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June 23, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran's Web Spying Aided by Western Technology - Christopher Rhoads and Loretta Chao (Wall Street Journal)
    The Iranian regime has developed, with the assistance of European telecommunications companies, one of the world's most sophisticated mechanisms for controlling and censoring the Internet, allowing it to examine the content of individual online communications on a massive scale.
    Iranian authorities are able not only to block communication but to monitor it to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for disinformation purposes.
    The monitoring capability was provided, at least in part, by a joint venture of Siemens AG, the German conglomerate, and Nokia Corp., the Finnish cellphone company, in the second half of 2008.

Web Pries Lid of Censorship by Iranian Government - Brian Stelter and Brad Stone (New York Times)
    Shortly after Neda Agha-Soltan bled her life out on the Tehran pavement, the man whose 40-second video of her death has ricocheted around the world calculated how to evade Iran's censors.
    He e-mailed the video to a friend who forwarded it to the Voice of America, The Guardian in London and five online friends in Europe, with a message that read, "Please let the world know." One of those friends, an Iranian expatriate in the Netherlands, posted it on Facebook.
    The video spread almost instantly to YouTube and was televised within hours by CNN, as Agha-Soltan was transformed into an icon of the Iranian protest movement.
    See also Online Videos on Iran - Tom Gross (Mideast Media Analysis)

Foreign Investments for Palestinians in West Bank Up 100 Percent - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Foreign investments in the West Bank, primarily from the U.S., Germany and Japan, are up by close to 100% over last year, reaching $400 million for infrastructure projects in sewage treatment and road upgrades, officials in the IDF's Civil Administration said Sunday.

Israel Rethinks UAV Sale to Russia - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel does not plan to sell Russia its most advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), defense officials said Monday, after a top Russian official said that the 12 UAVs recently purchased by Moscow from Israel Aerospace Industries would be used for study, to build similar models domestically.
    "We have a responsibility to safeguard our ingenious technology," an Israeli official said, noting that advanced UAV models and accompanying technology would not be sold to Moscow.
    See also Russia Buys 12 Spy Drones from Israel (RIA Novosti-Russia)
    Russia has bought 12 unmanned aerial vehicles from Israel including two heavy vehicles and 10 small vehicles in a recent deal worth $53 million, a Russian government official said on Monday.
    Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputy head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said the goal of the purchase was to study the Israeli achievements in order to build reliable UAVs domestically.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Top Clerical Council in Iran Rejects Plea to Annul Vote - Michael Slackman and Alan Cowell
    Iran's Guardian Council, the senior clerical body charged with certifying the disputed presidential election, has rejected the opposition's demand for the vote to be annulled on grounds of fraud, state television reported Tuesday. Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, the Guardian Council's spokesman, ruled out any major irregularity. (New York Times)
        See also Iran's Revolutionary Guard Threatens Protesters - Jim Heintz
    Iran's most powerful security force, the Revolutionary Guard, threatened Monday to crush any further opposition protests over the disputed presidential election. In a statement on its Web site, the Guard warned protesters to be prepared for a "revolutionary confrontation" if they continue their near-daily rallies. At least 17 protesters have been killed, according to an official Iranian toll. The Guard statement ordered demonstrators to "end the sabotage and rioting activities" and said their resistance is a "conspiracy" against Iran.
        Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi vowed Sunday to keep up the protests. "The country belongs to you," he told supporters. "Protesting lies and fraud is your right." (AP)
  • Israel: Change in Iran Could Bring Peaceful Ties
    Peaceful relations between Israel and Iran would be possible if new leadership took power in Tehran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the German newspaper Bild. "There is no conflict between the Iranian people and the people of Israel and under a different regime the friendly relations that prevailed in the past could be restored." "What we have seen in Iran is a powerful desire on the part of the Iranian people to be free."
        Netanyahu also said, "We want to live peacefully next to the Palestinians and we don't want to govern them. We want them to have all the powers to govern themselves - except those handful of powers that could threaten Israel....We don't want to have another Iran next to our borders."  (Reuters)
  • Palestinian Premier Seeks Stronger Institutions - Richard Boudreaux
    PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called Monday for Palestinians to build up self-governing institutions that would strengthen global support for a Palestinian state. "I call upon our people to unite around the project of establishing a state and to strengthening its that the Palestinian state becomes, by the end of next year or within two years at most, a reality."  (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Is the Palestinian Authority Stable Enough for Peace Talks? Assessing Prime Minister Fayyad - Dan Diker and Pinhas Inbari (ICA-Jerusalem Center)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Insists Settlement Freeze Includes Eastern Jerusalem - Tovah Lazaroff and Hilary Leila Krieger
    Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem are included in the U.S. demand that Israel halt "settlement" construction, including for natural growth, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told the Jerusalem Post during a press briefing on Monday. "We're talking about all settlement activity, yes, in the area across the line," he said, referring to neighborhoods in Jerusalem over the pre-1967 armistice line. Israel has always insisted that it has a right to build anywhere in Jerusalem because under Israeli law it is not considered part of the West Bank. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel: World Must Respond to Iranian Regime - Roni Sofer
    "The recent developments in Iran are the result of a mad regime that fires at its civilians on the street," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Monday during an official visit to Canada. "The danger of such a regime being in possession of nuclear arms must be clear to everyone....The developments in Iran demand a decisive response from the international community." (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Protesters Block Gaza Crossings in Campaign to Free Captured Israeli Soldier
    Dozens of activists from the Movement to Free Gilad Shalit and the Kibbutz Movement blocked the crossings to the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, demanding the release of the abducted soldier who has been held by Hamas for the past three years. The protesters are demanding that Hamas allow the Red Cross to visit Shalit. They also threatened to block visits to Hamas prisoners held in Israeli jails. The Israel Road Transport Board requested that trucking companies refrain from delivering any goods to Gaza on Tuesday in solidarity with the campaign to free Shalit. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israelis, Palestinians Call for Shalit's Release - Roi Mandel (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why Condemn Israel But Not Iranian Government Brutality? - Ben Caspit and Ben-Dror Yemini
    Where did all the people who demonstrated against Israel disappear to? Now of all times, when the Basij hooligans have begun to slaughter innocent civilians in the city squares of Tehran? How can it be that when a Jew kills a Muslim, the entire world boils, and when extremist Islam slaughters its citizens, the world is silent? Imagine that this were not happening now in Tehran but in the West Bank. Policemen on motorcycles butchering demonstrators. A young woman downed by a sniper, dying before the cameras.
        If there is a truly free world, let it appear immediately and impose sanctions on those who slaughter their own people. There is a different Islam, even in Iran. There are millions of Muslims who support freedom, human rights, equality for women. These millions loathe Khamenei, Chavez and Nasrallah too. (Maariv-Hebrew)
  • Settlements Are Not a Serious Obstacle to Peace - Greg Sheridan
    Obama says Jewish settlements in the West Bank must stop. There is no exception for "natural growth" or anything else. Does "no natural growth" mean that if one mother in a settlement has a baby, then another person in the same settlement has to move out? Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to Obama's speech with his own declaration: "We have no intention of building new settlements or expropriating additional land for existing settlements." That strikes me as reasonable.
        The settlements grew after the 1967 war, a war Israel fought with Arab armies bent on its destruction. As a result of the war, Israel reunified Jerusalem and formally annexed some of the city's neighborhoods. It also set up settlements in strategic locations in the West Bank. In every serious Israeli-Palestinian negotiation, the Palestinians have accepted that the main settlement blocs right next to the 1967 border will be retained by Israel in any final settlement. This means that places such as Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion will always be part of Israel. From Israel's point of view it is inconceivable that they could be prevented from normal development within their existing boundaries.
        In reality, this is a tiny issue and not remotely a serious obstacle to peace. The Palestinians have several times been offered a state in land equivalent to all of the West Bank and Gaza and a capital in eastern Jerusalem and refused it. A few hundred Israeli housing units are not the key to the future of the Muslim world. (The Australian)
  • Netanyahu Outlines Basis for a Stable, Peaceful Palestinian State - Joel Mowbray
    No amount of wishful thinking can change the reality that a permanent Israeli-Palestinian agreement has never been within reach. Israel has long been willing to make painful concessions, and the broader public supports some form of a two-state solution. What has been lacking has been a willing partner on the other side of the bargaining table. Terrorism remains more popular with Palestinians than does peaceful coexistence with a Jewish state.
        In calling on Palestinians to "turn toward educating their children for peace and in stopping incitement against Israel," Mr. Netanyahu brought to the front burner a subject largely ignored since his last term ended ten years ago. Here Western governments actually possess substantial leverage, as it is their taxpayers' money that underwrites most Palestinian education and media. On the table now is the prospect of making life better for Palestinians, laying the necessary foundation for a future state that is stable and - most important - committed to peace. (Washington Times)
  • Observations:

    Veteran U.S. Negotiators Say Settlement Pressure Misguided - Eric Fingerhut (JTA)

    • Two veterans of Middle East peace negotiations say they are puzzled as to why the U.S. has made settlements such a big issue with Israel in the last few weeks. Both Aaron David Miller, who was at the Camp David negotiations during the Clinton administration, and Elliott Abrams, who was deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration, agreed that administration pressure on Israel over settlements isn't the correct move right now.
    • Speaking in Washington last week, Miller called settlements a "distraction," given all the problems that need to be addressed in order to reach a peace deal. "Given the stakes and reality, we are going to need a relationship with Israel of great intimacy in order to do this. We need to think very carefully about how we're going about it," he said. Furthermore, Miller sees virtually no prospect of an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians on the four core issues of Jerusalem, borders, security and refugees.
    • Abrams also said that the settlement issue was not being handled "in a way that is likely to produce the most from Israel," particularly the fact that it was happening "on page one" instead of behind close doors.
    • Abrams added that he didn't understand "how we got to where we are today," considering that media reports have revealed that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had offered Mahmoud Abbas 96% of the West Bank along with land swaps that added up to virtually 100% and "the answer he got back is nothing."
    • "I would have thought this puts the onus on the Palestinians to do something, I would have thought that offer by Olmert shows the settlement expansion issue is phony," Abrams said. "I don't understand" the apparent decision "to take the position that Israel is the problem."

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