Middle East News: World Press Roundup

NEWS: Hamas officials say six steps towards reconciliation have been agreed and that Palestinians have formed a committee to oversee new elections. Israel faces strong criticism for settlement activities from UN security council members. The PA has signed a free trade agreement with the South American trading bloc Mercosur. Israel pledges to release 1 billion cubic feet of water to restore the Jordan River. The Israeli government's watchdog agency says the country is ill-prepared for war. Egypt shuts the Gaza border crossing after a dispute with Hamas. Pres. Assad reportedly refuses to meet with Hamas leaders and Iran has cut funding to Gaza. Major Jewish-American donors are reportedly sticking with Pres. Obama. The BBC profiles the 'Iranian Schindler' who saved thousands of Jews from the Nazis during World War II. A war of words is escalating between the Israeli government and the New York Times. COMMENTARY: Zvi Bar'el says only the Israeli military can convince the public of the dangers of Jewish terrorism. Amira Hass says Palestinians are heros for resisting the occupation. Moshe Ronen says its simply a fact that Israeli law and law enforcement favors Jews. Ron Kampeas says Vaclav Havel will be remembered as a friend of Jews and Israel. Scott Bobb says the peace process is totally deadlocked. Victor Kotsev critiques Israel's response to the Arab uprisings. BrandeisNOW interviews Khalil Shikaki. Leonard Fein looks at a growing "distancing" between younger Jewish Americans and Israel. Elliott Abrams criticizes Iceland's resolution recognizing Palestine.

Hamas: Factions agree on 6 reconciliation steps in Cairo
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 21, 2011 - 1:00am

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Wednesday that Palestinian factions have reached agreement on six steps to be taken as part of ongoing reconciliation talks. In a statement received by Ma'an, Barhoum said that a committee composed of nine members has been formed to take charge of elections. The committee will be headed by Dr. Hanna Nasser, chairman of the Palestinian Authority's Central Elections Commission, and former president of Birzeit university.

UN Security Council members criticize Israel
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
December 21, 2011 - 1:00am

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- Most members of the UN Security Council voiced deep concerns on Tuesday about the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and criticized Israel for pressing ahead with the construction of new settlements. Council members were reacting to a briefing by UN assistant secretary-general for political affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, who told them the search for peace "remained elusive in a context of tensions on the ground, deep mistrust between the parties and volatile regional dynamics."

PA sign free trade agreement with Mercosur
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
December 21, 2011 - 1:00am

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority signed a free trade agreement on Tuesday with South American trading bloc Mercosur. Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki signed the deal in Montevideo as Palestinian Authority representative and thanked Mercosur, composed of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, for recognizing Palestine as an independent nation, MercoPress reported. The free trade agreement has been negotiated for the past year and represents the first such deal between Palestine and a bloc of nations outside of the Middle East.

Israel to restore clean water to Jordan River
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Associated Press
December 20, 2011 - 1:00am

ALUMOT DAM, Israel — Israel has pledged to release about 1 billion cubic feet of water to restore the biblical Jordan River. Israel, Syria and Jordan have diverted nearly all of the river's fresh water. The trickle that remains is mostly raw sewage. Last year, Israel began building a $106 million complex to remove the sewage water and treat it for agricultural use. But that would have left the river dry. In a statement, Environment Minister Gilad Erdan promised to start replacing the sewage with clean water in 2013, saying it will "allow life to return to the river."

Official: Israel unprepared for wartime
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Associated Press
December 20, 2011 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM — The Israeli government's watchdog agency says the country is short on bomb shelters and is ill-prepared to protect its citizens in case of war. The state comptroller's annual report, published in part on Tuesday, says Israel has not learned the lessons from the 2006 Lebanon war, when dozens of Israeli civilians were killed by Hezbollah rockets.

Assad refuses to meet with Mashaal
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Elior Levy - December 21, 2011 - 1:00am

The majority of Hamas leaders have left Damascus and the tensions between the Palestinian movement and the Syrian regime have reached their peak, London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat reported Wednesday, quoting an Islamic source. According to the source, Syrian President Bashar Assad has refused to meet with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal after the latter called for reforms in Syria following the oppression of opposition protestors. The source noted that apart from Mashaal, the movement's leaders have left Syria in favor of several countries.

Major Jewish donors stick with Obama
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Yitzhak Benhorin - December 21, 2011 - 1:00am

WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama is enjoying a 50% approval rate, according to a Washington Post-ABC poll published on Tuesday. The president should also be satisfied as top-level Jewish fundraisers from his 2008 campaign are sticking with him in 2012, Jewish newspaper Forward reported. According to the paper, despite reports that Obama faces a loss of Jewish funders due to his Middle East policy, analysis of a list of elite bundlers from his 2008 race shows no defections among the president’s top Jewish supporters in 2012.

The 'Iranian Schindler' who saved Jews from the Nazis
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from BBC News
by Brian Wheeler - December 20, 2011 - 1:00am

Thousands of Iranian Jews and their descendants owe their lives to a Muslim diplomat in wartime Paris, according to a new book. In The Lion's Shadow tells how Abdol-Hossein Sardari risked everything to help fellow Iranians escape the Nazis. Eliane Senahi Cohanim was seven years old when she fled France with her family. She remembers clutching her favourite doll and lying as still as she could, pretending to be asleep, whenever their train came to a halt at a Nazi checkpoint.

Israeli officials escalate war of words with N.Y. Times
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
by Ron Kampeas - December 20, 2011 - 1:00am

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Israeli officials are stepping up their criticism of The New York Times, slamming columnist Thomas Friedman and arguing that the newspaper is an unfit venue for an Op-Ed from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a scathing letter first leaked last week to The Jerusalem Post, Ron Dermer, a top aide to Netanyahu, declined an invitation for the prime minister to write an Op-Ed for the Times. By way of explanation, Dermer cited what he alleged was the newspaper's anti-Israel tilt.

Only the IDF can get Israel to recognize 'Jewish terrorism'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Zvi Barel - (Opinion) December 21, 2011 - 1:00am

The Ephraim region lieutenant commander, Lt. Col. Tzur Harpaz, is no mere senior officer. He is a lawmaker. The stone hurled at him by Jewish terrorists did no more than slightly crack the windows of the Knesset, but the babbling outcry of ministers and MKs, and the fact that they even debated the definition of Jewish terror, is yet more proof that any significant legislative changes, whether dealing with the state budget, the marginalization of women, terror, etc., must first make it through the IDF filter before it becomes a legitimate part of Israeli discourse.

Palestinians are heroes, braving Israeli dictatorship
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Amira Hass - (Opinion) December 21, 2011 - 1:00am

The Palestinians are heroes, and that's the only fact that's relevant after the slight shock of the hilltop thugs. The hands are the hands of thugs, and the head? The head is the head of the hostile regime under which the Palestinians live and which harasses them every moment of every day, week after week for decades. To live this way and remain sane - that's heroism. "And who says we're sane?" Palestinians answer me. Well, here's the proof: self-irony.

Our laws favor Jews
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Moshe Ronen - (Opinion) December 21, 2011 - 1:00am

One cannot argue with the facts. Serious, in-depth examinations undertaken many years ago already proved that there are no equal laws for Jews and Arabs in the territories conquered by Israel in 1967. Then-Deputy Attorney General Yehudit Karp was appointed to look into this exact question in 1982 and found that clear bias exists in favor of Jewish suspects. The Shamgar Committee established in 1994 in the wake of the murder of Muslim worshippers by Dr. Baruch Goldstein confirmed Attorney Karp’s conclusions, and added that nothing has changed since.

For Jews, Vaclav Havel wasn’t just a friend but a champion of freedom
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
by Ron Kampeas - (Opinion) December 20, 2011 - 1:00am

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Vaclav Havel was a friend of the Jews and of Israel, but prominent Jews who mourned his passing this week said the Czech leader’s greatest legacy was his universal message of freedom. “Vaclav Havel was one of the few islands of intellectual freedom in the sea of totalitarian rule,” Natan Sharansky told JTA, speaking of the late 1960s and the 1970s, when both he and Havel were struggling against communist rule -- Havel in the former Czechoslovakia and Sharansky in the former Soviet Union.

Stalemate Marks Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process in 2011
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Voice of America
by Scott Bobb - (Opinion) December 20, 2011 - 1:00am

2011 was a year of stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. International mediators tried to revive direct peace talks amid political uncertainties caused by rifts in the Palestinian leadership and popular uprisings in several Arab nations. The Palestinian Authority, frustrated over the stalled peace talks, applied for full membership in the United Nations. Its case is pending, though it faces stiff U.S. opposition. But the Palestinians successfully gained admission to the United Nations cultural organization UNESCO, angering Israel and the United States.

Arab Spring overshadowing Israeli-Palestinian conflict
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Brandeis NOW
by Charles Radin - (Interview) December 19, 2011 - 1:00am

Khalil Shikaki is the world’s foremost pollster and interpreter of Palestinian public opinion. A senior fellow of Brandeis’ Crown Center for Middle East Research, he has directed the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research since 2000, and has conducted more than 150 polls among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1993.

Fein: Distancing?
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Sun Sentinel
by Leonard Fein - (Opinion) December 20, 2011 - 1:00am

"Distancing" is the current favored word to describe the reaction of many American Jews, especially young Jews, to the ongoing situation in Israel. (Curiously, Peter Beinart's essay in the New York Review of Books in May of 2010, which catalyzed much of the conversation, nowhere uses the word.) But "distancing" is inadequate to describe the range of response to diverse alarming events in Israel. Herewith, two examples of that range, and a suggestion of how we might productively proceed.

Palestine Melts Iceland
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Weekly Standard
by Elliott Abrams - (Blog) December 16, 2011 - 1:00am

On November 29th the Icelandic parliament voted to recognize Palestine as a state. Yesterday, a ceremony was held in Reykjavik in the presence of the Icelandic and PLO foreign ministers. Here is the text of the resolution adopted by Althingi, the Icelandic parliament:

American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017