Middle East News: World Press Roundup

Israel imposes a 48-hour closure on the entire West Bank. VP Biden ends his Middle East trip amid controversy and uncertainty. Multiple commentaries analyze his trip and his speech to Israelis. Israel may amend its law to prevent similar miscalculations in future. Two Israeli soldiers are indicted for using Palestinian civilians as human shields. The LA Times asks what Pres. Obama can do to restore confidence in the peace process, and Amjad Atallah says there are lessons from health-care reform. Egypt expels hundreds of Palestinians to Gaza. Israeli warplanes bomb southern Gaza. The 1,000th day of the Gaza blockade is marked, and the UN reiterates serious concerns. Pres. Abbas is asking the US to ensure Israel cancels East Jerusalem settlement plans. Larry Derfner says PM Fayyad is now the leader of the peace movement. ATFP Pres. Ziad Asali says Washington is the indispensable partner for peace.

Israel Seals off West Bank to Prevent Unrest
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel has sealed off the West Bank for 48 hours, preventing Palestinians from entering Israel because of fears of unrest. There have been clashes after Friday prayers at mosques in Jerusalem and elsewhere in recent weeks, sparked by deadlock in peace talks and Israel's inclusion of two West Bank shrines on a list of national heritage sites. Several Palestinians have been badly wounded and dozens of protesters and Israeli policemen have suffered light injuries.

Joe Biden delivers 'hardest truth' in Israel
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Politico
by Laura Rozen - March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

Vice President Joe Biden departed from Israel Thursday leaving behind a raging controversy over the consequences of what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists was the unintentional embarrassment of the highest-ranking member of the Obama administration to visit his country.

Biden to Leave Mideast Amid Unease
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Ethan Bronner - March 11, 2010 - 1:00am

TEL AVIV — Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. came to Israel early this week to promote new Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and tighten the bonds between Israel and the United States. He left Thursday amid increased uncertainty over the nature and timing of those talks and with a sense of unease hanging over the American-Israeli relationship.

Israel's Challenege to the U.S.
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
March 10, 2010 - 1:00am

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was unpleasantly surprised in Israel on Tuesday when the country’s Interior Ministry declared that it would expand housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem. Mr. Biden, who earlier that day had expressed American support on Israel’s security needs, condemned the announcement, which had been made without the knowledge of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. What did the incident reflect about the state of the Obama administration’s relations with Israel and the future of talks with the Palestinians? Aaron David Miller -

Two Israeli soldiers accused of using human shield
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Edmund Sanders - March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

Reporting from Jerusalem - Two Israeli soldiers involved in the Gaza Strip offensive a year ago used a 9-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield to open packages they believed were booby-trapped with explosives, the Israeli army charged Thursday. The soldiers, whose names were not released, have been indicted in military court for "unauthorized conduct" and "exceeding their authority in a manner that endangered life or health," the army said. The boy, whose case was forwarded to the Israel Defense Forces by the United Nations, was unharmed.

Middle East: What can Obama do to restore confidence in peace process?
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Borzou Daragahi - March 11, 2010 - 1:00am

Voices of skepticism and disdain abound when it comes to United States' efforts to promote peace in the Middle East. Many in the Arab world regard the Obama administration's steps to restart talks as too little too late by a government too beholden to Israel. But some also proposed ideas for moving forward, even after Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, where peace was overshadowed by Israel's announcement of plans to expand settlements in the West Bank.

Middle East peace efforts: lessons from healthcare reform
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Amjad Atallah - (Opinion) March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

It took a year of trying for President Obama to persuade Israelis and Palestinians to enter into "proximity talks" to resolve issues standing in the way of a final peace plan. But as we learned from the stunning announcement this week -- during Vice President Joe Biden's visit to the region -- that Israel had approved 112 new settlement units in the West Bank and 1,600 new settlement units in East Jerusalem, there is a lot that can go wrong.

Joe Biden gives Israel bear hug - and tough love
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Christian Science Monitor
by Joshua Mitnick - March 11, 2010 - 1:00am

Tel Aviv Despite two days of public friction between the US and Israel over a Jerusalem building project, Vice President Joe Biden today delivered an emotional speech laden with admiration for the Jewish state. Some years ago "I said if I was Jew, I would be a Zionist," Biden said, telling the audience at Tel Aviv University of his affinity for Israel since childhood. "I was reminded by my father you need not be a Jew to be a Zionist."

Egypt expels hundreds of Palestinians to Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

Gaza - Ma'an - Palestinian border officials said Friday that 224 Palestinians were sent back to the Gaza Strip from Egypt on Thursday night. The Palestinians, most of them former medical patients, were sent back via Rafah, the de facto crossings authority officials told Ma'an. The reports came amid larger allegations that Egypt had hardened its policies on issuing visas to Hamas leader from Gaza

Israel moves to change law after Biden "mishap"
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Statesman
by Matti Friedman - March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM — Israel is moving to amend the country's planning procedures on sensitive political decisions following an embarrassing diplomatic flap during a visit this week by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, a Cabinet minister said Friday.

Israeli warplanes bomb southern Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Xinhua
March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM, March 12 (Xinhua) -- Israeli warplanes struck southern Gaza on Thursday night in response to rocket fire from the coastal strip, said an army announcement. The airstrike was targeted at a weapon factory and a smuggling tunnel near the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, said the announcement from Israeli army spokesperson's office. The attack was a response to the firing of a rocket that hit an Israeli village on Thursday.

1000th day of Israeli blockade on Gaza Strip marked
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Xinhua
March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

Palestinians light candles forming the number 1000 during a rally marking 1000 days of the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, in Gaza City on March 11, 2010. (Xinhua/Wissam Nassar)

U.S. gave Israel green light for East Jerusalem construction
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Akiva Eldar - (Opinion) March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

The apology offered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Interior Minister Eli Yishai recalls the joke about the servant who pinched the king's bottom. En route to the gallows, the servant apologized: He thought it was the queen's bottom.

Abbas seeks U.S. pledge for East Jerusalem construction freeze
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday sought guarantees from Washington that it would pressure Israel to cancel its plan for 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, Palestinian media outlets reported. U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell spoke with Abbas late Thursday and urged him not to walk away from indirect peace negotiations with Israel, a senior Palestinian official quoted in the reports said.

PA fears East Jerusalem building will make it look weak
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Avi Issacharoff - March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

The Palestinian Authority will not begin indirect talks with Israel unless construction in the settlements, including in East Jerusalem, is completely frozen, PA President Mahmoud Abbas told the Arab League on Thursday. Abbas' statement was reported by both chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa.

The peace movement's new leader
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Larry Derfner - (Editorial) March 11, 2010 - 1:00am

As a believer in the cause of the two-state solution, which would preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state by ending the occupation, I ask myself: Who is our leader? Until recently, I said: Barack Obama. But he caved in to the Netanyahu government and its supporters in the US. As a Mideast peacemaker, Obama has become a joke, and nobody takes his envoys or these “proximity talks” seriously.

UN humanitarian chief criticises Israel over Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from BBC World News
March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

The UN's top humanitarian official, John Holmes, has criticised Israel for linking the 2006 capture of an Israeli soldier to its blockade of Gaza. Mr Holmes also said Israeli actions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, including expanding settlements, was counter to the peace process. He urged a relaxation of the blockade, warning Gaza was "de-developing". It came as Israel ordered the army to seal off the West Bank for 48 hours until midnight on Saturday. An army spokesman said the move had been made because of heightened tensions in Jerusalem.

How Bibi lost a best friend
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by Aluf Benn - (Opinion) March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

Breaking down the Biden speech
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
by Ron Kampeas - March 11, 2010 - 1:00am

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's attempt to reassure Israel of American steadfastness survived a steadfast Middle East tradition of self-sabotage. Biden's intended message in a much ballyhooed speech Thursday -- that the United States would stand by Israel in thick and thin -- was unequivocal. Yet it was clear that he and his speechwriters tweaked the text to encompass references to the Israeli settlement building and Palestinian incitement that almost marred his trip.

Washington is the indispensible partner for a settlement
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Daily Star
by Ziad Asali - (Analysis) March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

The situation facing Israel, the Palestinians and all other interested parties, especially the United States, is difficult, but it also presents important new opportunities. Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians may resume soon, although continued disagreements over Israeli settlement building may yet derail this.

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