Middle East News: World Press Roundup

Israel confirms building of 20 new settler housing units in occupied East Jerusalem could begin "at any time," as the White House continues to seek "clarification." Administration officials have reportedly asked Israel for a series of measures, outlined by Nathan Guttman, but there has yet to be any agreement. PM Netanyahu says progress has been made but he needs approval of his cabinet colleagues. The Arab League may discuss a withdrawal of the Arab Peace Initiative. PLO officials slam Israel's settlement actions. Reuters interviews PIF chief Mohammad Mustafa. Aluf Benn says Netanyahu leaves Washington disgraced, isolated and weaker. A Labor minister says Israel's governing coalition may have to change. A new survey shows Kadim growing in popularity. Seth Freedman says settlements come at a huge price to Israel. George Hishmeh says Pres. Obama has more leverage with Netanyahu because of his health care victory. The National says Netanyahu has miscalculated, and Michael Young says Israel is losing the battle of narratives.

Deep chill in U.S.-Israeli relations
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Politico
by Laura Rozen, Ben Smith - March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

Bad personal chemistry, public confrontation and mutual silence a full day after a two-hour meeting Tuesday night between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have deepened the impression of a worsening fracture in the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel.

Netanyahu departs Washington amid chill
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Politico
by Laura Rozen - (Blog) March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

Netanyahu departed Washington for Israel late Wednesday night, after what some sources described as a sometimes frantic last 24 hours of decision-making after a late night meeting with Obama at the White House Tuesday night.

Israel Confirms New Building in East Jerusalem
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Isabel Kershner - March 24, 2010 - 12:00am

With strains still high between Israel and the United States over the issue of Jewish settlements, construction of a contentious Jewish housing project in a predominantly Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem could start at any time, Israeli officials and experts said Wednesday Jerusalem city hall gave the project the final go-ahead on March 18, days after city officials said the landowners had paid the required fees. Once the fees were paid, City Hall said in a statement on Wednesday, “approval was granted automatically.”

Obama, Netanyahu meet for hours as U.S. pushes for outreach to Palestinians
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Post
by Glenn Kessler - March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

U.S. and Israeli officials struggled Wednesday to resolve a sharp dispute over U.S. demands that Israel make goodwill gestures to lure Palestinian officials back to the negotiating table.

Arab League mulls withdrawing peace initiative
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

Terminating the Arab Peace Initiative will be on the Arab League summit's agenda in Libya this weekend, its secretary-general, Amr Moussa, said Wednesday. In a statement released before traveling to Sirte, Libya ahead of the summit, Moussa said it was futile to continue dealing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following recent developments in Jerusalem, and that Israel's "hardline stance" would not push Arab League conveners into "giving up on Jerusalem."

Erekat: Settlement decision against peace
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

Israel was straying further outside of the international consensus and damaging its credibility as a serious partner for peace, chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement on Wednesday. The PLO official's comments follow Israel's decision to build in the flashpoint Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah at the site of the former Shepherd Hotel, in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israel awaits word but signs are no deal with U.S.
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ended a troubled U.S. visit on Thursday with no apparent resolution of a serious dispute with Washington over Jewish housing in occupied East Jerusalem. Despite his hints at potential compromise, Israeli commentators saw failure to secure a deal with U.S. President Barack Obama and said tensions with Washington appeared to have been left unresolved. Israeli President Shimon Peres, the country's elder statesman, said Netanyahu "apparently ... did not reach an understanding wih the United States of America".

US presses Israel for Mideast goodwill steps
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
by Jeffrey Heller, Matt Spetalnick - March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was poised to end a troubled U.S. visit on Wednesday without settling a dispute with the White House over Jewish housing construction in occupied East Jerusalem. In a flurry of meetings throughout the day, U.S. and Israeli officials scrambled to put together a package of goodwill gestures that President Barack Obama hoped could persuade Palestinians to return to peace talks.

Palestinians await Israeli nod on W.Bank project
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
by Mohammed Assadi - (Interview) March 24, 2010 - 12:00am

The Palestinian Authority has asked Israel for jurisdiction over West Bank land in the Jordan Valley for a development project valued at $2.1 billion, the head of Palestine Investment Fund said. The Western-backed Palestinian Authority's plan comprises investment of $1.4 billion in a tourist resort on the Dead Sea shore and further spending of $700 million on a new city near Jericho, Mohammad Mustafa, head of the PIF, told Reuters.

U.S., Israel fail to reach agreement on Israeli settlement plan
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Xinhua
March 24, 2010 - 12:00am

The United States did not reach agreement with Israel over the latter's settlement plan after two days of visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday. The talks between Netanyahu and U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell concluded but did not heal the dispute between the two countries, U.S. officials were quoted by the Associated Press as saying. The officials, who refused to be named, said the two sides were trying to find ways to get Israeli-Palestinian peace talks back on track and Netanyahu had prolonged his stay with an hope for an agreement.

Netanyahu: Progress made in talks with U.S.
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Natasha Mozgovaya, Barak Ravid - March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that progress had been made toward resolving the diplomatic crisis with the United States over the contentious plan to build more Jewish homes in East Jerusalem. "We are trying to find the golden path between our will to advance the peace process along with the United States, and between maintaining the standard policy of all Israeli governments," said Netanyahu just before boarding a plane back to Israel early Thursday.

Netanyahu leaves U.S. disgraced, isolated and weaker
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Aluf Benn - (Opinion) March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

Details emerging from Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Washington remain incomplete, but the conclusion may nonetheless be drawn that the prime minister erred in choosing to fly to the United States this week. The visit - touted as a fence-mending effort, a bid to strengthen the tenuous ties between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama - only highlighted the deep rift between the American and Israeli administrations. The prime minister leaves America disgraced, isolated, and altogether weaker than when he came.

Labor minister: Government in danger
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Atilla Somfalvi - March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

Commentators said after an exceptionally chilly welcome received by the prime minister at the White House that Benjamin Netanyahu may be forced to alter the composition of his government, due to disagreements between his coalition and the US on construction in east Jerusalem. A Labor minister said Thursday that "the government in its current state may be in danger". But a senior Likud minister disagreed, saying that it was "too soon to assume that the composition of the coalition will change".

Netanyahu to US: I need cabinet's approval on understandings
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Yitzhak Benhorin - March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

Aides to Benjamin Netanyahu met with American officials at the Mayflower Hotel for several hours overnight Thursday (Israeli time) in an effort to resolve the disagreements that had resurfaced during the Israeli prime minister's meeting with President Barack Obama and agree on trust-building Israeli measures that would advance the so-called "proximity talks" with the Palestinians.

Israel’s new Center
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Gadi Taub - (Opinion) March 24, 2010 - 12:00am

A Yedioth Ahronoth poll published this past weekend revealed that Kadima had not only maintained its status as Israel's largest party, but even boosted its advantage over Likud, climbing up to 32 Knesset seats. Yet if Kadima officials are overjoyed because of this poll, they are wrong to do it – the same poll shows that the rightist bloc remains the only one capable of forming a government; Kadima only takes votes from the Left.

The real price of Israel's settlements
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by Seth Freedman - (Opinion) March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

The cost of building Israeli settlements in the occupied territories stands at more than $17bn, according to a report released this week. The painstaking study into the economics of construction in the West Bank encompasses every building and road in the settlements, which cover a combined space of 12m square metres, and in doing so quantifies the enormity of the 43-year-old project of colonisation.

Amid Public Clash, U.S. Moves Israel Closer to Talks
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jewish Daily Forward
by Nathan Guttman - March 24, 2010 - 12:00am

Under the klieg lights, American officials calmly repeated their opposition to key policies of Israel’s current government. Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu snorted defiance in the face of the American warnings. And nothing appeared to change. But as high-profile leadership meetings and major policy speeches fixated the public during the annual conference of American Jewry’s primary pro-Israel lobby, U.S. officials moved the ball steadily, if incrementally, forward toward substantive negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Obama may have edge over Netanyahu
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Gulf News
by George S. Hishmeh - (Opinion) March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

Barack Obama must be feeling ecstatic and very confident that he is going down in history as the first American president able to guarantee health care coverage for all Americans, regardless of their background or social status. The landmark health care bill which the American president signed into law on Tuesday at a White House ceremony will eventually extend health insurance to about 32 million Americans who could not afford health insurance.

Pride comes before the fall for Netanyahu
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The National
(Editorial) March 24, 2010 - 12:00am

When Israel ignores its strongest allies when they call its behaviour insulting, one wonders if the word hubris has a translation in Hebrew. Judging by his comments to the pro-Israeli lobby group Aipac, a shameless Benjamin Netanyahu went further earlier this week, taking the fight straight to Washington. Despite the US administration’s vocal denunciation of his decision to continue building settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and its warning that this would endanger much-needed peace talks, the Israeli prime minister did not budge.

Israel is losing the battle of narratives
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Daily Star
by Michael Young - (Opinion) March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

Some will argue that the United Kingdom’s expulsion this week of an Israeli diplomat, by most accounts a Mossad agent, was a transitory spat between allies, following Israel’s use of forged British passports in the recent assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai. After all, they might add, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher did something similar in 1988, without lingering consequences. Yet things seem rather different this time.

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