Middle East News: World Press Roundup

NEWS: Israel says failed bombings in Bangkok are linked to attacks on its diplomats in India and Georgia, and again accuses Iran of being responsible. The attacks may be retaliation for the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists. Pres. Abbas says the world needs to remember the principles and terms of reference underlining the peace process. The PA cabinet agrees to limit increases on the top bracket, but raises taxes overall as foreign aid declines. Hamas Politburo head Mishaal and Gaza leader Haniyyeh meet in Qatar but are unable to resolve differences over the agreement with Abbas. Israel approves a tourist center in a highly contentious Arab neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem. Israel's justice minister is filmed instructing Israeli extremists how to formulate pardon requests. Palestinians are increasingly adopting, and training themselves, in nonviolent tactics. Def. Sec. Panetta says he doesn't think Israel has decided to attack Iran. COMMENTARY: The Washington Post says the US should make its red lines on the Iranian nuclear program clear to Israel. Lara Friedman says Israel's ability to deal with its largest “unauthorized” settlement could determine the country's entire future. Akiva Eldar says neither Abbas nor Pres. Obama should expect any political help from PM Netanyahu. Ha'aretz calls a new "cultural center" in the Israeli settlement of Ariel its “Academy for Occupation.” Bradley Burston says Iran is the best friend of the settlers. Ray Hanania says negotiations are at an impasse due to bad decisions by both leaderships. The Forward says Jewish Americans should stop overreacting to the BDS campaign. Hani al-Masri says the real question is how Israel will react to the Hamas-Fatah agreement. Yisrael Harel says Israelis will probably conclude that the agreement means any deal they make with the Palestinians won't stick. Hussein Ibish analyzes the bitter dispute growing among Hamas leaders.

Israeli Envoy Links Bangkok Bombs to Attacks in India and Georgia
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The New York Times
by Thomas Fuller - February 15, 2012 - 1:00am

BANGKOK — Thai authorities said on Wednesday that the group of Iranians detained after an explosion tore the roof off their rented house was on a mission here targeting Israeli diplomats. Thai police released images of three men who were suspected to have been involved in bomb explosions in Bangkok. “This much I can tell you — the target of the operation was specifically the Israeli diplomatic staff,” Gen. Prewpan Dhamapong, Thailand’s chief of police, said in a television interview.

Bangkok blasts prompt new accusations against Iran a day after Israelis targeted
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Post
by Joel Greenberg - February 14, 2012 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM — Israel renewed its accusations against Iran on Tuesday after a man identified as an Iranian national was involved in a string of explosions in Bangkok. The blasts came a day after bombers targeted Israeli diplomats in two incidents in India and Georgia, stoking concerns in Israel about a possible wave of attacks on its representatives abroad. The violence comes amid rising tension between Israel and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program and threats by Iran to avenge the deaths of several of its nuclear scientists in attacks that it has blamed on Israel.

Israel and Iran's 'secret war' may be a secret no more
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The National
by Vita Bekker - February 15, 2012 - 1:00am

TEL AVIV // Attacks against Israelis in Georgia and India on Monday and three explosions in Thailand yesterday suspected to have been carried out by Iranians have spurred worries that a covert war of assassinations between Israel and Iran could escalate out of control. Israel was on high alert yesterday for possible attacks both at home and at its embassies and offices abroad, a day after the country's prime minister pledged to "act methodically" against what he termed "international terrorism that originates in Iran".

Abbas: We'll remind world what peace process was built on
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
February 15, 2012 - 1:00am

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) – President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday that the Palestinian Authority would send a message to the Israeli government and to the world reminding them of the bases and terms of reference on which the Middle East peace process was built. “We will not accept continuation of the status quo, and will soon take the steps we have agreed on with the Arab countries,” he said. At a meeting in Ramallah with members of his Fatah party's Revolutionary Council, Abbas said the peace process collapsed because the Israeli government violated previously signed agreements.

PA cabinet agrees to lower top tax rate
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
February 14, 2012 - 1:00am

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority cabinet agreed Tuesday to lower its top tax rate after a proposal to double income taxes drew widespread outrage across the West Bank. The proposals to plug a $1.1 billion deficit in the public budget included doubling the top tax bracket to 30 percent, but the PA approved a lower rate of 20 percent at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. It said the rate followed "agreed upon understandings" with a private sector coordination council which had spoken out against tax rises, warning they could have the reverse effect on an already fragile economy.

REFILE-Palestinian Authority, Battling Debt Crisis, Raises Taxes
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
by Ali Sawafta - February 15, 2012 - 1:00am

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The Palestinian Authority approved income tax rises on Tuesday, pushing the top rate to 20 percent, as it seeks to tackle a debt crisis aggravated by lower-than-expected foreign aid revenues including the freezing of U.S. aid last year. The top tax rate will rise from 15 percent to 20 percent, a cabinet statement said, effective from this year. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was last month forced to back down on doubling the rate to 30 percent after a public outcry.

Hamas Chiefs Wrestle with Split on Palestinian Pact
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
by Nidal al-Mughrabi - February 13, 2012 - 1:00am

GAZA, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The two top leaders of the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas failed at secret talks in Qatar on Sunday to resolve an internal crisis over a reconciliation pact with the rival Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas, a diplomat in the region said. The first open leadership split in the 25-year history of Hamas -- the militant, Iranian-funded organisation which opposes a peace treaty with Israel -- arose over how far it should go in closing ranks with Fatah, the Palestinian mainstream group.

Israel OKs Tourist Center in Tense Arab Area
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Associated Press
by Diaa Hadid - February 14, 2012 - 1:00am

JERUSALEM — The Israeli government has given a hardline Jewish group permission to build a new archaeological center in a tense Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem, officials said Tuesday. Interior Ministry spokeswoman Efrat Orbach said Tuesday that a Jerusalem planning committee approved the project this week. The public has 60 days to appeal. Any Israeli-backed project in east Jerusalem runs the risk of sparking protests that can escalate into violence, as conflicting claims to the area are at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel’s Justice Minister Advises Rightists on How to Seek Pardons for Jewish Terrorists
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Tomer Zarchin - February 15, 2012 - 1:00am

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman told right-wing activists how best to formulate pardon requests on behalf of convicted Jewish terrorists, thus advising them on requests he might later have to approve. By law, each pardon request submitted to the president must be accompanied by a recommendation from the justice minister on whether to accept it. Moreover, if the president does accept it, the justice minister must countersign the pardon to make it valid.

The Slow Turn Toward Palestinian Non-Violence
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Media Line
by Arieh O'Sullivan - February 14, 2012 - 1:00am

Sami Awad is wrapping up a day of training with Palestinian women leaders in Bethlehem, another step in the effort not only to empower women, but to extend the concept and practice of non-violent popular resistance. “At the theoretical level,” Awad says. “I would say that the idea of non-violence is becoming more accepted. The criticism we had is going down.”

Panetta: Israel Has Not Decided to Attack Iran
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA)
February 14, 2012 - 1:00am

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a Senate committee that he does not believe Israel has decided definitely to attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Panetta also told the Armed Services Committee Tuesday that the United States and Israel have "common cause" on Iran to prevent the Islamic Republic from producing a nuclear weapon, and that the Obama administration does not think Israel has made a decision to strike at Iran's nuclear installations in order to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.

The U.S.-Israeli Trust Gap on Iran
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Washington Post
(Editorial) February 15, 2012 - 1:00am

TWO MONTHS ago we questioned a decision by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to spell out publicly his objections to an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear program — a speech that must have cheered the commanders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Now Mr. Panetta has indirectly caused a similar stir: After a conversation with Mr. Panetta this month, The Post’s David Ignatius reported that the Pentagon chief “believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June.”

As the Illegal Outpost of Migron Goes, So Goes All of Israel
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Huffington Post
by Lara Friedman - (Opinion) February 14, 2012 - 1:00am

The fate of Migron, an illegal outpost in the heart of the West Bank, is about to be decided. The implications of this decision are about far more than the future of a handful of settlers in a single outpost. This decision will be a litmus test of Israeli rule of law and, ultimately, of Israel's capacity to make peace with the Palestinians. How can one outpost be so important?

Abbas and Obama Should Not Expect a Helping Hand From Netanyahu
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Huffington Post
by Akiva Eldar - (Opinion) February 15, 2012 - 1:00am

After the uproar over the Palestinian Authority's admission to UNESCO some three months ago, President Mahmoud Abbas ordered a freeze on PA requests for admission to other UN organizations. It seems that Abbas promised Barack Obama that until the presidential elections he would spare the U.S. president from having to choose between a vote that would annoy Jewish voters and one that would upset the Palestinian voters and their sympathizers.

Israel’s Academy for Occupation
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
(Editorial) February 15, 2012 - 1:00am

When the violent conflict in the territories was at its height a decade or so ago, then IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon said Israel's goal was to sear the Palestinians' consciousness with the understanding that violence doesn't pay. Today, the government in which Ya'alon now serves as a minister doesn't miss an opportunity to sear the consciousness of Palestinians and Israelis alike with the idea that a diplomatic agreement on a two-state solution is no longer on the table.

Ahmadinejad’s Iran is the New Best Friend of Israeli Settlers
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Bradley Burston - (Opinion) February 14, 2012 - 1:00am

The red-bordered headline on Israel's weekend newsstands was as jarring for its calm, consumer-guide choice of wording as for the subject matter, which was, in essence, a countdown to Armageddon. WHERE IT'S BEST TO LIVE IN A TIME OF EMERGENCY, read the Yedioth Ahronoth banner. Lest the meaning be lost, the full-out article – framed by stories hinting at IDF preparations for a possible attack on Iran - ranked a long list of Israeli cities, towns, and Arab villages for their survivability and "preparedness for wartime."

Yalla Peace: Hope for Peace at a Roadblock
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Ray Hanania - (Opinion) February 14, 2012 - 1:00am

It’s almost become normal for Palestinians and Israelis who support peace to find themselves at the same old roadblock, going nowhere fast. The only things moving are the extremists who continue to pave the way to the mutual destruction of both sides. Israeli and Palestinian leaders refuse to take the steps necessary to make peace.

Shrugging at BDS
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jewish Daily Forward
(Editorial) February 10, 2012 - 1:00am

Before she became the subject of an Oscar-nominated feature film, Margaret Thatcher was prime minister of Great Britain during a particularly violent period of European airplane hijackings and Northern Irish terrorism attacks. She was especially critical of what she deemed the media circus covering these events. “Democratic nations must try to find ways to starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend,” she admonished.

Putting Doha in Context
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bitterlemons
by Hani al-Masri - (Opinion) February 13, 2012 - 1:00am

The signing of last May's reconciliation agreement would likely not have been possible without the shifting of various Arab, regional and international factors that were hampering reconciliation. The fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who was committed to Israeli and United States conditions on Palestinian reconciliation for fear of strengthening Hamas' ally, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (the main threat to his rule), as well as the active opposition in Syria have positively influenced efforts to end Palestinian division and restore unity.

The Doha Declaration and the Palestinian Mindset
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Bitterlemons
by Yisrael Harel - (Opinion) February 15, 2012 - 1:00am

I don't know what developments the Doha declaration will generate at the internal Palestinian level. It certainly won't produce peace between Israel and the Palestinians. When Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared that Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) "chose Hamas over peace" this was a correct yet trivial statement.

Hamas of Contradictions
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from NOW Lebanon
by Hussein Ibish - (Opinion) February 14, 2012 - 1:00am

The growing split that has been emerging within the leadership of Hamas has exploded into a bitter public feud. It was prompted an agreement reached last week in Qatar between the head of Hamas’ political bureau, Khaled Meshaal, and the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas. According to the deal, Abbas would take on the additional role of prime minister until elections are held later this year.

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