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Middle East: Opinion Roundup

March 11, 2010

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Vice President Joseph R. Biden, in the Middle East to build support for revived Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, issued a strong denouncement of Israeli plans to build another sixteen hundred housing units in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of a Palestinian state. Commentators included those writing about the bad timing and substance of Israel's announcement, the readiness of both sides for real compromise, and alternative approaches to negotiations.

New York Times: Uri Dromi, a former spokesman for the Rabin and Peres governments about the folly of Israelis continuing to build settlements instead of "separating from the Palestinians while we still can."

Bitterlemons.org: Ghassan Khattib wonders whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's readiness for negotiations is a mere "public relations exercise."

Haaretz: Carlo Strenger thinks what's hindering negotiations is that "all sides want a morally simplistic picture. Either Israel is the clear-cut bad guy in the story--a cunning regional superpower with colonial ambitions hidden behind pretexts about Israel's security; or Arabs have never accepted Israel and are doing everything to undermine its existence."

Washington Institute for Near East Policy: Speaking to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on March 4, David Makovsky argues that while Israelis and Palestinians are not likely to reach a grand agreement on the four major issues at stake--rights of refugees, control of Jerusalem, security, and territory/borders--they may be able to reach an agreement on the question of land.

The Economist: After outlining the fiasco of Israel's announcement of new housing units in Jerusalem, the Economist describes the array of issues and attitudes that make it questionable whether a peace agreement can be achieved, and wonders about the impact of failure on U.S. standing in the region.

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