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March 16, 2009
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In-Depth Issues:

Bin Laden Calls for Jihad to "Liberate" Jordan and Palestine - Firouz Sedarat (Reuters)
    In a recording posted on Islamist websites Saturday entitled "Practical steps to liberate Palestine," al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden said, "The valuable and rare opportunity for those who sincerely want to free (Jerusalem) is to support the mujahideen in Iraq with everything they need to free the country."
    He added that Jordan would be the next country to be liberated, giving militants access to the West Bank.
    He also charged that "some Arab leaders have plotted with the Zionist-crusader coalition against our (Muslim) people, these (Arab countries) the United States calls the moderate states."

Nasrallah: Hizbullah Will Never Recognize Israel (AFP)
    Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Friday, "To those who impose conditions on us, we say: We will never recognize Israel."
    "We reject the American conditions.... Today, tomorrow, and after 1,000 years and even until the end of time, as long as Hizbullah exists, it will never recognize Israel."

Britain Bans Hizbullah Spokesman - Rosa Prince (Telegraph-UK)
    Ibrahim Moussawi, a Lebanese journalist who edits Hizbullah's main newspaper, is said to have been refused a visa by Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, on the grounds that his presence would not be "conducive to the public good."
    Moussawi had been due to deliver a lecture on "political Islam" at the University of London later this month.
    Moussawi was banned from the Republic of Ireland in 2007 when working for al-Manar television, which broadcasts from Beirut and has been accused of anti-Semitism.

Palestinians Support Armed Attacks Against Israeli Civilians in Israel (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)
    According to a poll conducted on March 1-7, 2009, 54% of Palestinians support armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel, while 42% oppose such attacks.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Pentagon Chief: U.S., Israel in Agreement on Iran Nuclear Timeline - Interview with Charlie Rose
    In an interview Thursday, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: "I fundamentally believe that the Iranians are on a path to [make a nuclear weapon]. I've had that belief for some time, and I think they will continue to move in that direction." "I think it will be very destabilizing in that part of world. Their neighbors are extremely concerned about it. I worry about proliferation which would occur once they get to that point. So it's not just about Iran having it. It's about what they do with it."
        "I've been with my Israeli counterpart a number of times, and by and large we see it the same way....We're in agreement [about the timeline] and have been for the better part of the last six months or so. There was a time that we weren't, but we've actually worked pretty hard to understand where we both are....The Israelis for sure believe that the Iranians are on a path and are going to develop nuclear weapons." ( transcript)
        See also IDF Chief of Staff Visits U.S.
    The IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, left Israel Thursday for a five-day work visit to the U.S. where he will discuss professional matters with senior U.S. officials. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Nine Nations Agree to Try to Stop Combat Arms Flow to Gaza - Adrian Croft
    The U.S., Canada and seven European nations agreed Friday at a meeting in London to try to stop the flow of weapons to Gaza by interception at sea, information sharing, and diplomatic pressure. The nine countries, all NATO members, will "take action, to the extent that national legal authorities permit and consistent with international law, to support interdiction efforts." "Such efforts may include enquiry, boarding, searching, stopping, seizing, or other efforts necessary to prevent transfers of arms, ammunition and weapons components," but naval ships would not use force. (Reuters)
        See also Hamas: We'll Keep Smuggling Arms - Roee Nahmias
    Gazans will continue to smuggle arms despite international efforts to stop them, Hamas parliamentarian Moushir al-Masri announced on Saturday. (Ynet News)
  • Top Officials Urge U.S. Dialogue with Hamas - Bryan Bender and Farah Stockman
    Nine former senior U.S. officials and one current adviser are urging the Obama administration to talk with leaders of Hamas to determine whether the militant group can be persuaded to disarm and join a peaceful Palestinian government, a major departure from current U.S. policy. The group, which includes economic recovery adviser Paul A. Volcker and former national security advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski, made the recommendation in a letter handed to Obama days before he took office. Other signatories included Lee Hamilton, Thomas Pickering, James Wolfensohn, Carla Hills, Theodore Sorensen, Chuck Hagel, and Nancy Kassebaum Baker.
        The State Department has designated Hamas a terrorist organization and longstanding U.S. policy has stipulated that before engaging in any talks, Hamas must renounce violence, recognize Israel, and agree to all previous agreements signed by Palestinian negotiators. Many other Middle East specialists believe that meeting with Hamas would set a bad precedent of negotiating with terrorists and could also undermine more moderate Palestinian leaders. (Boston Globe)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Two Israeli Policemen Murdered in West Bank Shooting
    Two Israel Police officers died Sunday evening from gunshot wounds while on patrol near Masu'a in the Jordan Valley. According to an initial investigation, militants opened fire on the patrol car at close range. (Ha'aretz)
  • Olmert: Palestinians Didn't Have Courage for Peace - Roni Sofer
    Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Sunday's Cabinet meeting: "The fact that we have not reached [a peace agreement] so far is first and foremost a result of the Palestinian leadership's weakness, unwillingness and lack of courage. All the rest is excuses and attempts to divert attention from the main issue." (Ynet News)
  • The Use of Mosques for Military Purposes
    According to international law, mosques used for military purposes lose the special protection afforded houses of worship. During Israel's recent operation in Gaza, evidence was extensively documented on the storage of weapons in mosques (rockets, IEDs, light arms and even an anti-aircraft gun), and about use of mosques for military training and as bases from which to launch rockets into Israel and mortar shells at IDF forces.
        The extensive use of mosques by radical Islamic groups is not limited to Gaza. Similar uses are made by Hamas in the West Bank, Hizbullah in south Lebanon, and radical Islamic groups in the Arab-Muslim world and in Muslim communities in Europe. In many of these locations, Islamic terrorist organizations use mosques to hide weapons, organize attacks, enlist supporters and terrorist operatives, preach terrorism, and indoctrinate Muslims with hatred for Israel, the Jewish people, the U.S., and the West. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Price of a Palestinian Unity Government - David Makovsky
    Fatah and Hamas are considering the reestablishment of a Palestinian unity government. Although many scenarios are possible, most likely, Hamas would emerge as the big winner, with Fatah's standing greatly damaged. Hamas leaders have steadily maintained that they want a unity agreement that allows for "resistance" or, in other words, violence. It is hard to envision a unity agreement that does not involve Hamas' integration into the security services. As one senior Palestinian said, it would be "suicidal" for the PA to allow this. Any government in which PA Prime Minister Fayad does not have control over security and finance could end the U.S. effort led by Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton to train Palestinian security officials. It would also end Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation.
        If Hamas gains a share of power without accepting the Quartet principles, it would gain legitimacy without paying any price. It will remain in firm control of Gaza, seek to control the funds for Gaza's reconstruction, be in a position to unravel Fayad's critical security and financial reforms, and ensure that prospects for peace remain bleak. A lopsided prisoner exchange with Israel will also bolster Hamas - at Abbas' expense. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Fear and Loathing in Riyadh - of Tehran - Olivier Guitta
    Tensions have been building between Tehran and Riyadh as the Saudis fear both Iran's nuclear program and its expansionist agenda. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 launched a far-reaching competition between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia for control of Islam and the worldwide community of Muslims. Since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president, Iran has increased its expenditure of money, energy, and time on proselytizing populations from Africa to the Gulf. Hundreds of Lebanese Shiite Hizbullah fighters who got their military training in Iran have infiltrated the Gulf since last year in order to "militarize" the Shiite communities of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain.
        Saudi Arabia is convinced that Iran is a threat to the Saudi regime. The kingdom's Shiite minority, about 10% of the population, is concentrated in the oil-rich eastern region of the country and the regime cannot afford a rebellion or terror attacks there. Tehran also helps various arms of al-Qaeda with funding, supplies, training, and sanctuary, and al-Qaeda is a deadly enemy of the Saudi regime. To counter Iran, Saudi Arabia has built a Sunni axis, cultivating relations with the six Gulf monarchies (though Qatar is wobbly), Jordan, and Egypt. This development was supported by the Bush administration and even implicitly by Israel. (High-level "secret" meetings between Saudis and Israelis have taken place since 2006.) The Saudis are concerned about the Obama administration's overtures to Iran and are afraid that a deal will be done to their detriment. The writer is an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Weekly Standard)
  • Observations:

    Is Anti-Zionism Hate? - Judea Pearl (Los Angeles Times)

    • Anti-Zionism rejects the very notion that Jews are a nation - a collective bonded by a common history - and, accordingly, denies Jews the right to self-determination in their historical birthplace. It seeks the dismantling of the Jewish nation-state: Israel.
    • Anti-Zionism earns its discriminatory character by denying the Jewish people what it grants to other historically bonded collectives (e.g., French, Spanish, Palestinians), namely, the right to nationhood, self-determination and legitimate coexistence with other indigenous claimants.
    • Anti-Semitism rejects Jews as equal members of the human race; anti-Zionism rejects Israel as an equal member in the family of nations.
    • Are Jews a nation? The unshaken conviction in their eventual repatriation to the birthplace of their history has been the engine behind Jewish endurance and hopes throughout their turbulent journey that started with the Roman expulsion in AD 70.
    • More important, shared history, not religion, is today the primary uniting force behind the secular, multiethnic society of Israel. The vital tissues of Jewish identity today feed on Jewish history and its natural derivatives - the State of Israel, its struggle for survival, its cultural and scientific achievements, and its relentless drive for peace.
    • Anti-Zionism disguises itself in the cloak of political debate to attack the most cherished symbol of Jewish identity. It is anti-Zionism, not anti-Semitism, that poses a more dangerous threat to lives, historical justice and the prospects of peace in the Middle East.

      The writer is a professor at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation.

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