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July 8, 2009

In-Depth Issues:

Poll: Majority of Israelis Favor "Natural Growth" in Settlements - Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann (Tel Aviv University)
    61% of the Israeli Jewish public support expanding existing settlements according to natural growth, while 31% oppose this, according to a War and Peace Index survey conducted on June 30-July 1, 2009.

Israel Natural Gas Reserves Exceed Expectations - Avi Bar-Eli (Ha'aretz)
    The reserves of natural gas discovered at the "Tamar 2" drilling site off the coast of Haifa are estimated to be up to 30% greater than expected and may reach 180 billion cubic meters.

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Rise of Islamist Group Stokes Unease in West Bank - Peter Kenyon (NPR)
    Hizb ut Tahrir, a group whose Islamist ideology makes Hamas' pale in comparison, believes in restoring the Islamic caliphate, thereby spreading the influence of Islamic law around the world.
    The group had planned a rally in Ramallah in the West Bank on Saturday to celebrate the movement's message that neither Fatah nor Hamas holds the answer for Palestinians.
    PA security forces turned out in force in full riot gear to derail the rally.

Israeli Visits to Turkey Plunge 60 Percent (AFP/Hurriyet-Turkey)
    The number of Israeli tourists visiting Turkey has plunged by a record 60.5% in the first five months of the year, following Ankara's fierce criticism of Israel's war in Gaza.
    Turkey attracted only 64,200 tourists from Israel between January and May, compared to 162,600 in the same period last year, the tourism ministry said Wednesday. A total of 558,200 Israelis traveled to Turkey in 2008, making it their top holiday destination.
    The drastic decline followed a public row in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 29, when Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan accused Israel of "barbarian" acts and told Israeli President Peres, "you know well how to kill people."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Military Chief Warns of Rising Nuclear Threat - Yochi J. Dreazen
    Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Center for Strategic and International Studies Tuesday that the "window is closing" for preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Iran was likely just one to three years away from successfully building a nuclear weapon, which means that the U.S. and its allies are running out of time to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear program. "Iran is very focused on developing this capability," he said. "The clock is ticking and that's why I'm as concerned as I am." Adm. Mullen said the U.S. is keeping all options on the table to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, "including certainly military options." Mullen also cautioned that a possible Israeli military strike on Iran risked destabilizing the broader Middle East and triggering retaliatory Iranian attacks elsewhere in the world. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Obama: No Green Light for Israeli Strike on Iran Nukes
    The U.S. is "absolutely not" giving Israel a green light to attack Iran, President Obama told CNN Tuesday. "We have said directly to the Israelis that it is important to try and resolve this in an international setting in a way that does not create major conflict in the Middle East," Obama said. "I think Vice President Biden stated a categorical fact, which is we can't dictate to other countries what their security interests are. What is also true is that it is the policy of the United States to resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear capabilities in a peaceful way through diplomatic channels," Obama said. (CNN)
  • Clinton Calls for "Even Stricter" Iran Sanctions
    "We would ask the world to join us in imposing even stricter sanctions on Iran to try to change the behavior of the regime," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Globovision TV in an interview broadcast in Venezuela on Tuesday. Clinton also expressed concern at the political and economic alliance between Venezuela and Iran. "I think it is not a very smart position to ally with a regime that is being rejected by so many of their own people," Clinton said. (AFP)
  • Iran Opposition Finds New Ways to Protest, Calls National Strike - Farnaz Fassihi
    The three top leaders of Iran's opposition joined forces on Tuesday and their supporters began a three-day national strike, signaling a resurrection of protests. Opposition candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, joined by former President Mohamad Khatami, met to plot strategy and issued their first-ever joint statement, calling for an end to government arrests and "savage, shocking attacks" on their advisers and supporters.
        The opposition has also called for other creative forms of civil disobedience. Protesters have been asked to create a possible electrical blackout in Tehran by plugging in all their household electric appliances exactly at the same time, and to spray green paint on walls in their neighborhood. Simultaneously, Iran's government on Tuesday announced an unexpected public holiday for 48 hours due to emergency levels of pollution and a dust storm covering the capital. Some speculated that it could be an attempt to mask the impact of the public strikes. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also In Televised Speech, Ahmadinejad Rails at the West - Thomas Erdbrink (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S.: Arab States Must Take Steps for Peace in Tandem with Israel - Hilary Leila Krieger and Herb Keinon
    Amid ongoing tension between the U.S. and Israel over settlements, the Obama administration is stressing that it does not expect Israel to act alone and that Arab states must take meaningful steps in tandem with Israel. "We're not expecting that the Israelis do something for nothing," a senior State Department official said following Monday's meeting between U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The official listed a wide range of normalization measures the U.S. was pressing the Arab states to adopt to reignite the peace process and reassure Israel its demands were not one-sided. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli, Egyptian Presidents Hold Talks in Cairo - Roee Nahmias
    Israeli President Shimon Peres met on Tuesday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. Peres said following the meeting: "Iran has divided the Arab world. They don't want Iran to take over, but want regional peace in all seriousness. They see Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas as concrete threats to their situation."  (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • U.S. Still Waiting for Mullahs to Unclench Their Fists - Mortimer Zuckerman
    The hope was that President Obama could be a bridge to the Arab and Muslim world. The U.S., abandoning the "axis of evil" rhetoric, would extend a hand of goodwill, and the ideologues and dictators would be induced to unclench their fists. Obama did his bit to press the reset button with grace and eloquence. He apologized for America and its past conduct in the region; he avowed respect for the Iranian government; he was the most restrained of the Western leaders when the ayatollahs violently suppressed protests by millions of Iranians over a flawed election. And what was Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's response? Ridicule in sermons and speeches and the assertion that Obama's agents had been behind the protests. Raising the level of insult, President Ahmadinejad demanded that Obama apologize for his later, sharper critique. We are still waiting for Iran to unclench its fists.
        The upheaval in Iran has greatly diminished the chances that the Iranian leadership will bend on the issues that count for us, especially the pursuit of nuclear weapons. If anything, the uprising has intensified a shift to an ideological military dictatorship, committed to its version of revolutionary Islam that neither needs nor wants an accommodation with the West. (U.S. News)
  • A Military Coup in Iran - Ehud Ya'ari
    What we have witnessed in Iran in recent weeks is a military coup. The re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad represents the emergence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp as a military dictatorship - pushing aside the clerics and mullahs. The Supreme Leader manipulated the elections to have Ahmadinejad re-elected. Now, however, the Supreme Leader works for Ahmadinejad, not the other way around. Ahmadinejad's government is already 60% Revolutionary Guard, and the Iranian parliament is 40 to 50% ex-Revolutionary Guard officers. This election completes the takeover by this group.
        In the Middle East, Iran and its regional and nuclear ambitions define the only political and diplomatic game in town - overshadowing all other issues. It's the only game for the Arab states as much as for the Israelis. (The Age-Australia)
  • Linkage: The Mother of All Myths - Dennis Ross and David Makovsky
    Since the origins of so many regional tensions and rivalries are not connected to the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is hard to see how resolving it would unlock other regional stalemates or sources of instability. Iran, for example, is not pursuing its nuclear ambitions because there is an Arab-Israeli conflict. Sectarian groups in Iraq would not suddenly put aside their internal struggles if the Palestinian issue were resolved. Like so many conflicts in the region, these struggles have their own dynamic. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    International Law and Military Operations in Practice - Col. Richard Kemp (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    Former commander of British forces in Afghanistan Col. Richard Kemp told a conference in Jerusalem on June 18, 2009:

    • The battlefield - in any kind of war - is a place of confusion and chaos, of fast-moving action. In the type of conflict that the Israel Defense Forces recently fought in Gaza and in Lebanon, and Britain and America are still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, these age-old confusions and complexities are made one hundred times worse by the fighting policies and techniques of the enemy.
    • Islamist fighting groups study the international laws of armed conflict carefully and they understand it well. They know that a British or Israeli commander and his men are bound by international law and the rules of engagement that flow from it. They then do their utmost to exploit what they view as one of their enemy's main weaknesses. Their very modus operandi is built on the correct assumption that Western armies will normally abide by the rules, while these insurgents employ a deliberate policy of operating consistently outside international law.
    • Civilians and their property are routinely exploited by these groups, in deliberate and flagrant violation of international laws or reasonable norms of civilized behavior. Protected buildings, mosques, schools, and hospitals are used as strongholds. Legal and proportional responses by a Western army will be deliberately exploited and manipulated in order to produce international outcry and condemnation.
    • Hamas' military capability was deliberately positioned behind the human shield of the civilian population. They also ordered, forced when necessary, men, women and children from their own population to stay put in places they knew were about to be attacked by the IDF. Israel was fighting an enemy that is deliberately trying to sacrifice their own people, deliberately trying to lure you into killing their own innocent civilians.
    • And Hamas, like Hizbullah, is also highly expert at driving the media agenda. They will always have people ready to give interviews condemning Israeli forces for war crimes. They are adept at staging and distorting incidents.
    • When possible the IDF gave at least four hours' notice to civilians to leave areas targeted for attack. The IDF dropped over 900,000 leaflets warning the population of impending attacks to allow them to leave designated areas. The IDF phoned over 30,000 Palestinian households in Gaza, urging them in Arabic to leave homes where Hamas might have stashed weapons or be preparing to fight.
    • Many attack helicopter missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were cancelled if there was too great a risk of civilian casualties in the area. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza, even though delivering aid virtually into your enemy's hands is to the military tactician normally quite unthinkable.
    • By taking these actions the IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

          See also Video: View Col. Kemp's presentation

          See also A British Military Expert Tells Truth to Prejudice - Melanie Phillips (Spectator-UK)

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