Middle East News: World Press Roundup

NEWS: Israeli and Palestinian officials continue low-key meetings in Jordan. A proposed law in Israel would make it a crime to compare people to Nazis. A right-wing Israeli MK who threw water on a Palestinian MK is suspended from the Knesset for a month. Israel says it's ready to absorb Syrian refugees if the Assad regime falls. The Middle East Quartet has reportedly asked Israel for “confidence building gestures” towards the Palestinians, and PM Netanyahu is reportedly considering such steps. Peace Now says Israel began building 1,850 settlement housing units in the occupied West Bank in 2011. A Hamas leader in Gaza says “the future is ours” because Islamists will come to power throughout the Middle East. Amira Hass looks at how roads are segregated in practice in the occupied territories. COMMENTARY: Hussein Ibish explains why Gaza is still occupied territory. Sefi Rachlevsky says that if Israeli secularists and Arabs all voted, Netanyahu would be out of office. Khaled Abu Toameh says Pres. Abbas is sending conflicting and confusing messages to his own public. Tova Norlen says Israel has to explain what it wants from a peace agreement. Catrina Stewart says a push-back against religiously-driven sexism in Israel has begun. JJ Goldberg says Egypt's new democracy brings important opportunities for Israel. Hussein Shobokshi says Israel remains a national priority in American politics. Abdulateef Al-Mulhim says Saudi Arabia has a major role to play in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Yossi Alpher says 2012 will be a year of reassessment. Ghassan Khatib says nothing driving last year's period of diplomatic stagnation has changed.

Peace Talks Are Discussed in a Session in Jordan
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Isabel Kershner - January 9, 2012 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM — Israeli and Palestinian officials met in the Jordanian capital on Monday, their second session in less than a week, after peace talks had been stalled for more than a year. The encounter was kept at such a low profile, however, that it was almost as if it had not happened at all — attesting to the fragility of the contacts and the apparently minimal expectations each side has for progress. A Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity from Ramallah in the West Bank, said that the Israeli side did not produce anything on Monday that could move the process forward.

Israeli bill would outlaw comparisons to Nazis
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Associated Press
January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM — A proposed bill would make it a crime in Israel to criticize people by comparing them to Nazis. The draft legislation would impose penalties of up to six months in jail and a $25,000 fine for using the word "Nazi" or Holocaust symbols for purposes other than teaching, documentation or research. The draft legislation passed its first hurdle Monday when Cabinet ministers approved it. It now goes to the full parliament for a vote.

Israel: Parliament suspends water-tossing lawmaker
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Associated Press
January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM — The ethics committee of Israel's parliament has suspended a lawmaker for dumping water on a colleague during a heated debate. During the outburst, Anastassia Michaeli threw water on colleague Raleb Majadale after he told her to shut up. Dripping wet, he chuckled and called her "crazy" as she stormed out of the room. The incident occurred during a debate over whether an Arab-Israeli school had the right to take its students to a Tel Aviv human rights march.

Israel prepares for fall of Assad, Syria refugees
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
by Ori Lewis, Ari Rabinovitch - January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Israel is making preparations for the fall of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a flood of refugees from his minority Alawite sect into the Golan Heights, Israel's military chief told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday. "Assad cannot continue to hold onto power," a committee spokesman quoted Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz as saying. "On the day that the regime falls, it is expected to result in a blow to the Alawite sect. We are preparing to take in Alawite refugees on the Golan Heights."

Report: Quartet asks Israel for incentives to Palestinians
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma'an) -- Quartet envoys asked the Israeli Prime Minister to provide "confidence-building measures" to keep Palestinian officials in talks after the end of the month, Israeli media reported on Tuesday. PLO official Saeb Erekat met Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho in Amman on Monday, in the second round of unofficial, closed-door talks hosted by Jordan.

Netanyahu mulls gestures toward Palestinians to keep peace talks going
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Barak Ravid - January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

At the request of American and Jordanian authorities, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering several confidence-building measures vis-a-vis the Palestinians. In return, the prime minister expects Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to continue the talks that began in Jordan a week ago, and to refrain from pursuing statehood at the United Nations.

Peace Now: Israel began building 1,850 new houses in West Bank in 2011
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA)
January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

Israel started construction work on 1,850 new housing units in the West Bank in 2011, a 19 percent rise from a year earlier, an Israeli settlement watchdog said Tuesday. Peace Now attributed the rise to a partial, 10-month moratorium on new constructions in the West Bank that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed in 2010 to spur peace talks with the Palestinians.

"The future is ours," says Hamas Gaza leader
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
by Nidal al-Mughrabi - January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

(Reuters) - The coming rise of Islamism in the Arab world will strengthen support for the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which will not give up its armed confrontation with Israel, senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar said Monday. If Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas bets on peace talks with Israel rather than reconciling his Fatah movement with Hamas, he will lose out, Zahar said in an interview with Reuters in his Gaza office.

Not even the word of Israeli soldiers is enough to confirm Palestinian testimony
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Amira Hass - January 9, 2012 - 1:00am

On my way home from Tel Aviv last Wednesday, at midnight, I turned right on Route 443, just where a yellow sign warns: "Israeli, beware, if you've arrived here you made a mistake."

Of course Gaza is still occupied
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from NOW Lebanon
by Hussein Ibish - (Opinion) January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

It never ceases to amaze how much leaders of Hamas and the Israeli far-right agree about. But the latest iteration of this bizarre de facto alliance is a real doozy: alone in the world, they both say the Gaza Strip is not occupied by Israel. Part of the Israeli right has been trying to claim that the occupation of Gaza has been over since Ariel Sharon pulled Israeli forces out of the interior of Gaza in 2005. The then-prime minister accurately described this as a “unilateral redeployment,” not a “withdrawal.”

Israel's Arabs and seculars will return to the polls
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Sefi Rachlevsky - (Opinion) January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

Sometimes, numbers say it all. In the 1999 elections, some 3.3 million citizens voted. A similar number voted in 2009. But in the meantime, about 1 million eligible voters had been added to the rolls. Had the 80 percent turnout rate that prevailed in Israel until 1999 been maintained, another 800,000 people would have voted; instead, they stayed away. Those absent voters are now about to shake up Israel.

The many contradictions of Mahmoud Abbas
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Khaled Abu Toameh - (Opinion) January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

Seven years have passed since Mahmoud Abbas was elected to succeed Yasser Arafat as president of the Palestinian Authority, and many Palestinians appear to be as confused as ever regarding their leader’s true intentions. Abbas ran in the January 2005 presidential election for a four-year term on a platform that promised massive reforms and changes both in the PA and the ruling Fatah faction, which he also heads.

Death of peace process means opportunity for new ideas
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Tovah Norlen - (Opinion) January 9, 2012 - 1:00am

The recent attempts by Jordan’s King Abdullah to restart the peace process do bring to mind several lingering questions: Is the peace process dead, as some people maintain, and if so, who killed it? If the answer to the first question is yes (never mind about the second one), a third immediately comes to mind: What do we do now?

Sexism and the state of Israel
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Independent
by Catrina Stewart - (Analysis) January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

As dusk falls in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem's most pious neighbourhood, black-clad and hatted Jewish men hurry home along the narrow streets lined by medieval-style houses where lights burn dimly in darkened windows. Less than half a mile away, young Israelis mix in bustling bars in central Jerusalem, anathema to this religious ultraorthodox community that has tried its hardest to hide itself away from the temptations of secular life, and ensure a rigorous separation between men and women.

Two Mideast Democracies, Side by Side
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jewish Daily Forward
by J.J. Goldberg - (Opinion) January 9, 2012 - 1:00am

Advocates of democracy in the Middle East have been deeply alarmed since December 29, when Egyptian security forces staged lightning raids on the offices of three American nonprofits that work to promote democracy and fair elections overseas. Egyptian officials say they seized the organizations’ books and computers because they suspect them of fomenting the unrest that led to the overthrow of the Mubarak dictatorship last year and the imposing of Egypt’s first open, democratic election, which the army has pledged to support after it’s done arresting the people who started it.

Israel remains the main priority
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Asharq Alawsat
by Hussein Shobokshi - (Opinion) January 9, 2012 - 1:00am

It appears that US President Barack Obama is on his way to being re-elected. There are many positive indicators working strongly in his favour. There he is fulfilling his pledge and withdrawing "militarily" from Iraqi territories, reducing his military presence in Afghanistan, and re-structuring the US defense budget as a kind of economic belt-tightening measure which is required in practical terms to meet the problem of the budget deficit.

A Saudi-Israeli-Palestinian negotiation table
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Arab News
by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim - (Opinion) January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

The Palestinians met the Israelis in Jordan for the first time in 16 months. And these days there is talk about what is the best solution to end the issue of the Palestinian refugees before the UN withdraws its financial support. In addition to serious talks about a two-state solution. But, the whole world heard this many times before. So, is the Palestinian issue solvable and who can really have a solution? Could it be some one the Israelis never met? Here is my humble opinion:

At best, a year of reassessment
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bitterlemons
by Yossi Alpher - (Opinion) January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

The year 2012 will almost certainly not witness any progress toward agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. We'll be lucky if there is no serious backsliding in the form of violence or formal withdrawal from negotiating frameworks. Meanwhile, however, we can and should be making good use of this year to reassess the entire peace process and find ways to reconstitute it in a more useful format. There are multiple reasons for a pessimistic prognosis regarding the year ahead.

A grim staging ground
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bitterlemons
by Ghassan Khatib - (Opinion) January 10, 2012 - 1:00am

The two main Middle East-related events of 2011 appear to be continuing into the new year. One is the complete stagnation of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, and the other is the roiling wave of Arab revolutions and uprisings, which also carry weighty implications for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

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