Middle East News: World Press Roundup

An aide to Pres. Abbas explains his conditions for resuming negotiations, and Palestinians say they are studying new US proposals for lower-level talks. PM Netanyahu plants trees in a settlement, settlers use tents to skirt the moratorium, and a Ha'aretz commentary says only an idiot would say Israel has frozen settlement activity. Israel confirms it will not set up an independent inquiry into its Gaza war conduct, but the PA establishes a committee to look into allegations about its own conduct. DM Barak says Israel's lack of an agreement with the Palestinians is a greater threat than Iranian nuclear weapons. Palestinians seek closer ties to Saudi Arabia. A diplomatic dispute intensifies over treatment of official US cars at checkpoints in the occupied territories. Sami Abdel-Shafi says Palestinians will return to negotiations, but with no expectations. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman says because of the occupation Israel is in danger of ceasing to be Jewish and democratic.

Aide: Abbas has 2 conditions for talks
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
January 26, 2010 - 1:00am

President Mahmoud Abbas laid out two preconditions for the resumption of negotiations with Israel, during his meeting with US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell on Friday, a senior aide said on Tuesday. The aide, Nimer Hammad, told Ma'an that Abbas asked that Israel commit to a real settlement freeze even for a limited period of time. His second request was that negotiations be based on the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders and a full withdrawal to those armistice lines. According to Nimer, the following are some excerpts from the meeting:

Benjamin Netanyahu rejects freeze on settlements
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Australian
by John Lyons - January 26, 2010 - 1:00am

On a tour of the largest settlements hours after meeting US President Barack Obama's special envoy, George Mitchell, Mr Netanyahu gave his strongest rejection to any permanent freeze in settlement activity and reaffirmed a commitment to "greater Jerusalem". He told settlers during one tree-planting ceremony: "The message is clear: we are here and will remain here. The settlement blocs are an indisputable part of Israel forever. "This is acceptable to the great majority of Israel's citizens and is gradually being instilled in international consciousness."

Minister: Israel rejects UN Gaza war probe call
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Statesman
by Amy Teibel - January 26, 2010 - 1:00am

Israel will not set up a special panel to investigate last winter's Gaza offensive, a Cabinet minister said Tuesday, rejecting a key demand of a U.N. report that accused the military of war crimes. Information Minister Yuli Edelstein said Israel would submit a document to the U.N. later this week that deals only with Israel's own investigations of its conduct during the three-week war. Those investigations have been conducted by the military, which has exonerated itself of any systematic wrongdoing.

Abbas to form a committee to probe U.N. fact-finding report on Gaza war
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Xinhua
January 25, 2010 - 1:00am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered on Monday to form a committee to probe the recommendations of a United Nations fact-finding report over the Israeli war on Gaza last year. Abbas issued on Monday a presidential decree calling for forming a committee to investigate and study the report's recommendations, saying that the committee has to bring back a response after probing the report's recommendations.

Israeli PM plants trees to signify claim to West Bank settlement blocs
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Xinhua
January 25, 2010 - 1:00am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday planted trees in West Bank settlements, in a move which he said sent a clear message that Israel would retain major settlement blocs under any peace deal with the Palestinians. "The message is clear, we are here, and we will stay here. We plant and build. This is an inseparable part of the State of Israel forever," local news service Ynet quoted Netanyahu as saying at the Kfar Atzon settlement, part of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. He planted a tree to mark the tree-planting festival of Tu B' Shvat.

Barak: Peace process failures greater threat than Iran nukes
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
January 26, 2010 - 1:00am

Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday said that Israel's failure to strike a peace deal with the Palestinians was a greater threat to the country than a nuclear Iran, Army Radio reported. "The lack of a solution to the problem of border demarcation within the historic Land of Israel - and not an Iranian bomb - is the most serious threat to Israel's future," Barak told a Tel Aviv conference.

Settlers aim to beat building ban with 'freeze-busting' tent
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
January 26, 2010 - 1:00am

Israeli settlers on Tuesday unveiled the latest weapon in their battle against government restrictions on building in the West Bank - an 'instant outpost' that can be put up in minutes, Army Radio reported. The tent, a creation of a team of activists including an engineer and West Bank resident recently released from military service, has been specially designed to aid settlers in their cat and mouse game with authorities on West Bank hilltops.

Only an idiot would say Israel has frozen settlement activity
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Akiva Eldar - (Opinion) January 26, 2010 - 1:00am

Monday morning, as George Mitchell was on the way home from another diplomatic mission short on breakthroughs, Saeb Erekat did not sound dismayed. On the contrary, the head of the Palestinian negotiation team vehemently argued that the American envoy's last visit actually moved up the moment of truth for the White House. The veteran adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's favorite move of throwing the ball into the Palestinians' court stopped working with the Americans.

Abbas offended by Egypt, turns to Saudia Arabia
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Roee Nahmias - January 26, 2010 - 1:00am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is under firm Egyptian pressure aimed at forcing him to agree to the resumption of peace negotiations with Israel. According to the London-based Arabic-language al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, Abbas refused to restart the talks based on an American proposal that he must waive his demand for a complete freeze in the construction of settlements.

US diplomat against Israeli security guards
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Itamar Eichner - January 26, 2010 - 1:00am

A senior American diplomat recently told representatives of the Israeli Defense and Foreign ministries, "I don't want your security officers to check our cars. What if there are settlers among them? I will not have my people end up like (slain Prime Minister Yitzhak) Rabin." The remark was made by Tim Laas, the regional security officer at the American Consulate in Jerusalem, during a discussion in the office of Deputy Inspector General Meir Ben-Yishai, head of security at the Israel Police.

Palestinians study US idea for Mideast talks
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
January 25, 2010 - 1:00am

President Mahmoud Abbas is studying a US proposal for talks between the Palestinians and Israel at a level below full-scale negotiations between their leaders, a Palestinian official said on Monday. The proposal is the latest idea by US Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell to bring about a resumption of peace talks that have been frozen for 13 months. Palestinian sources familiar with Mitchell's weekend round of diplomacy said he had proposed confidence-building measures that would improve conditions in the Palestinian territories.

Middle East needs bridges, not walls
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Gulf News
by Linda S. Heard - (Opinion) January 26, 2010 - 1:00am

Middle East peace has rarely seemed as remote as it does now. Instead of coming up with solutions, those involved are hurling accusations, erecting fences or throwing up their hands in despair. The longer this dangerous impasse continues the more the cauldron of violence threatens to boil over. None of the parties are immune from criticism, although some are more to blame than others.

Mitchell’s futile diplomacy
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
by Hassan Barari - (Opinion) January 26, 2010 - 1:00am

The long-awaited tour of American envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell consisted of much fanfare but yielded no tangible results to speak of. Both parties to the conflict refused to budge: the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, refuses to join the peace process until Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agrees to freeze settlement activity, and the Israeli government refuses to meet this Palestinian demand, considering it an unacceptable precondition.

The PA will have to yield to pressure
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bitterlemons
by Sami Abdel-shafi - (Analysis) January 18, 2010 - 1:00am

It seems ever more evident that while the US-led international community is urging a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Palestinians increasingly feel the exercise is fruitless. More and more Palestinians are questioning the use of what has become a perpetual on-again off-again process.

Remarks to Americans for Peace Now
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Committee on Foreign Affairs
by Howard Berman - January 24, 2010 - 1:00am

Thank you, Luis (Lainer), for that introduction, and thanks as well to Americans for Peace Now for this invitation to speak with you. I am very gratified that you have awarded the Yitzhak Rabin Peace Prize to my friend of nearly 50 years, Irwin Levin. Everyone here knows how much he deserves it. We’ve had a warm and productive relationship for many years now. I admire and share your firm commitment to peace, even on those occasions when we disagree about how best to achieve it.

American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017