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July 2, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Ahmadinejad Unwelcome in Parts of Iran - Amir Taheri (New York Post)
    For 30 years, the tradition has been for each newly elected president to travel to the "holy" city of Mashad, to the tomb of Ali bin Mussa, the only one of Shiism's twelve imams buried in Iranian soil.
    This year Ahmadinejad was forced at the last minute to scrub the trip. The authorities couldn't guarantee the president's safety - let alone deliver the enthusiastic, welcoming crowds that he requires for propaganda purposes.
    Last Friday, his visit to Shiraz, Iran's cultural capital, was called off on "security grounds."
    The authorities have had to deploy tens of thousands of security agents, kill dozens of protestors and imprison more than 4,000 dissidents to prevent Ahmadinejad's victory from being challenged by millions of protest marchers every day.
    He governs thanks to the batons and bayonets of the security agents - not what populist Ahmadinejad had hoped.

Saddam Hussein Faked Nukes to Deter Iran - Glenn Kessler (Washington Post)
    Saddam Hussein told an FBI interviewer before he was hanged that he allowed the world to believe he had weapons of mass destruction because he was worried about appearing weak to Iran, according to declassified accounts of the interviews released Wednesday.
    See also Saddam Hussein Talks to the FBI (National Security Archive-George Washington University)

Gaza Blockade Run Called "Reckless Publicity Stunt" - Kent A. Miles (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
    Israel on Wednesday sent home two of the 21 people taken aboard a ship that attempted to break through a blockade and deliver supplies to Gaza.
    Other passengers included former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who campaigned for president in 2008 as the Green Party candidate. Israeli consular officials on Tuesday accused McKinney of a "reckless political stunt."

Sweden Funding Extreme Anti-Israel Groups - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)
    The Swedish government is funding radical NGOs which, under the guise of human rights and humanitarian aid, are exacerbating the Middle East conflict, the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor said Wednesday. Sweden has just assumed the rotating presidency of the EU.
    Over $13 million was distributed in 2008 to Diakonia, Sweden's largest humanitarian NGO, which distributes this money to some of the most radical NGOs in the region, including an organization which has compared Israeli military and political figures to Nazis, and avers that President Shimon Peres is an "enemy" of "human rights and of peace" and that working with the Peres Center for Peace is "morally disgusting."
    Another group that received funding from Diakonia is a leader in the anti-Israel church divestment campaign, whose director regularly employs anti-Semitic themes.
    "If Sweden wishes to be viewed as a fair and effective president of the European Union, this very damaging NGO funding must be addressed," said Gerald Steinberg, executive director of NGO Monitor.
    See also Swedish Funding for NGO Rejectionism (NGO Monitor)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Defiant Iranian Opposition Leaders Refuse to Accept Ahmadinejad Government - Thomas Erdbrink
    Three opposition leaders including leading presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, former speaker of parliament and presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, and former president Mohammad Khatami openly defied Iran's top political and religious authorities Wednesday, vowing to resist a government they have deemed illegitimate after official certification of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection. They called for annulment of the June 12 vote and the continuation of protests. The three made clear that they do not oppose Iran's system of religious government, but they charged that the country is turning into a dictatorship. (Washington Post)
        See also Opposition Movement in Iran Not Over, Experts Say - Samira Simone (CNN)
  • Defense Minister Barak: Settlements Question Linked to Wider Peace Initiative - Greta Van Susteren
    Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told FOX News Tuesday: The question of a settlement freeze is "part of a much wider issue, whether together with the United States and our Palestinian and Arab neighbors, we can launch an original peace initiative to be led by the president of the United States. Within this context, many issues had to be addressed. One of them is the settlement issue. And we already said, Prime Minister Netanyahu said in his speech, we are not going to launch new settlements, we are not going to launch new projects or suburbs in the existing settlements. We are not going to expropriate land."  (FOX News)
  • Uneasy Recovery for Southern Israel - Heather Sharp
    Six months after her sister Irit Shitrit's death in a Palestinian rocket strike, Ayelet Modoh, 37, describes how the missile exploded as the two sisters headed home from the gym in the city of Ashdod. The siren sounded, they got out of the car, and discussed where to lie on the ground because they could not find a shelter. Then came a faint whistle, followed by a massive blast and a deadly wave of shrapnel. During the Gaza conflict, rockets fired by Hamas reached ever further into Israel - to places like Ashdod - putting hundreds of thousands more Israelis in mortal fear.
        Ashdod residents were not used to the frequent sirens and the few seconds to dash to a bomb shelter, which communities nearer Gaza, such as the town of Sderot, have endured for years. In Sderot, Avi Maman, 47, a fire fighter, picks at peeling paint as he wanders through the ruins of the single storey house where he grew up and raised his three children. Debris and scraps of insulation hang from the hole in the roof left by the rocket that landed on it on Dec. 30. A barrage of 50-60 rockets per week during the height of the conflict has dropped to about one a month, but even so, says Mayor David Buskila, the remaining threat means "you can't really feel it's over."  (BBC News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Can't Get Arabs to Commit to Normalizing Israel Ties - Barak Ravid and Cnaan Liphshiz
    The U.S. administration has not been successful in securing commitments from Arab countries to take steps toward normalizing relations with Israel, a senior source in Jerusalem said Wednesday. The source said Obama's recent meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia did not produce a commitment to encourage the other Arab states to begin normalization. "In such a situation, the Americans can't continue demanding gestures only from Israel, such as the demand that Israel freeze settlement construction," the source said.
        At a meeting with U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell on Tuesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak reportedly argued that any steps taken by Israel would have to be accompanied by assurances that the Arab states would also move forward. (Ha'aretz)
  • Abbas: Hamas Hoarding Weapons in Plot to Assassinate PA Officials - Ali Waked
    The Palestinian Authority has intelligence indicating Hamas is planning to attack its officials, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday. Abbas told Russian television: "We have verified information that Hamas is hoarding weapons and explosives. The Authority has found two tons of explosives belonging to Hamas." He said Hamas was also amassing light, medium and heavy arms, machine guns, RPG launchers, and presidential guard uniforms. "We know there is a cell seeking to carry out assassinations of senior PA officials."  (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Detains 500 Fatah Supporters in Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Fatah officials said Wednesday that at least 500 Fatah supporters have been detained by Hamas security forces in Gaza over the past few days in a major security crackdown. "The prisons in the Gaza Strip are so full that Hamas doesn't have enough money to feed all the detainees," said a Fatah official in Ramallah. "In many cases the detainees receive permission to call their families and ask for food."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Is "Tough Love" for Israel in America's Best Interest? - Ari Shavit
    Certain opinion leaders in Washington and New York have begun to speak with shining eyes about the need to administer a dose of tough love to Israel: to train it, wean it, set boundaries for it. To force it against its will to do what is good for it. The results can be seen almost every day on television screens: a diplomacy comprised of public reprimands. Even as it bows and scrapes to Saudi Arabia and is scrupulously careful of Iran's honor, the new United States humiliates Israel.
        But the question the White House ought to be asking itself is whether riding roughshod over Israel serves its goals. The answer is unequivocal: no. Already, Israel's public humiliation is hurting America. It is making even moderate Arabs unwilling to contribute anything to advancing the diplomatic process. And without a significant Arab contribution, there will be no diplomatic process.
        A continued tough love policy toward Israel is liable to do damage that is far more serious - and irreversible. Without a strong Israel, a Middle East peace can neither be established nor survive. Without a strong Israel, the Middle East will go up in flames. Therefore, instead of playing games taken out of a basic training manual, Americans and Israelis must work in harmony. They must think outside the box and come up with a creative solution, based on listening to each other and mutual respect. They must jointly advance a genuine regional peace. The time has come to replace tough love with sensible, grown-up love. (Ha'aretz)
  • The Marginalization of the Arab-Israeli Conflict in the Arab World - Jeffrey Goldberg
    Last December, Vali Nasr, the Iran expert and now special assistant to Ambassador Holbrooke, talked about the rise of Iran, and the marginalization of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Nasr argued that most Arab states have a deeper interest in containing Iran than they do in containing Israel. "Once upon a time we used to think - and some people still do - that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the key to solving all the problems of the region: terrorism, al-Qaeda, Iran, and Iraq," he said. "I think the Persian Gulf is the key to solving the Arab-Israeli issue. All the powers that matter - Iran, Saudi Arabia, and even...Dubai, Abu Dhabi, etc. - are all in the gulf. And all the conflicts that matter to us - Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran - are in the gulf and then to the east."
        The remarkable thing about this moment in the Middle East is that Arab leaders speak about Iran more critically than even Israeli prime minister Netanyahu does. "Even if we forget that Iran is trying to obtain a nuclear capability, all gulf and Arab countries are extremely unhappy with the Iranian involvement in our region," a senior official of the United Arab Emirates recently told me. "We see this today in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Yemen. We just saw the Moroccans breaking diplomatic ties with Iran because of that. We've been seeing that in one way or the other in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Sudan."  (Atlantic Monthly)
  • Observations:

    Agreements Must Be Honored - Dov Weissglas (Ynet News)

    • On May 1 and 16, 2003, during discussions of Israel's reservations to the Roadmap, it was agreed that there will be no construction at Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, with the exception of existing communities. These words were agreed upon and documented in the records of the talks kept at the Prime Minister's Office. This is precisely how this agreement was secured, as an exception to the general construction freeze decree in the Roadmap. I'm sure that an efficient search will reveal the parallel American records.
    • The agreement was brought to the public's attention on December 18, 2003. In the "Herzliya speech," which for the first time presented the Gaza disengagement plan, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said: "Israel will deliver on all its obligations, including on the matter of settlement construction. There will be no construction beyond the existing construction lines. There will be no land confiscations meant for construction, no special economic incentives, and there is no construction of special settlements." Nobody stood up or protested: "What construction? What agreement?"
    • The current U.S. position on the matter is embarrassing, to say the least. The current secretary of state said no mention of the agreement can be found in the administration's records. Yet a former senior White House official, Elliot Abrams, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that an agreement was reached. "I was there," he noted.
    • Indeed, there was an agreement, which was documented (at least in Israeli records) and publicly announced. Even a verbal agreement must be honored, as long as there is substantial evidence of such an agreement's existence. Moreover, nothing fundamental has changed in the past six years that justifies the annulment of the agreement.
    • U.S. denials are not only unfair and unjust; they are also unwise. Once final-status peace treaties are secured, they will require many American guarantees and obligations, especially in respect to long-term security arrangements. Without these, it is doubtful whether an agreement can be reached. Yet if decision-makers in Israel discover that an American pledge is only valid as long as the president in question is in office, nobody will want such pledges.
    • The ancient rule whereby "agreements must be honored" is the basis for social and political order in the world. Israel's right for limited construction in Judea and Samaria communities, within existing construction lines, was agreed upon as an exception to the construction freeze clause in the Roadmap.

      The writer served as chief of staff to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

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