Middle East News: World Press Roundup

NEWS: The Palestinian bid for membership in UNESCO threatens US funding. The mayor of New York visits Israel. After the Israel-Hamas prisoner swap, attention refocuses on security. Hamas says neither senior figures nor common criminals will be in the next group of prisoners released. Egypt says it considers Palestinian reconciliation a top priority. Quartet Envoy Blair tells Reuters the “Arab Spring” could complicate Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. Freed Palestinian prisoners are rebuilding their lives. The Israeli military recommends freeing Fatah prisoners in order to bolster Pres. Abbas. Israeli opposition leader Livni strongly condemns the prisoner swap. Israeli occupation authorities are taking more control over Palestinian textbooks in occupied East Jerusalem. COMMENTARY: Walter Pincus says the US needs to reevaluate its aid to Israel. Akiva Eldar says PM Netanyahu is holding all of Israel hostage to the occupation. Shlomo Avineri says antidemocratic legislation is the real threat to Israel's “Jewish character.” Bradley Burston says Israel-bashing is now acceptable in the United States if it is done from the extreme right. An Israeli diplomat to the United States explains why he gave up his American citizenship. Uri Avnery says the prisoner swap is a huge blow to Abbas. Haggai Matar says many Israelis refuse to accept the legitimacy of the occupation. Rami Khouri says the prisoner swap opens new prospects for negotiations. Jonathan Guyer says the US looks increasingly irrelevant as a Middle East peace broker.

Palestinian Bid for Full Unesco Membership Imperils American Financing
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Steven Erlanger - October 23, 2011 - 12:00am

The Palestinian bid for full membership in Unesco — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — has put both Washington and the organization into an urgent bind. United States legislation dating back more than 15 years mandates a complete cutoff of American financing to any United Nations agency that accepts the Palestinians as a full member. Unesco depends on the United States for 22 percent of its budget, about $70 million a year.

New York mayor visits Jerusalem, dedicates first aid station, meets Israeli premier
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Post
by Associated Press - (Analysis) October 23, 2011 - 12:00am

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is in Jerusalem to dedicate a first aid station and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Bloomberg dedicated the station, built with the help of donations from him and other Americans and named for his father, in a ceremony Sunday. Meeting with Netanyahu, Bloomberg gave the Israeli leader a U.S. flag and asked him to pass it on to the family of Gilad Schalit, the Israeli soldier freed last week in a prisoner swap with Hamas.

With Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange finished, attention turns to security
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Christian Science Monitor
by Joshua Mitnick - (Analysis) October 18, 2011 - 12:00am

The unprecedented prisoner exchange today between Israel and Hamas will shift attention in the coming months to undermining the possibility of an upsurge in violence in the West Bank, where hundreds of Palestinian prisoners returned today after being released in return for Gilad Shalit.

Hamas: Israel will not release top figures or criminals
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
(Analysis) October 24, 2011 - 12:00am

Israel will not release top security prisoners or common criminals in the second phase of the prisoner swap deal with Hamas, senior movement official Mahmoud Zahhar said Sunday. Under the second phase of the deal reached last week, 550 Palestinians -- who remain unnamed -- will be freed from Israeli jails within two months, coming after the release of 477 prisoners in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit on Tuesday.

Egypt envoy: Palestinian reconciliation a top priority
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
(Analysis) October 24, 2011 - 12:00am

Egyptian ambassador to the Palestinian Authority Yasser Othman said Sunday that reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah is a top priority for the Egyptian leadership. President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Egypt on Friday to discuss implementation of the deal reached on May 4 and brokered by Egypt, but which has yet to be carried out. The Egyptian leadership is willing to focus its efforts on carrying out the reconciliation deal, Othman said, noting that the leadership places great importance on its implementation.

Arab Spring may endanger Mideast peace - Blair
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Alertnet
by Tom Pfeiffer - (Analysis) October 23, 2011 - 12:00am

Arab pro-democracy uprisings spell more regional instability that could complicate peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians but also make it necessary to get the process back on track, envoy Tony Blair said on Sunday. Blair will sit down separately with Israeli and Palestinian officials this week in Jerusalem to try to revive a peace process that broke down more than a year ago because of a dispute over Jewish settlement expansion.

Freed Palestinian prisoners hope to rebuild lives
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Statesman
by Tara Todras-Whitehill - (Analysis) October 23, 2011 - 12:00am

Palestinian prisoners sent to the Gaza Strip in a swap for a captive Israeli soldier last week are contemplating the rest of their lives after years behind bars. Some say they want to put their violent pasts behind them and move on, now that the celebrations marking their release have faded.

IDF recommends freeing Fatah prisoners as gesture to Abbas
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff, Barak Ravid - (Analysis) October 24, 2011 - 12:00am

Israel should make a series of gestures to the Palestinian Authority to reduce the damage caused the PA by last week's deal for the return of Gilad Shalit, the Israel Defense Forces' General Staff believes. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's advisers vehemently oppose the idea, as do several members of his forum of eight senior ministers, arguing that PA President Mahmoud Abbas "should be punished" for his unilateral bid for UN recognition of a Palestinian state.

Livni breaks ranks over prisoner exchange deal
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Independent
by Donald MacIntyre - (Analysis) October 24, 2011 - 12:00am

Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni yesterday broke sharply with the mainstream consensus of support for the prisoner exchange which secured abducted soldier Gilad Shalit’s release with an emphatic warning that it had strengthened Hamas and weakened Israel. Ms Livni yesterday called on the government to co-ordinate the second batch of 550 prisoner releases with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to offset a deal in which “an extreme right wing [Israeli] government has provided legitimacy for the Hamas.”

Israel Asserts Control Over East Jerusalem Textbooks
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Media Line
by Arieh O'Sullivan - (Analysis) October 23, 2011 - 12:00am

Is it an expression of Palestinian nationalism or is it delegitimizing the State of Israel? That’s the question at the heart of a controversy over Israel’s decision to expurgate Palestinian symbols and a nationalist take on history from the textbooks used by students in largely Arab east Jerusalem. Jalal Abukhater, a high school senior who studies in Palestinian-ruled Ramallah, brought the controversy to the public eye over the weekend in the +972 website, a forum for left-of center Israelis, in an essay “Israel imposes censored Palestinian textbooks in East Jerusalem.”

United States needs to reevaluate its assistance to Israel
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Post
by Walter Pincus - (Opinion) October 17, 2011 - 12:00am

As the country reviews its spending on defense and foreign assistance, it is time to examine the funding the United States provides to Israel. Let me put it another way: Nine days ago, the Israeli cabinet reacted to months of demonstrations against the high cost of living there and agreed to raise taxes on corporations and people with high incomes ($130,000 a year). It also approved cutting more than $850 million, or about 5 percent, from its roughly $16 billion defense budget in each of the next two years.

Netanyahu is holding Israel hostage
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Akiva Eldar - (Opinion) October 24, 2011 - 12:00am

When you hugged Gilad Shalit's fragile body to your chest, perhaps you thought of your brother Yoni, who gave his life for the ethos that one doesn't negotiate with terrorists. When you heard the cries of joy in Gaza at the sight of the murderers you had set free, perhaps you recalled the countless speeches you gave, and the book you wrote, about the necessity of waging an uncompromising war on terror: They are what paved your way from a Jerusalem furniture factory to Israel's top job. And one can safely assume your elderly father wasn't enthusiastic over your "capitulation to terror."

The real threat to Israel's Jewish character
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Shlomo Avineri - (Opinion) October 24, 2011 - 12:00am

Israel is a Jewish state - this was the international legitimacy it received in the 1947 UN Partition Plan, this is the principle underlying its Declaration of Independence, Law of Return, Citizenship Law and a long list of laws, regulations and customs. All Israeli governments, left or right, followed this, and Israel's social reality is imbued with it. After a few hours in the country, a visitor from Mars would have no difficulty realizing that he had landed in a Jewish state.

The new U.S. Zionist: Israel-bashing, made kosher
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Bradley Burston - (Opinion) October 23, 2011 - 12:00am

Israel-bashing is not what it used to be. In fact, Israel-bashing is not what it was a week ago. The difference is Gilad Shalit. The difference is that it now turns out to be just fine for U.S. Jews to denounce the actions and policies of the government of Israel – so long as it's being done by hard-line rightists.

How a new Israeli attache renounced his U.S. citizenship
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
by Eli Groner - (Opinion) October 23, 2011 - 12:00am

TEL AVIV (JTA) -- After being named Israel's minister for economic affairs to the United States, Eli Groner was required by U.S. law to revoke his U.S. citizenship. The following is the statement he submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv upon his renunciation. Because I love America, it is with hesitant hands and a heavy heart that I am writing this note. I never expected to request revocation of my citizenship, and while I certainly understand the circumstances requiring me to do so, it is important for me to share with you why I have decided to take this step.

How Shalit became everybody’s son
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Arab News
by Uri Avnery - (Opinion) October 24, 2011 - 12:00am

THE MOST sensible — I almost wrote “the only sensible” — sentence uttered this week sprang from the lips of a 5-year old boy. After the prisoner swap, one of those smart-aleck TV reporters asked him: “Why did we release 1027 Arabs for one Israeli soldier?” He expected, of course, the usual answer: Because one Israeli is worth a thousand Arabs. The little boy replied: “Because we caught many of them and they caught only one.”

Some Israeli citizens just refuse to accept the occupation
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Daily Beast
by Haggai Matar - (Opinion) October 24, 2011 - 12:00am

“I personally don’t have a problem with Israelis, but for your own sake you’d better not tell others around here where you’re from,” a taxi driver said to me during my last visit to Amman. Little did it help to explain that I attend demonstrations against the Israeli occupation regularly and came to Jordan with Palestinian friends.

After the swap, a chance for peace talks
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Daily Beast
by Rami Khouri - (Opinion) October 22, 2011 - 12:00am

The prisoners exchange that Hamas and Israel concluded this week could be a potential historic turning point in an otherwise moribund “peace process” where no noteworthy breakthrough has occurred in the past nearly 20 years of American-mediated, and therefore mostly Israeli-defined, talks. The prisoners exchange is significant for showing that the most implacable and violent enemies are able to negotiate and reach agreement, when both sides obtain gains that are sufficiently important for them to be able then to make concessions on issues of equal importance to the other side.

U.S. Looks Increasingly Irrelevant as Mideast Peace Broker
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Inter Press Service (IPS)
by Jonathan Guyer - (Opinion) October 22, 2011 - 12:00am

"…[M]oving forward, we want to see progress on the peace talks," State Department spokesman Mark Toner has emphasised repeatedly over the last two weeks, which have seen Washington's special envoy David Hale shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah. "We want to see the two parties, the Palestinians and the Israelis, get back into direct negotiations. And that's where are our focus remains," he said. But there is little reason at this point to believe that Washington's efforts will bear fruit.

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