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July 28, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Hizbullah Training Lebanese Armed Forces (Jerusalem Post)
    Lebanese defense officials believe there is a secret pact between Hizbullah and top officers in the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), the Kuwaiti paper Asiyassa reported on Monday.
    According to the account, a LAF battalion will operate within the Hizbullah framework and have independence and access to the group's arsenal.
    Israel reportedly gave the U.S. and European governments information on July 1 which proves Hizbullah was training dozens of LAF soldiers to fight alongside the Shiite militia.

U.S. Charges Men with Plotting Jihad Attacks in Israel - Mike Baker (AP)
    Daniel Patrick Boyd, 39, his two sons and four other North Carolina men are accused of military-style training at home and plotting a series of terror attacks abroad, U.S. authorities said Monday.
    Two decades ago, Boyd, a U.S. citizen, trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
    An indictment released Monday claims some of the defendants traveled to Israel in 2007 with the intent of waging "violent jihad" and returned home without success.

Israeli Missile Defense System Improved (UPI)
    The Israeli military announced Sunday it had conducted a successful high-seas test of the Barak missile defense system.
    The experiment involved a simulated enemy missile targeted at a ship, with the Barak system intercepting and destroying the enemy missile.

Germany Warns of Terror Threat - Jurgen Dahlkamp and Holger Stark (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    The German government has issuing the clearest warnings yet of a possible attack by Islamist terrorists.
    At the end of June police officers searched the residence of Ali R., 29, a Palestinian medical student who grew up in Gaza, finding documents on a USB storage device that included information on the use of bombs and booby traps, bomb-building instructions, and a propaganda video.
    The CIA notified Berlin in late May that al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan had decided to attack Germany or German interests abroad. "Germany has been singled out," say officials in Washington.
    The German military's most recent offensive in northern Afghanistan only heightens this image of Germans as the enemy.

Ottawa Professor Charged in Deadly Bombing to Return to University - Andrew Seymour (Ottawa Citizen-Canada)
    Ottawa university professor Hassan Diab, 55, who is charged with murdering four people in the 1980 bombing of a French synagogue, will begin teaching a sociology course at Carleton University.
    The Lebanese native, who became a Canadian citizen in 1993, has been under virtual house arrest since he was arrested late last year.
    Conditions of his bail require him to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, obey a curfew, report to the RCMP regularly and not own a cellphone.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Gates Reassures Israel on U.S.-Iran Strategy - Jim Wolf
    U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates tried to reassure Israel on Monday that Washington's bid to talk Iran into giving up nuclear work was time-sensitive and worth pursuing, despite Tehran's reticence. A statement by Prime Minister Netanyahu's office said: "Gates said the United States and Israel see eye-to-eye with regard to the Iranian nuclear threat."  (Reuters-Washington Post)
        See also Gates: Obama Seeks Iran Response by September (CNN)
  • U.S. Woos Damascus by Easing Export Ban - Jay Solomon
    U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell told Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Sunday that the U.S. has decided to ease sanctions on spare aircraft parts, information-technology products and telecommunications equipment, sales of which had been restricted. The move represents the latest action in a rapidly accelerating rapprochement between Washington and Damascus. While U.S. officials said Monday that the move doesn't mark a formal lifting or easing of sanctions on Damascus, the president will use his waiver authority under congressionally mandated sanctions to aid purchases of U.S. products deemed important to the welfare of the Syrian people. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Senators Want Obama to Press Arabs
    Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and James Risch (R-Idaho) are circulating a letter pressing President Obama to lean on Arab nations to make peace overtures to Israel. "Such steps could include ending the Arab League boycott of Israel, meeting openly with Israeli officials, establishing open trade relations with Israel, issuing visas to Israeli citizens, and inviting Israelis to participate in academic and professional conferences and sporting events," said the letter. "We also believe that Arab states must immediately and permanently end official propaganda campaigns which demonize Israel and Jews." The letter praises what it says have been Israel's overtures, including Netanyahu's reiteration of Israel's backing for a two-state solution and his easing of some travel conditions in the West Bank. (JTA)
  • Mousavi Steps Up Pressure on Ahmadinejad - Martin Fletcher
    In an unusually aggressive speech published on his website, Iran's opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi accused the regime of a catalogue of crimes and abuses. He warned: "The more people you arrest, the more the movement will spread." One analyst in Tehran said: "Mousavi's smelling blood. He sees the President as wounded."  (Times-UK)
        See also Ahmadinejad Seen as Increasingly Vulnerable Since Re-election - Robert F. Worth and Nazila Fathi
    President Ahmadinejad dismissed his intelligence minister on Sunday and his culture minister resigned, the latest fallout of a bitter dispute among conservatives that has exposed Ahmadinejad's vulnerability in the aftermath of last month's disputed election. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • "All-Clear" Signal from the U.S. - Shimon Shiffer
    After both sides released emotional statements - Netanyahu on the continuing construction in eastern Jerusalem and the Americans on the possibility of cutting economic aid to Israel - there are increasing signs that both parties have decided to pour cold water on the high flames of their controversy and continue to try to find the desired formula for reviving negotiations between Israel, the Palestinians, and the Arab states.
        Certainly, at least for now, the Americans cannot point to any change in the known Arab approach to Israel. In other words, Obama's envoys are hearing one message from the Arab capitals: After you extract concessions from the Israelis regarding all of the territories, there will be something to talk about with regard to normalization of relations with the Jewish state, but not beforehand.
        George Mitchell also heard these words in Damascus. Bashar Assad is prepared to renew negotiations with Israel after he receives a commitment that the talks will be renewed from the point where they were halted by the previous prime minister - and that in exchange for a peace treaty Israel will commit itself to return the Golan Heights and half of the Sea of Galilee. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 27July09)
  • Israel's UN Envoy: Lebanese Say "Enough" to Hizbullah - Yitzhak Benhorin
    During a special Security Council session on the Middle East on Monday, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev read from a letter by Lebanese citizens who demanded that Hizbullah refrain from storing weapons in civilian areas. "The recent explosion (in Hizbullah's arms depot in south Lebanon) was very dangerous, and it prompted us to publicly say what everyone is trying to conceal: Illegal arms are being stored by Hizbullah within civilian population areas in basements near our children," said the letter, published in Al Mustaqbal on July 16.
        "We are not naive. We've already experienced a massive disaster in 2006 [the Second Lebanon War] during what you [Hizbullah] called a victory. If you are acting in the name of Allah and the religious leadership, then you must clear the civilian areas of weapons and anything else that endangers our lives."  (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • How the U.S. Can Regain Israeli Trust - Yossi Klein Halevi
    Israelis welcomed Barack Obama when he visited in July 2008 and many responded enthusiastically to his election. But Israelis sense that Obama has placed the onus for restarting negotiations on Israel. Worse, he is perceived as showing weakness toward the world's bullies while acting resolutely only toward Israel. Many Israelis suspect that Obama actually wants a showdown with Jerusalem to bolster his standing in the Muslim world. If those perceptions aren't countered, the Israeli public will reject Obama's peace initiatives.
        Here are some suggestions for Washington about how to reassure increasingly anxious Israelis: Make clear that renewing the peace process requires simultaneous Israeli and Arab concessions. Reaffirm the Israeli status of the settlement blocs in a future agreement. Actively confront Palestinian demonization of Israel. Affirm Israel's historical legitimacy to the Muslim world. Make clear that the impending nuclearization of Iran, and not the Palestinian problem, is the region's most urgent crisis. Don't treat the Netanyahu government as a pariah. The writer is a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. (New Republic)
  • The Arab World: Waking from its Sleep
    The UN Development Program last week published the fifth in a series of hard-hitting reports on the state of the Arab world. Six Arab countries have an outright ban on political parties and the rest restrict them. Despite their oil, two out of five people in the Arab world live on $2 or less a day. Overpowerful internal security forces often turn Arab states into a menace to their own people.
        In almost every Arab country, fertility is in decline, more people, especially women, are becoming educated, and businessmen want a bigger say in economies dominated by the state. A revolution in satellite television has broken the spell of the state-run media and created a public that wants the rulers to explain and justify themselves as never before. Taken together, these changes are creating great agitation under the surface. The old pattern of Arab government - corrupt, opaque and authoritarian - has failed on every level and does not deserve to survive. (Economist-UK)
        See also Arab Human Development Report 2009 (UN Development Program)
  • Hamas' New "Culture War" - Alan M. Dershowitz
    Hamas, the terrorist organization that specializes in targeting civilians, has now decided, according to a New York Times headline, to shift "from rockets to culture war" in an effort to garner public support for its cause. In order to bring about this transformation, it must engage in a form of Holocaust denial that erases the historical record of widespread Palestinian complicity with the "old Nazis" in perpetrating the real Holocaust. It has become an important part of the mantra of Hamas supporters that neither the Palestinian people nor its leadership played any role in the Holocaust. (Hudson Institute-New York)
  • Observations:

    Why Won't Obama Talk to Israel? - Aluf Benn (New York Times)

    • President Obama has spoken to Arabs, Muslims, Iranians, Western Europeans, Eastern Europeans, Russians and Africans, but he hasn't bothered to speak directly to Israelis. All they see is American pressure on Prime Minister Netanyahu to freeze settlements, a request that's been interpreted in Israel as political arm-twisting meant to please the Arab street at Israel's expense
    • This policy of ignoring Israel carries a price. Though Mr. Obama has succeeded in prodding Mr. Netanyahu to accept the idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, he has failed to induce Israel to impose a freeze on settlements. In fact, he has failed even to stir debate about the merits of one: no Israeli political figure has stood up to Mr. Netanyahu and begged him to support Mr. Obama; not even the Israeli left has adopted Mr. Obama as its icon.
    • Mr. Obama's quest for diplomacy has appeared to Israelis as dangerous American naivete. The president offered a hand to the Iranians, and got nothing, merely giving them more time to advance their nuclear program. And he failed to move Arab governments to take steps to normalize relations with Israel.
    • Mr. Obama seems to have confused American Jews with Israelis. We are close emotionally and politically, but we are different. We speak Hebrew and not English, we live in the Middle East and have separate historical narratives. Mr. Obama's stop at Buchenwald and his strong rejection of Holocaust denial, immediately after his Cairo speech, appealed to American Jews but fell flat in Israel. Here we are taught that Zionist determination and struggle - not guilt over the Holocaust - brought Jews a homeland.
    • In the past decade, repeated peace negotiations and diplomatic statements have indicated that the "settlement blocs" will remain in Israeli hands under any two-state solution. Why, then, insist on a total freeze everywhere? And why deny with such force the existence of previous understandings over limited settlement construction? There is simply too much evidence proving that such an understanding existed. To Israelis, the claim undermined Mr. Obama's credibility.

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