Middle East News: World Press Roundup

The situation in Gaza is improving, but Israel is nervous. The US searches for plan B on peace, and will test the parties on core issues. Aaron David Miller says the administration should not overreach. Hamas says time is on its side. Israel shoots down a balloon near its nuclear reactor. An Israeli expert says it cannot defeat Hezbollah. The PA presses for authority in more of the West Bank. Despite a court order, Israel seizes Palestinian land for a new train line. The PA is investigating whether Mohammed Dahlan is forming a militia in the West Bank. Steven Klein says unilateral Palestinian independence is the best option. The Jerusalem Post publishes a leaked cable on US Middle East policy. Larry Derfner and George Hishmeh both praise Latin American recognition of Palestine. Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, as well as Hassan Haidar, say peace may no longer be possible. AIPAC considered itself targeted by a government espionage investigation. Rami Khouri says the US needs a bold new approach.

Gaza Mends, but Israelis See Signs of Trouble
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Ethan Bronner - December 16, 2010 - 1:00am

The shops are full of Israeli food and clothes but most people here can barely afford them. Construction projects — sewage treatment plants, schools — are getting started but far fewer than needed. The border with Egypt, once sealed, is open but few people cross because security clearance is hard to get. And rockets and mortar shells fly daily from here into Israel, as Israeli troops carry out brief raids.

With Mideast peace talks adrift, the US searches for Plan B
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Christian Science Monitor
by Joshua Mitnick - December 16, 2010 - 1:00am

Soon after the US announced last week it would abandon an 18-month demand for an Israeli settlement freeze to advance peace talks with the Palestinians, state department spokesperson PJ Crowley insisted that the US would not start over with a blank slate. But after US envoy George Mitchell wrapped up a regional trip with little to show for it, the Obama administration's engagement with the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations appears rudderless. Palestinians say trust in the US mediation is running out.

U.S. can't make Mideast leaders want peace
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Politico
by Aaron David Miller - (Opinion) December 16, 2010 - 1:00am

The Obama administration needs to chill — and stop being so hard on itself when it comes to Arab-Israeli peace making. No sooner has one approach to the peace process failed than the administration gets busy launching another. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week outlined one more new approach to broker an Israeli-Palestinian framework agreement — by tackling borders and security first. And the tenacious Amb. George Mitchell is now in the region promoting it.

Hamas leader: Time on our side
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
by Sara Hussein - December 17, 2010 - 1:00am

Palestinians have time in their fight for a state, and a victory will come through nation-building rather than military confrontation with Israel, a senior Hamas leader said. "We are not in a hurry to buy or to sell our national interest because this is not the proper market," Mahmud Zahar told AFP during a wide-ranging interview conducted in the expansive living room of his Gaza City home. Zahar derided peace talks as a waste of time, heaping scorn on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for engaging in negotiations, and ruled out recognition of Israel.

Israel downs balloon near Dimona reactor
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
by Ari Rabinovitch - December 16, 2010 - 1:00am

An Israeli warplane on Thursday shot down an apparently unmanned balloon that flew over Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor, a security official said. "It definitely flew over Dimona, although we are still trying to determine what that entailed and the military is now handling the matter," the official said. A military spokeswoman said an Israeli warplane "shot down a suspicious flying object, probably a balloon, in southern Israel". Israeli media reports said the balloon was unmanned but powered by an engine.

Israel can't defeat Hezbollah - Israeli expert
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
by Dan Williams - December 16, 2010 - 1:00am

Israel cannot defeat Hezbollah in a direct engagement and the Lebanese guerrilla group would inflict heavy damage on the Israeli home front if war broke out, a former Israeli national security adviser said on Thursday. Though outnumbered and outgunned, Hezbollah held off Israel's advanced armed forces in a 2006 war and fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israeli territory. The group has a domestic political base and has since bolstered an arsenal that Israel describes as a strategic threat.

Palestinians want control of more West Bank parts
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Statesman
by Karin Laub - December 17, 2010 - 1:00am

Children's chairs pulled out of a pile of rubble are all that's left of a schoolhouse that served 17 children of Palestinian herders in this encampment on a wind-swept West Bank plateau. The school was razed by Israeli troops last week for the third time in six years as Israel asserted control over the area — part of the 62 percent of the West Bank that remains exclusively in Israeli hands, much of it set aside for Jewish settlements and military zones. The rest — where most Palestinians live — are disconnected territorial islands administered by the Palestinian Authority.

Despite court ruling, IDF took Arab land for train line
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Chaim Levinson - December 17, 2010 - 1:00am

Former Civil Administration head, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, signed an order expropriating 50 dunams from a West Bank village for the rail line connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, just two days before stepping down from his post on November 3. According to the document, Mordechai was convinced the expropriation was done for public good and that the user of the land would be in a position to compensate the property owners.

PA suspects former Fatah strongman in Gaza recruiting for new armed militia
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Avi Issacharoff - December 17, 2010 - 1:00am

Palestinian Authority security forces recently questioned Fatah activists on suspicion they had been recruited to form an armed militia, sources in the Fatah movement said. The PA indicated Fatah Central Committee member Mohammed Dahlan had done the recruiting for the militia, which he also intended to command. The suspects were summoned for questioning about their ties to Dahlan and whether they received instructions or funds from him in connection with the purchase of weapons. They were then released.

Forget the negotiating table
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Steven Klein - (Opinion) December 17, 2010 - 1:00am

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, frustrated perhaps by the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, declared last week that it is time to grapple with the "core issues of the conflict," adding that the United States recognizes "that a Palestinian state achieved through negotiations is inevitable." How do I break this to you, Ms. Secretary of State? If you haven't heard the news, the settling of ethno-political conflicts by negotiations is anything but inevitable.

WikaLikes: US ME policy recalibration, Dec. 2010
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by David Horovitz - (Opinion) December 17, 2010 - 1:00am

Secretary of state: This cable sets out amended assessments, priorities for relevant interactions on Israeli-Palestinian Issues. Friday, 10 December 2010, 15:25 S E C R E T STATE NOFORN DECL: 11/18/2035 SUBJECT: (S) REORIENTATION OF POLICY PRIORITIES: ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT 1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: This cable sets out amended assessments, priorities for relevant interactions on Israeli-Palestinian Issues (paragraph 2-end) by Department personnel and other Country Team members.

Rattling The Cage: Goodbye Obama, hello world
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Larry Derfner - (Opinion) December 15, 2010 - 1:00am

Recognition by Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay is a welcome gesture of impatience at Israel’s denial of Palestinians’ right to statehood in pre-1967 borders. Thank you, Argentina. Thank you, Brazil. Thank you, Uruguay. No, these countries didn’t help fight the Carmel Forest fire, but they just aided Israel in another way by recognizing the state of Palestine. Of course, not all Israelis see it like this. Most, rather, see these countries’ recognition of Palestine as a hostile, anti-Israeli, “delegitimizing” act.

These concrete constraints have quashed any hope of peace
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Guardian
by Hussein Agha, Robert Malley - (Opinion) December 17, 2010 - 1:00am

After weeks of fruitless endeavour, the United States has finally – and wisely – given up on its efforts to secure a renewed freeze on Israeli settlement construction in order to relaunch direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Yet, amid speculation over how Israelis and Palestinians might now resume their talks, a reality is taking hold: the point is fast approaching where negotiations between the two will be, for all practical purposes and for the foreseeable future, over. As emissaries are dispatched and ideas explored, discussions could well carry on.

AIPAC viewed U.S. gov’t as targeting pro-Israel groups during espionage probe
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
by Ron Kampeas - December 16, 2010 - 1:00am

It was a case that transfixed the pro-Israel community: the arrest in August 2005 on espionage charges of two senior officials at the most influential pro-Israel group in Washington, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Before the government dropped the case in May 2009 amid questions of whether the officials actually committed a crime by talking to Israeli officials about classified information one of them had received alleging an Iranian plot against Israelis stationed in Iraq, AIPAC fired the two men: foreign policy chief Steve Rosen and Iran analyst Keith Weissman.

Dropping Goal of Direct Talks, U.S. Will Now Test Both Sides on Core Issues
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jewish Daily Forward
by Nathan Guttman - December 15, 2010 - 1:00am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly promised that he will “surprise the critics and the skeptics” with his willingness to demonstrate flexibility and to compromise in order to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. Now, with Washington adopting a new approach toward Middle East peacemaking, Netanyahu’s willingness is about to be put to the test.

The Illusion of Peace
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Dar Al-Hayat
by Hassan Haidar - (Opinion) December 17, 2010 - 1:00am

Ever since Obama arrived at the White House, Israel has exerted every effort possible to convince him that the priority of his foreign policy should be the Iranian issue and preventing Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons, either through intensified sanctions or through military action, and that he would easily find solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if the nuclear threat from Iran were to cease and Tehran’s influence in Gaza, Lebanon and other places were to be reduced.

US mediation faces its biggest test
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
by Rami Khouri - (Opinion) December 17, 2010 - 1:00am

The American government’s decision to change its approach to mediating an Arab-Israeli comprehensive peace agreement, by dropping its insistence on an Israeli freeze in settlement construction as a prerequisite for moving ahead, confirms several important things. It proves that the US can be decisive, persistent, realistic, patient, pragmatic and humble - all admirable and important qualities in a mediator. The problem is that the US has proved again that the most important attribute for a mediator is the one it has never mastered in recent years: success.

One way out for the Palestinians
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
by George S. Hishmeh - (Opinion) December 17, 2010 - 1:00am

President Barack Obama described the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections last month as a “shellacking”; he was praised for his outright admission of his shocking defeat. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave him (and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) an unprecedented slap in the face by refusing to freeze his colonial expansion into occupied Palestinian territory, which now houses some 500,000 Israelis; the American head of state remained speechless, seemingly bowing his head down.

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