Middle East News: World Press Roundup

43 Palestinian officers are jailed, fined or demoted for abusing Hamas detainees, and PM Fayyad says past "excesses" will be halted. PM Netanyahu and other Israeli officials hint at potential for progress on negotiations, and reports suggest they oppose a "borders first" agenda. Israel approves four new settler buildings and the expansion of a Jewish religious school in occupied East Jerusalem. Israeli military officials cancel a trip to the UK for fears of arrest over human rights violations. A new "Israeli only" highway is planned in the occupied West Bank. A commentary in Ha'aretz says that a settlement freeze is in Israel's interest, and another argues for the release of jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti independent of a prisoner swap with Hamas. A commentary in YNet argues in favor of boycotts and sanctions against Israel to promote peace. JTA looks at enforcement of the partial building moratorium. Jewish voices are among those protesting the siege of Gaza. Daoud Kuttab complains about the quality of Palestinian television programming for children, and says negotiations need to focus on the future of Jerusalem. Ghassan Khatib says that Israel's settlement construction and other measures over the past decade are "almost irreversible." Palestine forms a committee to seek membership in the WTO.

Palestinians stop torturing Hamas inmates
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Toronto Star
January 4, 2010 - 1:00am

NABLUS, WEST BANK–Palestinian security forces in the West Bank have stopped torturing Hamas prisoners, ending two years of systematic abuse, Hamas inmates said in jailhouse interviews. The change in practice, said to have taken effect in October, was confirmed by a West Bank Hamas leader, human rights activists and the Palestinian prime minister. It defuses a potential problem for Washington, because the U.S. has been closely involved in training Palestinian troops under the control of Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas, a rival of the Hamas militants.

Israeli PM hints at possible improvement in stalemated peace process with Palestinians
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Xinhua
(Editorial) January 4, 2010 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday referred to a "change in the air" over the stalled peace process with the Palestinians, adding to speculation that the two neighbors might resume peace talks soon. "In recent weeks, I have felt that there is a certain change in the air, and I hope that this will mature, allowing the start of the diplomatic process," local daily Ha'aretz quoted Netanyahu as telling lawmakers from his Likud party at an internal meeting.

Israel okays new Jerusalem settlement buildings
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
(Editorial) January 5, 2010 - 1:00am

Bethlehem – Ma'an – Israeli authorities approved on Monday the construction of four new settlement apartment buildings Palestinian land in occupied east Jerusalem. According to Israeli media, the country’s Jerusalem Planning and Building Committee approved the new structures, intended to house 24 settler families adjacent to a Jewish religious school, in the heart of the annexed Palestinian capital.

Israeli officers cancel UK trip over arrest fears
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
(Editorial) January 5, 2010 - 1:00am

Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israel cancelled the departure of a military delegation to Britain last week after authorities there said they could not guarantee the officers would be safe from arrest. The Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Tuesday that the delegation included a colonel, lieutenant colonel and a major. Approached by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affiars, the UK government said it could not promise the three would not face arrest.

Fayyad concedes PA tortured Hamas detainees
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
(Editorial) January 5, 2010 - 1:00am

Bethlehem – Ma'an – Caretaker Prime Minister Salam Fayyad implicitly admitted in a report published on Sunday that Palestinian Authority security forces have tortured Hamas detainees over the past two years. An Associated Press report on the subject, citing interviews with Hamas inmates, rights activists, Hamas officials and Fayyad himself, said that most torture had ended in October. Fayyad’s comments, however, amounted to the first time a senior PA official conceded that abuses were committed by the security forces, many of which are trained by the US, Russia, and other world powers.

Rights group slams planned 'Israelis only' highway in West Bank
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
(Editorial) January 5, 2010 - 1:00am

Less than a week after Israel's highest court ordered the state to lift its ban on Palestinian motorists from a highway that stretches into the West Bank, left-wing activists are denouncing new plans on Tuesday to build a road on West Bank land which they claim is intended for use by Israelis only.

A new freezing point
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Shaul Arieli - (Opinion) January 5, 2010 - 1:00am

Israel's political and unilateral moves in the past decade have shown that its position on the borders with the Palestinians is divorced from the requirements of security, water supply and infrastructure. They are dictated by one factor alone: the settlements. Israeli prime ministers, only too aware of their domestic political weakness, want to avoid any significant evacuation of settlers.

Free Barghouti Now
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Bradley Burston - (Opinion) January 4, 2010 - 1:00am

It's a spellbinding opal of a Saturday afternoon in winter. A number of close friends are tackling the Haaretz weekend quiz, the Hebrew edition of 20 maddeningly arcane and demanding questions. They manage to get 16 right. No small feat. The talk then turns to Israeli politics. At last, the question is a simple one. If there were an election now, who would get your vote? There are 10 people present. Not one of them manages to come up with a single answer.

Yeshiva in Mount of Olives to get 24 more housing units
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Ronen Medzini - (Analysis) January 5, 2010 - 1:00am

Israel continues with east Jerusalem construction despite international censures. Jerusalem's Planning and Construction Committee decided Monday to authorize the establishment of a new Jewish neighborhood in the a-Tur area as an extension of the Beit Orot yeshiva which includes several caravans. According to the plan, four residential buildings are to be built on the site and accommodate 24 Jewish families.

State official: Some of Abbas' statements positive
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Roni Sofer - (Analysis) January 5, 2010 - 1:00am

An official at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem said Monday night that some of the remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas earlier in the day included "positive statements in regards to restarting the negotiations." The official added, however, that until Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman return from Washington, it is unclear when the peace talks would be launched, although there is a possibility that the negotiations could begin by the end of January.

Why I back Israel sanctions
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Udi Aloni - (Opinion) January 5, 2010 - 1:00am

I find it appropriate that the Israeli public be notified of the emerging movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel (BDS), which has been growing at a breathtaking pace. Following bewildered reports published by Yedioth Ahronoth journalist Sever Plocker, who noticed that BDS has moved from the circles of the radical western Left to the circles of the bourgeois centre, I can add that this is now true for Israel-loving Jews as well.

Gov't opposes 'borders first' approach
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Khaled Abu Toameh, Herb Keinon - January 5, 2010 - 1:00am

Israel's top decision-makers are against discussing the border issue first in future negotiations with the Palestinians, The Jerusalem Post has learned. PM prepared to start immediate talks with PA without preconditions Separating final borders from other core issues would allow negotiators to avoid the thorny settlement construction dispute.

How Israel is implementing the settlement freeze
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
by Marcy Oster - January 4, 2010 - 1:00am

While an Israeli magician sat in an ice cube in Tel Aviv for 64 hours in a bid to shatter a world record, settler leaders in Jerusalem prepared to smash an ice cube of a very different sort this week opposite the prime minister’s residence.

Jews raise voices for brutalised Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Gulf News
by Linda S. Heard - January 5, 2010 - 1:00am

Last week in Cairo, Hedy Epstein, a frail 85-year-old American woman, embarked on a hunger strike for the first time in her life to protest the ongoing blockade of Gaza. She has no idea how her body will hold up, she says, but that isn't her priority. She is one of more than 1,300 international participants from 42 countries who flew to Cairo with the aim of participating in the Gaza Freedom March, initially planned to coincide with the first anniversary of Israel's Operation Cast Lead.

Palestinian children suffer from inadequate TV shows
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Daily Star
by Daoud Kuttab - January 5, 2010 - 1:00am

Television penetration in the Palestinian territories is nearly 100 percent. Almost every home – no matter how poor the family – has a television set in its sitting room. Television viewership is higher than average among Palestinians for two primary reasons: First, because of the continuing conflict, people feel the need to watch television to keep up with the events that will often directly affect their lives. And second, with high levels of insecurity and trouble lying outside Palestinian homes, the television has often become the only source of entertainment.

Jerusalem should be at the center of peace efforts
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bitterlemons
by Daoud Kuttab - January 4, 2010 - 1:00am

The first decade of the twenty-first century has been a disastrous one for Palestinians. Negotiations efforts were dealt a dramatic blow, historic leaders and potential leaders were killed, assassinated or imprisoned and, worst of all, the scourge of internal strife returned to Palestinians in the form of the destructive Hamas-Fateh division.

Almost irreversible
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bitterlemons
by Ghassan Khatib - January 4, 2010 - 1:00am

The first decade of the twenty-first century, which ended a few days ago, witnessed the undoing of all the positive milestones and achievements that had occurred in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process in the last decade of the twentieth century. That decade started with the first international peace conference in Madrid. This was followed by the first Arab-Israel multilateral and bilateral negotiations, which ended with the signing of the first Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement, the Oslo Accords.

Palestinians Bid to Join International Finance Body
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Media Line
by Benjamin Joffe-Walt - January 5, 2010 - 1:00am

The Palestinian Authority is forming a "national team" to drive the bid to gain membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO), it was announced on Monday. The team, approved during Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's weekly cabinet meeting in Ramallah, will lead efforts to reform Palestinian economic institutions as part of the campaign to gain permanent observer status and eventually membership in the international trade body.

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