Middle East News: World Press Roundup

Special Envoy Mitchell seeks to restart peace negotiations and is interviewed by Charlie Rose. Israel agrees to pay the UN $10.5 million in Gaza war damages. Hamas' military options are being constrained by anti-smuggling efforts and a new Israeli rocket defense system. Abbas is shoring up Arab support for the Palestinian position. Israeli air attacks kill three Palestinians in Gaza. Israel has announced a further easing of its temporary, partial settlement moratorium. A senior PLO official says talks may begin within weeks, but Israel reiterates its rejection of a two-year timetable. The Independent publishes a recollection of the Gaza war. The Jordan Times says ownership of the Dead Sea scrolls should be determined by international mediation. The Arab News says Israel's new rocket defense system removes the justification for the siege of Gaza. Egypt's ambassador to Saudi Arabia says its new Gaza border barrier is aimed at smuggling of contraband, not food, and Abdel-Moneim Said says Egypt is defending its vital national interests. Aaron Miller says the Obama administration is beginning to recognize the difficulties of pursuing Middle East peace.

CHARLIE ROSE: George Mitchell is here. He is President Obama’s
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Charlie Rose
(Interview) January 6, 2010 - 1:00am

CHARLIE ROSE: George Mitchell is here. He is President Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East. The former Maine senator and majority leader has a proven record of brokering agreements. He chaired the peace talks in Northern Ireland that lead to the historic Good Friday agreement of 1998. In 2000, he led presidential commission to end cycle of violence between Palestinians and Israelis. His new mission is to advance President Obama’s commitment to comprehensive peace in the Middle East. He has spent the past year trying

U.S. Seeks a New Path to Peace in Middle East
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Wall Street Journal
by Jay Solomon - (Analysis) January 8, 2010 - 1:00am

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is taking new steps to restart Arab-Israeli peace talks that broke down last year, and U.S. officials said they hope formal negotiations could resume by February or March. U.S. diplomats said they are talking with Israel and Arab governments about more clearly defining terms for negotiations, which hit an impasse when Israel refused to accept a total freeze on settlements in disputed territories. Arab governments, meanwhile, balked at U.S. calls for them to begin normalizing diplomatic ties with Israel.

Israel Agrees to Pay U.N. $10.5 Million for Gaza War Damage
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Wall Street Journal
by Joe Lauria, Joshua Mitnick - (Analysis) January 8, 2010 - 1:00am

UNITED NATIONS -- Israel agreed to pay the U.N. $10.5 million in compensation for damage to U.N. property and for the life of a U.N. driver during Israel's war last winter in Gaza, according to two U.N. officials. "Agreement has been reached in principle on the terms of an arrangement under which Israel would make a payment to the United Nations," said Martin Nesirky, the U.N. spokesman. "The United Nations is now waiting for a green light from the government of Israel and we anticipate receiving that green light imminently."

Hamas squeezed between Israel's rocket shield and Egypt's steel tunnel barrier
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Associated Press
by Karin Laub - (Editorial) January 7, 2010 - 1:00am

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Gaza's Hamas rulers have suffered back-to-back setbacks with Israel's successful test of a rocket shield and Egypt's push to block smuggling tunnels. The Iron Dome rocket defense system, reportedly to be deployed near Gaza in May, would deprive Hamas of its main leverage against Israel — the threat of rocket salvos. Egypt's underground anti-tunnel barrier of steel beams, now under construction, could eventually cut Hamas' supply of cash and weapons.

Abbas rallies Arab support for position on peace, unity
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
(Editorial) January 8, 2010 - 1:00am

Amman – Ma’an – A strong Arab position on the furtherance of the peace process is essential, President Mahmud Abbas told leaders in Amman, the last stop on his regional tour following visits to Egypt, Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey on Thursday.

Israeli jets attack targets across Gaza, killing 3
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
(Editorial) January 8, 2010 - 1:00am

Gaza - Ma'an - Israeli warplanes carried out a series of raids on sites throughout the Gaza Strip late Thursday night, witnesses said and Israel's military confirmed. Three citizens were killed and two others injured in the Israeli raids that targeted a tunnel near Rafah crossing south of Gaza. Medical sources in Abu Yousif An-Najjar hospital identified the dead as Barakat Abu Shalouf, Odai Abu Heesh, 15, and Naser Al-Mahmum, 22. Muawiya Hassanein, the Gaza Health Ministry's director of ambulance and emergency services said the jets struck four areas in total.

6 weeks into settlement freeze, Barak eases restrictions
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
(Analysis) January 8, 2010 - 1:00am

Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided on Thursday to ease the temporary construction freeze in the West Bank settlements, announced in November by Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayhau, granting local settlement municipalities the authority to hand out building permits to be implemented immediately after the freeze expires. Netanyahu issued the freeze orders on November 26 in efforts to jumpstart stalled peace talks with the Palestinians, who have demanded that Israel cease all construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem before negotiations could resume.

Pro-Gaza activists under siege - imposed by Egypt and Hamas
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Amira Hass - (Analysis) January 8, 2010 - 1:00am

The departure from Ramses Street in Cairo, in about 20 buses, was set for the morning of Monday, December 28. However, the organizers of the Gaza Freedom March knew the buses would not arrive. Just as on Sunday night, the buses hired by a group of French activists never made it to their starting point - Cairo's Charles de Gaulle Street, near the French Embassy and across from the zoo.

Dahlan: Talks to resume in coming weeks
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
(Editorial) January 8, 2010 - 1:00am

Fatah Central Committee member and former security commander Muhammad Dahlan is optimistic that peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel will resume in the coming weeks, according to an interview with Al-Hayat published on Friday. Dahlan revealed that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have been holding intense contacts with the Quartet (representing the US, the UN Secretariat, the EU and Russia) in efforts to formulate a unified position regarding the resumption of peace talks.

J'lem rejects 2-year peace deadline
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Khaled Abu Toameh, Hilary Leila Krieger - (Analysis) January 8, 2010 - 1:00am

Israel doesn't want to see deadlines imposed on the negotiating process with the Palestinians, even as the US is endorsing the idea of a two-year time frame. "In the past, attempts to impose time frameworks have not proved either realizable or helpful," Ambassador to Washington Michael Oren told The Jerusalem Post. Oren talked to the Post hours before US Middle East envoy George Mitchell said Wednesday night that "we think that the negotiation should last no more than two years. Once begun we think it can be done within that period of time."

Bone of contention
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
(Editorial) January 8, 2010 - 1:00am

The 2,000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls have become a serious bone of contention between Jordan, the Palestinians and Israel after the latter seized them in the wake of its occupation of the West Bank in 1967. The legal squabble over which country has jurisdiction over the artefacts, which were recently on display at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, threatens to mushroom into a political controversy where the Canadian government could end up taking centre stage.

Editorial: ‘Iron Dome’ system
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Arab News
(Editorial) January 8, 2010 - 1:00am

Israel says it is about to initiate a major “strategic” shift in its battle with the Palestinians. It has conducted a successful test of a short-range rocket interceptor that will now be rolled out along its border with Gaza in the coming six months. The “Iron Dome” system will, it is said, defend against rockets fired by militant Palestinians into Israel and also against mortar rounds. At a later date, the rocket shield will be deployed along the border with Lebanon.

Steel wall not meant to starve Gazans, says Egyptian envoy
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Arab News
(Analysis) January 8, 2010 - 1:00am

RIYADH: The Egyptian ambassador to Saudi Arabia has dismissed allegations that a steel underground wall being built by his country on its border with the Gaza Strip is aimed at starving local Palestinian people or forcing them to support any resumption of peace talks with Israel. Mahmoud Ouf issued the denial at the launch of the new Egyptian Cultural Center in Riyadh on Wednesday night. “Forced starvation is not possible because 95 percent of Gaza’s food, medicine and electricity do not come through these tunnels, but via crossing points along the border with Israel,” he said.

Defending Egypt
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Al-Ahram
by Abdel-Moneim Said - (Opinion) January 8, 2010 - 1:00am

No Egyptian should disagree with defending Egypt against all threats, whether from home or abroad. This is why every official charged with safeguarding the country's welfare, from the president and government ministers to representatives in the People's Assembly and the Shura Council take an oath of office in which they pledge not only to promote the interests of the people and uphold the constitution but also to defend the nation and "safeguard the integrity of its territory".

Sobering up on Arab-Israeli Peace
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Foreign Policy
by Aaron David Miller - (Analysis) January 7, 2010 - 1:00am

Big decisions should never be made after a night of hard drinking or on the basis of wishful thinking. Almost a year into his presidency, Barack Obama has begun to sober up. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the administration's policy on the Arab-Israeli issue, where a series of tactical mistakes (none fatal) have left the president and his team battered but wiser when it comes to what's possible and what's not.

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