Middle East News: World Press Roundup

Fallout continues from Israel's announcement of 1600 new settler units in occupied East Jerusalem during the VP Biden's visit: PM Netanyahu apologizes but indicates no change in policy; Tom Friedman says Biden should have left Israel as soon as the announcement was made; Sec. Clinton and other administration officials continue to express outrage and have reportedly asked Israel to cancel the plan; speculation is rife about its impact on US-Israel relations; YNet says Israel now has to implement a de facto freeze in Jerusalem; Aaron David Miller says the administration is unlikely to want an extended confrontation; the Jerusalem Post says the controversy is a godsend to the PA and is being used by the administration to force clarity on the Israeli government. Israel extends its closure in the occupied West Bank for three more days and declares villages that have been the scene of nonviolent protests "closed military areas." Ha'aretz describes the abuse of a Palestinian shepherd by Israeli soldiers, and the Guardian reports on mistreatment of hundreds of Palestinian children in Israeli detention. A report in Foreign Policy says the US military believes that Israel's policies are endangering US troops.

Netanyahu Offers Apology, but No Shift in Policy
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Isabel Kershner - March 14, 2010 - 1:00am

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel told his cabinet on Sunday that the ill-timed announcement of new housing plans for a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem during a visit by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. last week had been “regrettable” and “hurtful.” Mr. Netanyahu also said that the government had set up a committee to “examine the chain of events and to ensure procedures” to prevent such an episode from happening again.

Driving Drunk in Jerusalem
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Thomas L. Friedman - (Opinion) March 13, 2010 - 1:00am

I am a big Joe Biden fan. The vice president is an indefatigable defender of U.S. interests abroad. So it pains me to say that on his recent trip to Israel, when Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s government rubbed his nose in some new housing plans for contested East Jerusalem, the vice president missed a chance to send a powerful public signal: He should have snapped his notebook shut, gotten right back on Air Force Two, flown home and left the following scribbled note behind: “Message from America to the Israeli government: Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.

Clinton Rebukes Israel on Housing Announcement
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Mark Landler - March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

In a tense, 43-minute phone call on Friday morning, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel’s plan for new housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem sent a “deeply negative signal” about Israeli-American relations, and not just because it spoiled a visit by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Questions abound after Biden's Israel visit
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Los Angeles Times
by Edmund Sanders - March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

You come for a hug. You leave with a slap. It happens in the Middle East. Vice President Joe Biden's trip this week was supposed to highlight U.S.-Israeli cooperation to counter a perceived nuclear threat from Iran and kick off U.S.-brokered indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Instead, talk about Iran was sidetracked and the outlook for peace may be murkier than it was before. Even here, people are not quite sure how that happened.

Netanyahu faces 'moment of truth' after US slams Israel 'insult'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Christian Science Monitor
by Joshua Mitnick - March 14, 2010 - 1:00am

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu found himself on the defensive after an unprecedented public assault by US officials over the weekend, as the diplomatic furor over new building in Jerusalem escalated.

Officials: US wants Israel to cancel building plan
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Associated Press
by Amy Teibel - March 15, 2010 - 12:00am

The U.S. is pressing Israel to scrap a contentious east Jerusalem building project whose approval has touched off the most serious diplomatic feud with Washington in years, said Israeli officials Monday. Tensions in the city at the center of the spat were high, with police out in large numbers in Jerusalem's volatile Old City in expectation of renewed clashes and Palestinian shopkeepers shuttering their stores for several hours to protest Israel's actions in the city.

Israeli apology gets cool reception in Washington
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Associated Press
by Josef Federman - March 14, 2010 - 1:00am

Israel's prime minister expressed regret Sunday for a crisis with the United States over plans to expand a Jewish neighborhood in east Jerusalem, even as American officials played down the apology and called for bold Israeli action to get peace efforts back on track. With tensions rising, Israel deployed hundreds of police around east Jerusalem's Old City and heavily restricted Palestinian access to the area — the scene of several recent clashes.

Israel extends West Bank closure for three days
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Xinhua
March 14, 2010 - 1:00am

Israeli security forces extended the general closure on the West Bank for three days to Tuesday midnight, an Israeli army statement said on Saturday. The lookdown, which had been expected to be lifted on Saturday midnight, was extended in view of the unrest in the area, according to the statement.

Israel envoy: U.S. ties at their lowest ebb in 35 years
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Barak Ravid - March 15, 2010 - 12:00am

Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has told the country's diplomats there that U.S.-Israeli relations face their worst crisis in 35 years, despite attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office to project a sense of "business as usual." Oren was speaking to the Israeli consuls general in a conference call on Saturday night.

IDF declares West Bank protest villages a 'closed military area'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Amira Hass - March 15, 2010 - 12:00am

The army has declared the West Bank villages of Bil'in and Ni'lin a 'closed military area' until August 17, it emerged Monday. In arresting a demonstrator on Friday, police cited a military edict closing off the two villages, where weekly protests against the barrier Israel is erecting around the West Bank have often turned violent. Bil'in residents told Haaretz that late on Friday night dozens of soldiers, some of them masked, deployed throughout the village to post notices of the order, signed on February 17 by the chief of army Central Command, Gen. Avi Mizrahi.

Settlers' call sends Palestinian shepherd to IDF beating
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Amira Hass - March 15, 2010 - 12:00am

The response from the Israel Defense Forces spokesman came surprisingly quickly; a mere two or three hours after the query had been sent by Haaretz, the spokesman replied orally, and then in writing, that "following the reporter's question and after receiving most of the facts, the chief [military] prosecutor, Col. Jana Modzagbrishvili has instructed the military police to look into the matter." The matter, according to most of the facts, was that soldiers had beaten a civilian, who was bound and blindfolded, for several hours on January 7.

Estimate: De-facto freeze in J'lem
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Roni Sofer - March 15, 2010 - 12:00am

Israel faces no choice but to enforce a de-facto construction freeze in greater Jerusalem. Netanyahu won't officially announce it, but will quietly execute it, says a senior cabinet source Amidst crisis with the White House, how will Israel respond to the American demands? According to a senior source in the government, "The price for the American insult will be a de-facto construction freeze across greater Jerusalem. There will be no other choice, due to the government's stupidity," the source told Ynet.

Settlements or us
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by David Horovitz - (Analysis) March 15, 2010 - 12:00am

Binyamin Netanyahu had thought that the crisis was over.

For PA, Ramat Shlomo brouhaha is a godsend
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Khaled Abu Toameh - (Analysis) March 15, 2010 - 12:00am

The crisis that erupted last week between the US and Israel over plans to build 1,600 new homes in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood has been welcomed by the Palestinian Authority as a “positive development.” PA officials and media outlets have since been highlighting – with a tone full of satisfaction – every single report or statement about the crisis between Jerusalem and Washington.

Even Labor ministers oppose halting east Jerusalem building
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Gil Hoffman - (Analysis) March 14, 2010 - 1:00am

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received backing from his ministers and the parties in his coalition Sunday as he faced a deepening crisis in Israel’s relations with the American administration. While officials in Washington were quoted as saying that Netanyahu would have to choose between his ties with US President Barack Obama’s government and his coalition partners, ministers and MKs took steps to ensure that he would not have to make such a difficult choice.

Jail ordeal of hundreds of Palestinian children arrested for throwing stones
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by Rory McCarthy - March 14, 2010 - 1:00am

With more than 300 Palestinian children being held in Israeli prisons, human rights groups and Palestinian officials are increasingly concerned about the actions of the Israeli military. The Israeli group B'Tselem said that security forces had "severely violated" the rights of a number of children, aged between 12 and 15, who had been taken into custody in recent months.

The Petraeus briefing: Biden’s embarrassment is not the whole story
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Foreign Policy
by Marc Perry - (Analysis) March 13, 2010 - 1:00am

On Jan. 16, two days after a killer earthquake hit Haiti, a team of senior military officers from the U.S. Central Command (responsible for overseeing American security interests in the Middle East), arrived at the Pentagon to brief Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The team had been dispatched by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus to underline his growing worries at the lack of progress in resolving the issue. The 33-slide, 45-minute PowerPoint briefing stunned Mullen.

Bad time for Israel settlements fight
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Politico
by Aaron David Miller - (Opinion) March 12, 2010 - 1:00am

This week in Israel, Vice President Joe Biden found out something that he’s probably known for quite some time: No good deed goes unpunished. Shortly after Biden arrived in Jerusalem on Tuesday, to reassure the Israelis and coordinate efforts on Iran and other issues, Israel’s Ministry of the Interior announced the construction of 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem.

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