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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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May 12, 2009

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Deploys Missiles in Persian Gulf (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps has deployed mobile ground-to-air and ground-to-sea missile batteries in the Strait of Hormuz and other areas in the Persian Gulf, the Saudi newspaper Al Watan reported Tuesday, quoting a senior Iranian official.

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Iran Frees U.S. Journalist - Ali Akbar Dareini (Los Angeles Times)
    American journalist Roxana Saberi, 32, who was imprisoned on espionage charges in Iran for four months, was freed on Monday.
    Her release came when an appeals court reduced her eight-year prison sentence on charges of spying for the U.S. to a two-year suspended sentence.
    White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the Obama administration continues to stress that Saberi was wrongly accused, "but we welcome this humanitarian gesture."
    See also Blogger and Aid Worker Still Held in Iran - Robert Mackey (New York Times)

Islamic Radicals Blame Jews for Swine Flu (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    For Hamas, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, and Arab cartoonists, the spread of swine flu and the panic it caused was an opportunity to associate the disease with Jews and Zionists in order to incite hatred against the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
    On May 6, the Hamas organ Felesteen charged "that Zionists began spreading the disease."
    Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood published an anti-Semitic video on April 30 titled "Swine Flu or Jew Flu," in an attempt to associate swine flu with the Jews.

Hackers Sabotage Arab-Language Israeli Website - Mel Bezalel (Jerusalem Post) - an Arab-language website dedicated to presenting Western and Israeli news stories to the Arab world - was hacked on Sunday by a group signing off as "Gaza lovers."
    The site, edited by former ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was reduced to a black screen featuring an Arab terrorist brandishing a weapon and an abusive paragraph in broken Hebrew referring to the site staff as "children of monkeys and pigs."
    "One of the aspects of confrontations between Israel and the Arab world is also on the level of ideas....[The hackers] don't accept criticism or other opinions. We live in a completely different society where everything is free, where self-criticism [appears] in the press," said Mazel. "But we must try to [facilitate] dialogue and we are doing it."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Seeks Egypt's Support Against "Extremists" - Steve Weizman and Sarah El Deeb
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought Egypt's help Monday in building a coalition of Arab nations against Iran, framing the broader Middle East conflict as one in which moderates must band together to confront extremists. In his first trip to the Arab world since becoming prime minister, Netanyahu met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheik. Netanyahu said, "The struggle in the Middle East is...between extremists and moderates, a struggle between those who seek life and those who spread violence and death."
        Netanyahu added, "We want Israelis and Palestinians to live together with a horizon to peace, security and prosperity....Therefore, we want at the earliest opportunity to renew the peace talks between ourselves and the Palestinians." (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Netanyahu Meets Egyptian President, Pledges Peace Talks with Palestinians - David Blair (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Prime Minister Netanyahu's Statement in Egypt (Prime Minister's Office)
  • UN Security Council Calls for a Palestinian State - Edith M. Lederer
    The UN Security Council unanimously approved a statement on Monday reiterating its call for "renewed and urgent efforts by the parties and the international community" to reach a Mideast peace agreement "based on the vision of a region where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, will live side by side in peace." The council statement also urged Palestinian factions to take "tangible steps" toward reconciliation, such as renouncing violence, respecting past commitments and recognizing Israel - which Hamas refuses to do.
        U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told the council of President Obama's determination to vigorously pursue "a comprehensive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors" in the months ahead. Israel's UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev said Israel doesn't believe the involvement of the Security Council contributes to the political process in the Middle East and called the timing "inappropriate." "This process should be bilateral and left to the parties themselves," Shalev said. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Syria Criticizes Renewal of U.S. Sanctions - Albert Aji
    Syria rejected the Obama administration's decision to renew economic and diplomatic sanctions against Damascus and urged Washington to abandon "foolish policies," the state-run Tishrin newspaper reported Sunday. (AP)
        See also Despite U.S. Outreach, Syria Affirms Iran Ties - Andrew Lee Butters (TIME)
  • Obama Picks Egypt as Venue to Address World's Muslims - Scott Wilson and Anne E. Kornblut
    President Obama will travel to Egypt on June 4 to deliver his promised address to the Muslim world. It will be the first stop in a trip that will also take him to Buchenwald, the former Nazi concentration camp in Germany, and then to Normandy, in France, to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landing. (Washington Post)
        See also Muslim Brotherhood: Obama's Egypt Trip "Useless" - Omar Sinan (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Pope Walks Out after Muslim Cleric Accuses Israel of "Slaughter" - Yair Ettinger
    The head of the Palestinian Sharia court, Sheikh Taysir al-Tamimi, fiercely denounced Israeli policy in the presence of Pope Benedict on Monday at an interfaith conference in eastern Jerusalem. After the pope was informed of the political nature of al-Tamimi's speech, delivered in Arabic without simultaneous translation, he left the conference. Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, charged with coordinating the pope's visit to Israel, said, "It is a shame that the extremists were those who represented the Palestinians and the Muslims in this important event." (Ha'aretz)
  • Increased U.S. Military Aid Includes Less for Arrow 2 - Ran Dagoni
    The fiscal 2010 budget bill that the Obama administration sent to Congress last week includes $2.78 billion in defense aid for Israel, up from $2.55 billion in the 2009 budget, an increase based on the formula in the ten-year U.S. military aid deal. The U.S. proposes boosting aid for the next-generation Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile defense system from $30 million in 2009 to $37.5 million in 2010. However, the administration has more than halved aid for the Arrow 2 from $74.3 million in 2009 to $36.3 million in 2010. (Globes)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • U.S. Intelligence Community Ignores Iranian Threat - Editorial
    At last week's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings, former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns said: "There is no question [Iran is] seeking a nuclear weapons capability. No one doubts that." No one? Actually, our own spy agencies belittle the Iranian threat. On March 12, the CIA released a report to Congress that concluded: "We do not know whether Iran currently intends to develop a nuclear weapon." The report essentially reworks the conclusions in a controversial December 2007 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate.
        New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who also testified at last week's Senate hearing, said the message from Iran was "loud and clear." His investigations of the multibillion-dollar criminal financial schemes Iran is using to finance its programs indicated "it is late in this game and we don't have a lot of time to stop Iran" from developing nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. "The Iranians are deadly serious about proceeding with this program," he said. "It is later than a lot of people think." (Washington Times)
  • There Is No Reason to Discuss Israel's Nuclear Weapons - Interview with Jeffrey Herf
    There is no reason to discuss Israel's nuclear weapons any more than there is reason to discuss the nuclear weapons of other American allies, such as Britain and France. It is Iran, not Israel, that is violating numerous UN Security Council resolutions. It is Iran whose nuclear ambitions threaten to make the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty a dead letter. Jeffrey Herf is a professor of history at the University of Maryland. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • America's Cold War with Iran Unfolds in Lebanon - David Samuels
    The true importance of the June 7 elections in Lebanon has less to do with the formal balance of power inside the country than it does with the increasingly tense struggle between the alliance of America's regional clients that includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, and the Iranian-Syrian axis. There are two likely outcomes in the upcoming election - a narrow Hizbullah loss or a narrow Hizbullah win. Either way, the election will provide very public evidence of the declining influence of the U.S. in Lebanon and the growing power of Iran. In the new Middle East, Tehran - armed with the strategic insulation that nuclear weapons confer - will be able to destabilize any government it doesn't like without fear of military reprisal. As nearby regimes weigh the pros and cons of life inside the nuclear cage with the Iranian tiger, Lebanon offers a preview of what the future might be like. (New Republic)
  • Observations:

    The Myth of a "Secular Democratic Palestine" - Benny Morris (National Post-Canada)

    • The Palestinian national movement started life with a vision and goal of a Palestinian Muslim Arab-majority state in all of Palestine - a one-state "solution" - and continues to espouse and aim to establish such a state down to the present day.
    • Moreover, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which led the national movement from the 1960s to Yasser Arafat's death in 2004, and Hamas today - all sought and seek to vastly reduce the number of Jewish inhabitants in the country, in other words, to ethnically cleanse Palestine. The PLO explicitly declared the aim of limiting citizenship to those Jews who had lived in Palestine permanently before 1917, a goal spelled out clearly in the Palestinian National Charter.
    • Though "a secular democratic Palestine" was described by various Palestinian spokesmen in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s to Western journalists, this has never been the goal of Fatah or the so-called moderate groups that dominated the PLO between the 1960s and the 2006 elections that brought Hamas to power.
    • Middle East historian Rashid Khalidi has written that "in 1969 [the PLO] amended [its previous goal and henceforward advocated] the establishment of a secular democratic state in Palestine for Muslims, Christians and Jews, replacing Israel." This is hogwash. The Palestine National Council never amended the Palestine National Charter to the effect that the goal of the PLO was "a secular democratic state in Palestine."
    • It is a spin invented for gullible Westerners and was never part of Palestinian mainstream ideology. The Palestinian leadership has never, at any time, endorsed a "secular, democratic Palestine."

      The writer, a professor of history at Ben-Gurion University, is the author of One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict (2009).

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