Middle East News: World Press Roundup

NEWS: The Israeli government gives preliminary approval for 600 more settler housing units. An agreement between Hamas and Egypt may end the fuel crisis in Gaza. Hamas abandons the plan to tax goods imported through Israel. An Israeli talkshow host is being investigated for calling leftists and Arabs “anti-Semites” and “Nazis.” US officials and EU FP chief Ashton criticize Israel's decision to retroactively recognize “unauthorized” settlement units. Extremist settlers propose Israel annex huge chunks of the occupied territories. Hamas and Fatah hold talks in Cairo on a national unity government. News reports say Hamas will demand key positions in any new government, including the Interior Ministry, and no change in security arrangements. PLO officials dismiss Israel's leaked account of recent negotiations as “half-truths.” COMMENTARY: Ari Shavit says it's up to Pres. Obama to stop an Israeli attack on Iran. Bradley Burston says the BDS movement is coming under some overdue scrutiny. Mira Sucharov says a recent debate on Twitter over a hunger strike shows how value-free the conversation has become. Cameron Brown says whatever they think about Israel, most Jewish Americans should and will continue to support Obama. Ray Hanania says Palestinians need to do more to tell their story through film. Douglas Bloomfield notes GOP presidential candidates are doing almost nothing to reach out to Arab-American voters. Robert Zaretsky says French Jews mostly support Pres. Sarkozy. John Whitbeck says Palestinians have real options in the UN General Assembly. Alex Brummer says Israel would improve its security and future by addressing concerns of its Bedouin citizens. The Economist interviews Hirsh Goodman on the future of Israel. David Makovsky says issues regarding Iran will challenge relations between Obama and PM Netanyahu as never before.

Israel Approves Building Plan for 600 Homes in West Bank
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Associated Press
February 22, 2012 - 1:00am

Israel gave preliminary approval on Wednesday to a plan to build 600 new homes in a settlement deep inside the West Bank, a move that drew rebukes from the United Nations and Palestinians. Israeli officials tried to play down the decision about building in Shiloh, saying that construction was years away at best. But Yariv Oppenheimer, director of Peace Now, called it the biggest settlement construction plan in the West Bank since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office three years ago.

Hamas, Egypt strike deal to end energy crisis
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ma'an News Agency
February 23, 2012 - 1:00am

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Egyptian authorities and Hamas officials reached an agreement on Thursday to end the energy crisis in the Gaza Strip. Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu said a deal had been reached after "intensive negotiations" between Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, Egyptian officials, and the Islamic Development Bank. The deal included three stages, the Hamas official said. The first stipulates that Egyptian companies pump fuel directly to Gaza under the terms of contracts signed with firms.

Hamas suspends decision to tax Gaza imports
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Xinhua
February 22, 2012 - 1:00am

GAZA, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) -- Public and local criticism pushed Gaza's Hamas government to suspend a decision to tax particular goods that merchants import through Israel. The critics were popular societies, business associations and rights group. Their rejection stemmed from the legality of the taxes in Gaza's exceptional circumstances, where an Israeli blockade has taken toll on almost all sectors of the society.

Israeli talk show host probed for describing Leftists and Arabs as 'anti-Semites' and 'Nazis'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Emilie Grunzweig - February 23, 2012 - 1:00am

Israel's broadcasting regulator body has initiated an investigation of a Tel Aviv radio show featuring a prominent attorney, over several complaints of frequently sounded on-air slurs directed at left-wing supporters and Arabs. The probe was also the result of a Justice Ministry decision, which stated that, while the opinions voiced in Yoram Sheftel's show "Sheftel Atzbani" [Sheftel is Cranky] did not necessitate a criminal investigation, The Second Authority for Television and Radio should look into the matter.

US joins PA, UN in slamming outpost plans
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Tovah Lazaroff - February 23, 2012 - 1:00am

The United States, the Palestinian Authority and the UN on Wednesday condemned Israeli plans to authorize the Shvut Rachel outpost and 180 homes in the Shiloh settlement. Both adjacent communities are located in the Binyamin region of the West Bank. US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said continued settlement activity harmed peace prospects, when quizzed by reporters at the daily press briefing in Washington. He added that he had not known of the Shiloh plans.

EU's Ashton criticizes Israel for approval of 'illegal' settlement homes
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
February 23, 2012 - 1:00am

The European Union's Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton criticized on Thursday Israel's recent approval of new homes in the West Bank settlement of Shilo, adding that Israeli settlements were "illegal under international law." On Tuesday, the Defense Ministry gave preliminary approval to a plan to build 600 new homes in Shiloh, a hardline settlement deep inside the West Bank. The move drew rebukes from the United Nations and Palestinians, and threatened to raise tensions with the United States as the prime minister prepares to head to the White House.

'Israel should annex 60% of Area C'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Ynetnews
by Moran Azulay - February 23, 2012 - 1:00am

Former Yesha Council Director Naftali Bennett has presented a new initiative meant to conquer the prolonged stalemate plaguing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Bennett explained Thursday that he met with dozens of military, political and defense experts prior to formulating what has been dubbed the "mollification plan," adding that it is meant to serve as a "band-aid" of sorts – a way for Israel to maintain peace and order in the West Bank, while it both deals with international pressure and protect its "critical principles."

Hamas and Fatah hold talks in Cairo on a national unity government
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Agence France Presse (AFP)
February 22, 2012 - 1:00am

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas met on Wednesday in Cairo with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal for talks on the formation of a national unity government, an AFP reporter said. The long-time rivals have been struggling to implement the terms of a reconciliation deal signed in Cairo in May, which calls for the formation of an interim government of independents to pave the way for presidential and legislative elections within a year.

Hamas sets new terms for reconciliation with Fatah
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Reuters
by Nidal al-Mughrabi - February 23, 2012 - 1:00am

(Reuters) - Hamas has set new terms for implementing a reconciliation deal with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's rival Fatah group, an official said Thursday, dimming even further chances the accord will be put into effect. Abbas and Khaled Meshaal, Hamas's political chief in exile, agreed in Qatar earlier this month to form a unity government led by the Western-backed president.

'Hamas will demand key positions in unity gov't'
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
February 23, 2012 - 1:00am

Hamas will demand that members of its organization fill key roles in the unity government with Fatah if it is to agree to allow Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to serve as the interim government's prime minister, Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported on Thursday. According to the report, Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mahsaal will present his conditions to Abbas at a meeting between the two leaders in Cairo on Thursday.

PA angry over Israeli leaks regarding Amman talks
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Khaled Abu Toameh - February 22, 2012 - 1:00am

The Palestinian Authority is angry over Israeli leaks regarding the recent Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Jordan. Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said Wednesday he filed a complaint with the Quartet members – the US, EU, UN and Russia – about leaks by the Israeli government regarding the Amman talks. Erekat said that reports in the Israeli media about the meetings contained “half-truths.” The Israeli government was behind these leaks, he charged.

If Israel strikes Iran, it'll be because Obama didn’t stop it
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Ari Shavit - (Opinion) February 23, 2012 - 1:00am

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dealt primarily with three things over the past three years: Iran, Iran, and Iran. In the first instance, Netanyahu was busy making sure Iran was on top of the international agenda. While our prime minister won't say so out loud, he is deeply scornful of his predecessors for spending so much time on the Palestinian issue while neglecting the Iranian issue.

It's Israeli Apartheid Week. Just tell the truth
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Bradley Burston - (Opinion) February 22, 2012 - 1:00am

It's that time again. On campuses the world over, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is mounting its eighth annual Israeli Apartheid Week. In the past, this has been a time for hardline pro-Palestinians and hardline pro-Israelis to rumble, counter-accuse, hurl half-truths and, often as not, scrum to an ineffectual draw. Not this year. This year there's something distinctly unfamiliar in the air. People have begun telling the truth about BDS.

What the case of Khader Adnan can teach us about Twitter morality
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Haaretz
by Mira Sucharov - (Opinion) February 23, 2012 - 1:00am

As Khader Adnan, the Palestinian prisoner held in Israeli administrative detention, ends his 66-day hunger strike, activists and Israeli government officials are no doubt breathe a sigh of relief. One man remains alive while Israeli authorities get to catch their breath. Whether they decide whether to reevaluate the use of controversial practices like administrative detention to enforce the occupation is another story.

Obama – good for the Jews?
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Cameron S. Brown - (Opinion) February 22, 2012 - 1:00am

Mitt Romney is finally emerging as the Republican nominee for president. In the weeks ahead, he will begin to face off directly against President Barack Obama, and this will cause American Jews to once ask again the oft-repeated question of whether or not Obama is good for Israel. The debate so far has regrettably been overly partisan and more than a little close-minded. A sincere discussion of the issue requires us to go beyond the present tendency of each side to rummage through facts in their mad search for evidence that proves their view.

The power of film not given its due in the Middle East
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Ray Hanania - (Opinion) February 22, 2012 - 1:00am

Many say the pen is mightier than the sword, but today film is mightier than the pen. Every year at this time, our attention turns to the power of film at the Academy Awards, many times in a competitive way between Palestinians and Israelis. This year, only one Middle East film has been nominated for an Oscar. But my favorite film wasn’t.

Watching the Arab vote
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jerusalem Post
by Douglas Bloomfield - (Opinion) February 22, 2012 - 1:00am

Quite a bit has been written lately about the impact of the Jewish vote in this year’s presidential race, but what about the Arab-American vote? That will be tested next week in the state with the country’s second largest Arab-American population, Michigan, and a week later in Ohio, which ranks eighth. Unlike Jews, who historically vote 3:1 Democratic, Arab Americans have been less predictable. Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have done little discernible to court Michigan’s Arab- American voters.

Momentum for Palestine
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jordan Times
by John V. Whitbeck - (Opinion) February 22, 2012 - 1:00am

There was visible and audible euphoria at the UN General Assembly in September when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced Palestine’s application for UN membership, at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters in October when Palestine was admitted as a member state, and at UNESCO in December when the Palestinian flag was formally raised in Abbas’ presence. Since then, nothing.

French Jews Mostly Side With Sarkozy
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Jewish Daily Forward
by Robert Zaretsky - (Opinion) February 22, 2012 - 1:00am

Like the United States, France will choose a president this year. Little more than two months away from the elections, the conservative president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is running behind the Socialist candidate, François Hollande. Several other candidates are polling well: Marine Le Pen of the extreme right-wing Front National hovers at about 20%, followed by the centrist candidate, François Bayrou, and by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who represents a coalition of parties to the left of the Socialists.

The future of Israel lies not in international relations, but in the hands of Israelis themselves
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Daily Mail
by Alex Brummer - (Opinion) February 23, 2012 - 1:00am

When it comes to Middle East reporting, the central narrative has for several decades been Israel-Palestine. But for the past year, since the start of the Arab Spring (Israeli sources prefer to call it the Arab Winter or Arab Tempest), it is the rest of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) from Egypt to Bahrain, from Syria to Libya, that have been in the limelight. Indeed, of the 17 or so countries which make up the MENA region, almost all – including Israel with its own ‘cottage cheese’ protests – have seen some kind of protests, many of them violent and bloody.

It could be just like Switzerland
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from The Economist
by Hirsh Goodman - (Interview) February 22, 2012 - 1:00am

HIRSH GOODMAN is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. He is former vice president of the Jerusalem Post and founder and former editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Report. He is the author of “The Anatomy of Israel’s Survival” (2011). ECONOMIST: What don't most people know about modern Israel?

Friendship Under Fire
ATFP World Press Roundup Article from Foreign Policy
by David Makovsky - (Opinion) February 22, 2012 - 1:00am

Next month, U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold a key meeting over the Iranian nuclear challenge that will test their sometimes rocky relationship. After a weekend visit by National Security Advisor Tom Donilon to Israel, the White House announced this week that Obama will host Netanyahu in Washington on March 5. This will be an opportunity for the two leaders to synchronize their positions on Iran.

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