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May 21, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Four Arrested in NYC Synagogue Bomb Plot - Al Baker and Javier C. Hernandez (New York Times)
    Four men were arrested Wednesday in a plot to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes at an Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y.
    The men were arrested after planting what they believed to be bombs in cars outside the Riverdale Temple and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center. The bombs, obtained with the help of an FBI informant, were fake.
    Some of the men were of Arabic descent and they are all Muslim.

Poll: Americans See Threat from Iran (McLaughlin and Associates)
    71% of American voters say the U.S. will not be safe with a nuclear Iran and 79% say it is likely that Iran will provide nuclear weapons to terrorists to attack an American city, according to a poll conducted on May 8-9.
    80% say it is likely that Iran will launch a missile attack on Israel, 77% say it is likely that Iran will use the threat of nuclear attack to provide a shield for Hizbullah and Hamas terrorists to attack Israel, and 82% say the U.S. should be concerned about the security of Israel.
    57% say Israel would be justified in attacking Iran's nuclear facilities given that Iran has publicly threatened to annihilate Israel.
    60% say that the Palestinians would continue their campaign of terror to destroy Israel even if they were given their own state in the West Bank and Gaza.

UN Prosecutor: Gaza Probe Goes On Without Israeli OK - Frank Jordans (AP)
    Former international prosecutor Richard Goldstone said Wednesday he will go ahead with his UN investigation into possible war crimes in Gaza even though Israel has withheld its approval.
    Israel objected to the mission ordered by the UN Human Rights Council because the original instructions were only to check what Israelis did to Palestinians. But Goldstone only accepted the assignment if he could see what happened on both sides.
    "There is no change in our position," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Wednesday in Jerusalem.
    "We think that the mandate is intrinsically flawed and defective and therefore this commission will never be able to do a proper job, whatever good intentions its head may have."

The Two-State Solution Mirage - Tony Blankley (Washington Times)
    The 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project found that by 77% to 16%, Palestinians don't believe they can live side-by-side with Israel, while by 61% to 31%, Israelis do believe they can live side-by-side with a Palestinian state.
    So long as fewer than 2 in 10 Arabs, both Palestinian and all others, believe in Israel's right to exist as a nation with a Jewish majority, there can be no successful peace based on a two-state solution.
    That is the reality that no diplomacy can change.

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  • Iran Test-Fires Missile with 1,200-Mile Range - David E. Sanger and Nazila Fathi
    Iran test-fired a sophisticated solid-fuel Sejil-2 missile on Wednesday that was capable of striking Israel and parts of Western Europe, adding to concerns that Iran's weapons-development program is fast outpacing the American-led diplomacy that President Obama has said he will let play out through the end of the year. (New York Times)
        See also Ahmadinejad: "Today Iran Is Running the Show," Ties Missile Test to Nuclear Program - Thomas Erdbrink
    In announcing the missile test, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a crowd of thousands in the city of Semnan: "In the nuclear case, we send them a message: Today the Islamic Republic of Iran is running the show....We say to the superpowers, 'Who of you dare to threaten the Iranian nation? Raise your hand!' But they all stand there with their hands behind their backs." The crowd repeatedly chanted, "Ahmadinejad, we love you!"  (Washington Post)
        See also Iran Fires Missile, Tests U.S. - Farah Stockman
    Charles Vick, a senior technical analyst at, said: "What it says is, 'Yeah, Mr. Obama, we will talk with you, but we are not changing our direction.'" "One way of looking at it is, they are trying to dictate to the world and make everybody kowtow to them."
        The Sejil 2 is a significant advancement because it uses a solid propellant technology that takes only about 30 minutes to launch, rather than a liquid propellant system that takes several hours, making it more mobile and harder to defend against, Vick said. "With the liquid system you could go in and knock it over before it is launched. The solid propellant system is a whole different game."
        Vick said Iran is also in the process of developing longer-range missiles with a range of 2,500 miles, putting most of Europe within reach. Iran is also trying to develop a space booster that can be used either to launch peaceful satellites or to make intercontinental missiles, he said, adding, "It is of the right size category to reach the U.S., if it does in fact become a reality."  (Boston Globe)
  • U.S. Senators Press Obama on "Risk" for Israel
    76 U.S. senators on Tuesday wrote to President Obama, saying: "As we work closely with our democratic ally, Israel, we must take into account the risks it will face in any peace agreement." "We must also continue to insist on the absolute Palestinian commitment to ending terrorist violence and to building the institutions necessary for a viable Palestinian state living side-by-side, in peace with the Jewish state of Israel," they said. The senators also urged Obama to "promote far greater involvement and participation by the Arab states both in moving toward normal ties with Israel and in encouraging moderate Palestinian elements." (AFP)
  • Clinton Presses Israel on Settlements
    In an interview with Al Jazeera on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "We want to see a stop to settlement construction, additions, natural growth - any kind of settlement activity. That is what the president has called for....We expect to see two states living side by side, a state for the Palestinians that will be sovereign and within which the Palestinians will have the authorities that come with being in charge of a state with respect to such activities as settlements." (State Department)
        See also Israel: Terms of Settlement Freeze Still to Be Defined - Herb Keinon and Hilary Leila Kreiger
    With Secretary of State Clinton calling for an absolute stop to all settlement activity, sources close to Prime Minister Netanyahu said the terms of a settlement freeze still needed to be defined. The settlement issue is expected to be dealt with in working groups that have been set up between the U.S. and Israel. Senior officials in Netanyahu's office said there had been a number of unwritten understandings on this matter with the previous administration. For instance, Israel has been working on the assumption that, with tacit agreement from the U.S., it may build inside the lines of existing settlements in the large settlement blocs that it believes it will retain under any future diplomatic agreement. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Evacuates West Bank Outpost in Gesture to Obama - Yossi Verter and Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: Israel Ready for Talks with Syria without Preconditions - Barak Ravid and Natasha Mozgovaya
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday after returning from talks with President Obama: "I said I was ready to immediately open peace talks with the Palestinians, by the way, with the Syrians as well, of course, without preconditions....But I made it clear that any peace settlement there must find a solution to Israel's security needs."  (Ha'aretz)
  • EU-Funded NGOs Promote Palestinian Positions on Jerusalem
    Highly-politicized NGOs that receive funds from the EU ostensibly to promote coexistence seek to distort and rewrite 3,000 years of Jewish history in Jerusalem to promote an overtly anti-Israel agenda. Organizations such as B'tselem, Ir Amim and the Applied Research Institute Jerusalem (ARIJ) ignore the ancient Jewish presence in the Old City's Jewish Quarter, disrupted only by its "ethnic cleansing" during the Jordanian occupation in 1948-67. Excavations and archaeological activity in the City of David, a site central to Jerusalem's biblical heritage, is delegitimized as part of an Israeli settlement plan.
        NGO publicity campaigns have a significant impact on international policy towards Jerusalem. A position paper released by the EU in December 2008 showed the degree to which such NGO claims were copied directly, totally disregarding Israel's historical and legal rights in Jerusalem. "The flow of European government funds, including from the EU, to political organizations...for use in the political war against Israel on the issue of Jerusalem is one of the most damaging aspects of European funding directed against Israel," said NGO Monitor's executive director, Prof. Gerald Steinberg. (NGO Monitor)
        See also The EU Report on Jerusalem: Distortions and Omissions - Nadav Shragai (ICA/Jerusalem Center)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • What Kind of Normalization? - Oded Eran
    The bait offered to Israel in the Arab peace initiative of 2002 is an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict and "normal relations." King Abdullah of Jordan pledged to Israel that it would be welcomed with open arms by the 57 Muslim and Arab countries. Nonetheless, the two precedents set by the peace agreements Israel signed with Egypt and Jordan are not encouraging with respect to "normal relations."
        Dozens of concessions, memoranda of understanding, and addenda about every aspect of relations have not kept those ties from becoming thin and barren. Egyptian civilian society, including its elites, continued to boycott Israel, not just because a solution has yet to be found to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These are not the ties for which we had hoped. The writer is the head of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Ha'aretz)
  • Fatah Is Scarcely Able to Negotiate or Govern - Ethan Bronner
    While the gap between the Fatah-led West Bank and Hamas-led Gaza is widely recognized, less appreciated is that Fatah itself, which the West trains and helps, is so internally torn that it is scarcely able to negotiate or govern. "We are on a sinking ship, and the leadership thinks it can save us by plugging a hole," lamented Qaddoura Fares, a leading Fatah advocate of change and peace with Israel. "We have to wake up and stop lying to ourselves."  (New York Times)
        See also PA Facing Crisis of Legitimacy - Khalil Shikaki
    Soon, the Palestinian Authority will confront its biggest constitutional crisis since its inception in 1994. In January, Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader who was elected in 2005, and the Hamas-controlled parliament, elected in 2006, will come to the end of their terms. Hamas and Fatah have not arranged for new elections. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Obama and Israel - Editorial (Times-UK)

    • Mr. Netanyahu's concerns are not groundless. His warnings about Iran's nuclear program, which is plainly not designed purely for generating electricity, are far from being alarmist. When President Ahmadinejad gleefully anticipates the destruction of the Jewish state, Israeli leaders have every good reason - geographically and historically - to insist on the urgency of the issue.
    • Western governments have a tendency to believe that a two-state settlement is within Israel's power to effect by fiat. In practice, two states are not a solution to the conflict so much as the highly desirable outcome of the end of the conflict.
    • Getting there will require greater trust than now exists between the protagonists, and between the new U.S. administration and Israeli government.
    • Israel has not only, in the customary demeaning phrase, a right to exist: it has a right to expect support against bellicose threats.

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