Middle East News: World Press Roundup

NEWS: Sec. Panetta says Israel must “get to the damn table” and negotiate with the Palestinians. Israeli officials condemn statements attributed to Sec. Clinton critical of recent antidemocratic Israeli legislation. An Israeli entrepreneur opens an online university in the occupied West Bank. After an outcry from Jewish Americans, the Israeli government cancels advertisements warning against life in the United States. Officials from Hamas and Fatah meet to discuss reconciliation. Diplomats say Hamas is quietly scaling back its presence in Syria and Iran is threatening to cut off its funding and weapons. PM Netanyahu calls for a Likud party vote, which could lead to early national elections. Israeli rights groups again say the government is curbing free speech. The US has reportedly asked Palestinians to stop leaking contents of Quartet proposals. PM Fayyad offers a frank analysis of the present situation facing the PA. COMMENTARY: David Ignatius says Panetta was merely saying what most US officials think but rarely say in public, and the Gulf News says he was right. Akiva Eldar says Jewish Americans should use their influence to stop “Israeli incitement.” Ha'aretz interviews historian Rashid Khalidi. Musa Keilani says Israel's diplomatic woes are of its own making. In an interview with an Israeli newspaper, Senior Egyptian journalist Mounir Mahmoud says there is no danger of a cancellation of the peace treaty. Amira Hass says if a New York Times reporter had not been abused by occupation forces, a Palestinian woman's story would never be known.

Defense Chief Says Israel Must Mend Arab Ties
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Tom Shanker - December 2, 2011 - 1:00am

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta spoke sternly on Friday to America’s closest ally in the Middle East, telling Israel that it is partly responsible for its increasing isolation and that it now must take “bold action” — diplomatic, not military — to mend ties with its Arab neighbors and settle previously intractable territorial disputes with the Palestinians.

Israeli ministers criticize remarks attributed to Clinton about Israeli democracy
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Post
by Associated Press - December 4, 2011 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM — Israeli Cabinet ministers on Sunday criticized Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton over remarks attributed to her in which she expressed concerns over Israel’s democracy. Clinton made the comments at a closed-door session over the weekend at the Saban Forum, a Mideast policy seminar sponsored by the Brookings Institution think tank.

Israeli Entrepreneur Opens Online University in West Bank
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by D.D. Guttenplan - December 4, 2011 - 1:00am

An American online university started by an Israeli entrepreneur has opened an operations center in the West Bank. Shai Reshef, the founder of University of the People, a nonprofit institution that offers free online education to students in more than 120 countries, said in an interview last week that his agreement with ASAL Technologies, a Palestinian software and information technology services company based in Ramallah, was just the first stage of a plan to move the university’s entire back office to the West Bank.

After American Jewish Outcry, Israel Ends Ad Campaign Aimed at Expatriates
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Isabel Kershner - December 2, 2011 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM — One video advertisement shows a Jewish elderly couple distraught that their Israeli granddaughter in the United States thinks Hanukkah is Christmas. Another shows a clueless American boyfriend who does not get why his Israeli expatriate girlfriend is saddened on Israel’s memorial day. A third shows a toddler calling “Daddy! Daddy!” to his napping Israeli expatriate father, who finally awakens when the child switches to Hebrew: “Abba!”

Fatah, Hamas discuss reconciliation in Gaza
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 5, 2011 - 1:00am

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas and Fatah leaders met in the Gaza Strip on Sunday to discuss the results of last week's summit between party chiefs, officials said. Describing the Gaza meeting of top officials from the rival movements as "significant," Fatah national relations commissioner Diab al-Loh said both Hamas and Fatah reaffirmed their commitment to the reconciliation deal. Al-Loh told Ma'an the parties discussed mechanisms to implement agreements between Fatah leader President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal in Cairo.

Diplomats: Hamas quietly scaling back Syria presence
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
by Nidal Al-Mughrabi - December 5, 2011 - 1:00am

GAZA CITY (Reuters) -- Dozens of Hamas operatives have quietly returned to Gaza from Damascus as the ruling party in the coastal strip scales back its presence in Syria and gauges the uncertain future of President Bashar Assad, diplomats said on Sunday. Hamas leaders deny they plan to quit the Syrian capital, where the group keeps its main headquarters outside the Gaza Strip. But diplomats and regional sources said the Hamas delegation in Damascus, which once numbered hundreds of Palestinian officials and their relatives, had shrunk to a few dozen.

Iran threatening to cut Hamas funds, arms supply if it flees Syria
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Avi Issacharoff - December 5, 2011 - 1:00am

Iran had applied intense pressure to Hamas in an effort to persuade it not to leave Damascus, threatening even to cut off funds to the organization if it did so, Palestinian sources have told Haaretz. The Iranian pressure also included an unprecedented ultimatum - namely, an explicit threat to stop supplying Hamas with arms and suspend the training of its military activists.

Netanyahu calls for Likud vote in move linked to US outlook
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
by Reuters - December 5, 2011 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM (Reuters) -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a snap Likud party leadership vote, officials said on Monday, a contest he is expected to win and which could pave the way for an early national election in Israel. Some commentators said Netanyahu was quietly preparing for the possibility that US President Barack Obama, with whom he has had a testy relationship, will win a second term in November, a year before Israel's currently scheduled ballot.

Israel rights group attacks government for curbing freedon of speech
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The National
by Vita Bekker - December 5, 2011 - 1:00am

TEL AVIV // Israel's biggest civil rights group yesterday blasted the country for curbing the freedom of speech and freedom of assembly for Jews and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. A report by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said the country was stepping up action to stifle dissent. It claimed the government has warned political activists not to participate in protests and allowed local authorities to repress demonstrations.

U.S. warns Palestinians: Stop leaking content of Quartet talks
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Barak Ravid - December 3, 2011 - 1:00am

The U.S. government has asked senior Palestinian officials to refrain from leaking details of talks that took place recently between Middle East Quartet envoys, Israeli representatives and the Palestinian Authority. According to a senior U.S. official, the Quartet agreed with Israel and the Palestinians that the content of the talks would remain confidential. “Quartet members and parties have agreed to preserve confidentiality in their discussions. So frankly, we're somewhat disturbed by the fact that many of these details have appeared in the press,” the official said.

Politics not ripe for Palestinian statehood bid - Fayyad
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
by Taylor Luck - December 5, 2011 - 1:00am

AMMAN - Global and regional politics are not yet ripe for a Palestinian state, according to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, as leadership in Ramallah eyes a less than certain future. The Palestinian premier, a champion of institution-building as a path to statehood, said the current political conditions within Israel, the Palestinian territories and across the world are not favourable to lead to concrete steps towards a Palestinian state.

Panetta: Israel should ‘just get to the damn table’ with Palestine
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Post
by David Ignatius - (Opinion) December 2, 2011 - 1:00am

Obama administration officials often seem to be walking on eggshells when they talk about issues involving Israel. So it was interesting Friday night to hear Defense Secretary Leon Panetta forcefully caution a U.S.-Israeli audience about the dangers of bombing Iran and tell Israel to “just get to the damn table” in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Panetta is right to criticise Israel
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Gulf News
(Editorial) December 5, 2011 - 1:00am

It is rare for a US Secretary of Defence to rebuke Israel in any way at all, and even rarer to do so publicly. So it was very welcome to hear Leon Panetta criticise Benjamin Netanyahu's government for its increasing isolation in the Arab world, and its failure to do more to restart peace talks. We have to hope that this new tone from the Defence Department is also reflected in the thinking of the State Department, but that remains unlikely, since the White House rarely succeeds in getting these two behemoths to coordinate their ideas.

U.S. Jews, use your influence to stop Israeli incitement
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Akiva Eldar - (Opinion) December 5, 2011 - 1:00am

An uproar in the "holy city" of New York. An Israeli Absorption Ministry campaign - using the slogan "Before Hanukkah turns into Christmas, it's time to return to Israel" - has convulsed the offices of Jewish professionals in the city. How dare those Israeli beggars patronize us? Who has ever heard of such chutzpah: delegitimizing Jews in America?

Full transcript of interview with Palestinian professor Rashid Khalidi
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Chemi Shalev - (Interview) December 5, 2011 - 1:00am

THE PALESTINIANS: “We already have a one-state solution” Q. Let’s talk about the Palestinians. Why has the Arab Spring passed them by? And do you think the two-state solution is still possible? Your detractors say that you would not be unhappy about such a development

Danger, in the absence of peace
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Al-Arabiya
by Musa Keilani - (Opinion) December 4, 2011 - 1:00am

His Majesty King Abdullah has raised Jordan’s diplomatic profile as a key country seeking a realistic solution to the Palestinian-Israeli problem based on the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people as enshrined in United Nations resolutions and international law.

'Peace treaty with Israel won't be revoked'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Roee Nahmias - (Opinion) December 4, 2011 - 1:00am

"Israel has no cause for concern – the peace treaty won't be revoked," Egyptian academic and journalist Mounir Mahmoud told Ynet over the phone on Sunday. "The country is going through its hardest period since the revolution – and I won't be exaggerating if I say – perhaps the hardest period it has known to date," Mahmoud noted. "We all hoped for a natural and smooth birth toward a true democracy in Egypt, but we were forced to undergo a cesarean section," he said, drawing a comparison between the birth of a newborn and the situation in post-Mubarak Egypt.

The connection between a Pulitzer-winning photojournalist and a Palestinian housekeeper
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Amira Hass - (Opinion) December 5, 2011 - 1:00am

What is about to happen here constitutes deliberate exploitation of the attention given to the humiliating security check undergone by New York Times photographer Lynsey Addario. It is very likely that without the report last week about how Addario was stripped at the Erez checkpoint and the subsequent apology of the Defense Ministry, the following lines would not have been written.

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