether Israel should be boycotted.

Palestinians say Israelis are cutting off Bethlehem
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Telegraph
by Adrian Blomfield - December 23, 2009 - 1:00am

West Bank Palestinian officials say they have been blocked from benefiting from a record 1.4 million foreign visitors to the occupied West Bank’s most important tourist attraction. They claim Israeli tour guides play on the fear of the tourists by warning them they face danger as soon as they enter the area. Thousands of foreign tourists and pilgrims visit each day to see the Church of the Nativity, held by some Christians to mark the exact spot where Christ was born.

A Conversation with President Mahmud Abbas
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Asharq Alawsat
by Ali El-saleh, Nazar Majli - (Interview) December 22, 2009 - 1:00am

As it has been the custom for years, there was no specific date, not to mention hour, for the interview with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas (Abu-Mazin), which has been conducted every year since the time of late President Yasser Arafat. When you ask for an interview with the president, you cannot hope for more than an agreement in principle, and they would ask you to come to the city in which the president is located, which normally is Ramallah.

Obama the Just
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Dar Al-Hayat
by Mostafa Zein - (Opinion) December 22, 2009 - 1:00am

In 1996, or a year after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked to sabotage the peace process, both at the time, and at present. The Clinton administration responded, threatening to reduce military assistance. He got angry. He rejected the pressure. He said, “If the Americans think they can buy us with this assistance, I have a plan to do without it in five years’ time.”

A crucial but problematic triangle
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bitterlemons
by Ghassan Khatib - (Opinion) December 21, 2009 - 1:00am

For good but different reasons, their respective relations with the United States are of central and utmost importance to both Palestinians and Israelis. As the US is the world's leading power, it is the most influential potential mediator between them. Israel is completely dependent for its overwhelming superiority on the near unquestioned military, economic and diplomatic support it receives from the US. The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, is dependent on international support and international diplomacy, both shaped by the US.

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