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August 4, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Al-Qaeda: Wipe Israel from the Map (Reuters)
    Al-Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri said Israel should be wiped off the map.
    "Israel is a crime that should be removed," Zawahri said in an interview with al-Qaeda's media arm As-sahab, posted on an Islamist website on Monday.
    Zawahri also said President Obama wanted a Palestinian state that would serve as "an extension of the CIA."

Australia Breaks Up Islamic Terrorists' Suicide Attack Plot - Thomas Hunter (The Age-Australia)
    Four Australian citizens were arrested Tuesday in pre-dawn raids by 400 police targeting a plot by Islamic extremists to engage in suicidal gun battles at military bases.
    Acting Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus said "the men were planning to carry out a suicide terrorist attack on a defense establishment within Australia involving an armed assault with automatic weapons."
    The plotters had links to groups affiliated with the Al Shabaab terrorist organization in Somalia - some were of Somali descent, others Lebanese.

Reports of Dissent in Iran - Sabina Amidi (Jerusalem Post)
    A young Iranian soldier, arrested last week for stealing weapons for opposition groups, was killed in custody, sources in Tehran said.
    Another source said that a detention facility about 80 km outside of Tehran was raided by opposition forces, the detainees set free and the building set on fire.
    Internal dissent in the security and military ranks has been fairly widespread, another source said, but the regime has done its utmost to conceal such dissent from the foreign media.

Eight Christians Burned to Death in Pakistan after Koran is "Defiled" - Zahid Hussain (Times-UK)
    Hundreds of armed supporters of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an outlawed Islamic militant group, set alight dozens of Christian homes in Gojra in eastern Pakistan at the weekend, burning to death eight members of a Christian family, after allegations that a copy of the Koran had been defiled.
    The mob opened fire indiscriminately, threw petrol bombs and looted houses as thousands of frightened Christians ran for safety. Residents said that police stood aside while the mob went on the rampage.
    Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister for Minorities, said that 40 Christian homes were torched in rioting, and that there was no truth to allegations that a Koran had been burned by Christian youth.

Rep. Weiner Calls on Clinton to Review Saudi Textbooks (Brooklyn Daily Eagle)
    Rep. Anthony D. Weiner (D-NY) and 23 other Members of Congress recently called upon Secretary Hillary Clinton to direct the State Department to conduct an annual review of Saudi Arabian textbooks that teach historical inaccuracies, propagate the subjugation of women, and educate their children to hate Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Arab States Warned Off Israel Deal - Dina Kraft
    Palestinian leaders warned Arab states on Monday that any effort to normalize ties with Israel at the urging of President Obama would deal a damaging blow to their quest for statehood. "Normalization of Israel's ties with Arab countries before the occupation ends in the Palestinian areas is the last thing that the Palestinians should have to experience," said Abu El-Izz Dajani, a former PLO ambassador. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Jordan Rejects Call to Improve Ties with Israel
    Jordan on Monday joined Saudi Arabia in publicly rejecting U.S. appeals to improve relations with Israel to help restart Middle East peace talks, throwing a damper on the Obama administration's push for Arab support behind new negotiations. After talks in Washington with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said confidence-building measures that the U.S. wants Arab states to take will not produce a resolution to the conflict. Judeh rebuffed calls for Arabs to take incremental steps in normalizing relations with Israel before Israel agrees to withdraw from the West Bank. (AP/MSNBC)
  • Conspiracy Trial for 100 Dissidents Begins in Iran - Robert F. Worth and Nazila Fathi
    The Iranian authorities opened an extraordinary mass trial against more than 100 opposition figures on Saturday, accusing them of conspiring with foreign powers to stage a revolution through terrorism, subversion, and a media campaign to discredit last month's presidential election. The trial comes just days before President Ahmadinejad is to be sworn in for a second term. The defendants included Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, Stanford historian Abbas Milani, former deputy parliament speaker Behzad Nabavi, former deputy economy minister Mohsen Safai-Farahani, and Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh. Opposition leaders protested that the defendants had no access to lawyers or to details of the charges against them. (New York Times)
        See also Iran's Prosecution of Opposition Leaders - Editorial
    A show trial reveals nothing except that those who organize it are guilty. Any attempt to stage a judicial spectacle intended to deliver a prearranged verdict and intimidate those not in the courtroom is a grotesque miscarriage of justice. (Times-UK)
  • Israel Defends Enforcement of Supreme Court Decision in Jerusalem
    Israel moved to defend itself Monday in the face of criticism over the eviction of Palestinian families from a Jerusalem neighborhood. "I think a lot of the criticism is simply not fair," said Mark Regev, a government spokesman, who described the dispute as a legal one between two private parties over who had title to the property. "As you know, the Israeli court system is independent and professional," Regev said, referring to the Supreme Court's decision that paved the way for the evictions. "Many times it goes on the Palestinian side if they think that's where the justice is and, in this case, they ruled in favor of the Jewish side."
        Regev denied that the evictions were part of any systematic effort to move Palestinians out of eastern Jerusalem and move in Jewish families. "There is no such government policy," he said. "On the contrary, here you see a situation where private people bought private property and that's what it is."  (CNN)
        See also Jews and Sheikh Jarrah - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Abbas: We Choose Peace, But Reserve Right to Resistance - Avi Issacharoff and Jack Khoury
    Western-backed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday his people must not "mar their legitimate struggle with terror" and that while his government seeks peace with Israel, it reserves the right to resort to "resistance." Abbas' comment was echoed by Jibril Rajoub, a senior Fatah official who served as a key security advisor to Arafat. Rajoub said Fatah has not relinquished the option of armed struggle against Israel. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Fatah Officials Takes Hard Line - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Many Fatah officials said on Monday that they would strongly oppose any attempt to drop the armed struggle option from the faction's political program. "Negotiations with Israel were not part of Fatah's culture," said Jamal Nazzal, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, who declared that Fatah had never recognized Israel's right to exist. In a series of interviews, scores of Fatah members said they vehemently opposed any attempt to soften their faction's stance toward Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Jenin Al-Aqsa Leader: Fatah Must Adopt "Program of Resistance" (Maan News-PA)
        See also below Observations: Will Fatah Give Up the Armed Struggle at Its Sixth General Congress? - Pinhas Inbari (ICA-Jerusalem Center)
  • Fatah Congress May Reignite Armed Conflict with Israel - Roni Sofer
    Former Israel Security Agency chief and Knesset Member Avi Dichter warned Monday that decisions at the upcoming Fatah congress in Bethlehem "are clearing the way to what may eventually be the third intifada." "Once you say that the fight will go on by all means necessary - anyone in their right mind understands that spells an armed conflict." "What I find particularly disturbing is that it's the moderates that plan to have the convention vote on an article titled 'continuing the fight against Israel by all means necessary.' Sixteen years after the Oslo Accords, it's Fatah's way of saying they see an armed conflict as a legitimate way to conduct dialogue with Israel."
        "The PA's leadership, headed by Abbas, still believes an armed conflict would lead to a Palestinian state," Dichter said. "The chances of any bilateral progress with the Palestinians are practically nonexistent, because they don't know how to follow though (on decisions) for themselves."  (Ynet News)
  • Settlement Compromise Still Elusive - Herb Keinon
    Last week's meetings in Jerusalem between top U.S. and Israeli officials significantly improved the atmosphere, even though Israel made clear that zero construction in the settlements over an extended period is not a sustainable option. Israel cannot agree to a settlement freeze without having "an exit strategy" for renewing construction if the diplomatic process a freeze is meant to promote runs aground. The government has made clear it needs to ensure that "normal life" in the settlements will continue. While no new housing tenders in the settlements have been issued since Netanyahu became prime minister on March 31, there are basic needs that have to be met. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Dancing with Damascus - Editorial
    President Obama has made Syria a prime target for diplomacy as part of his new Axis of Engagement. The U.S. has repeatedly sought to engage Syria as a partner. After the fall of Baghdad in 2003, George W. Bush dispatched Colin Powell to Damascus to try to win Assad's cooperation. Instead, Syria made itself a safe haven for the terrorists who killed U.S. soldiers. The strategic separation of Syria and Iran makes sense in concept, but in practice their ties won't easily be severed. Maintaining close ties to Shiite Hizbullah and Shiite Iran are key elements to Assad's strategy of political survival. Assad has given no signs of wanting to engage Israel on equal terms and still shelters the leader of Hamas in Damascus. Self-styled "realists" say there's no harm in trying, but there could be if this latest American courtship turns into pressure on Israel for concessions. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Fatah-Hamas Tug-of-War - Rami G. Khouri
    The two leading Palestinian political groups, Fatah and Hamas, are now locked in a tug-of-war around whether Hamas will allow Fatah members in Gaza to travel to Bethlehem to attend their party's sixth congress this week. The dominant Palestinian political movements seem to be engaged instead in a disgraceful game of intra-Palestinian hostage-taking. This pitiful state of affairs accurately illustrates the depths of incompetence, mediocrity and irresponsibility to which the Palestinian national movement has plunged in recent years.
        The sixth Fatah congress is an apt reminder of what ails the Palestinian national movement. For starters, this is the first congress since 1989, meaning that Fatah's political doctrine and leadership have remained unchanged, structurally immune from popular accountability - very much as is the case with political leadership throughout the rest of the Arab world. Any political movement that meets once every 20 years cannot be taken very seriously. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Observations:

    Will Fatah Give Up the Armed Struggle at Its Sixth General Congress? - Pinhas Inbari (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • Many observers are watching to see to what extent Fatah's Sixth General Congress will advance or retard the prospects for re-launching the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. In this regard, the crucial question is: Is Fatah going to waive its historical principle of "armed struggle" and devote itself to peace negotiations based on compromise?
    • The two relevant documents to be discussed and approved by the Fatah Congress are the Political Program and Fatah's "Internal Order." The Political Program might be seen as reflecting progress in terms of accepting a political solution and rejecting violence - but it falls short of waiving the principle of armed struggle.
    • The real problem lies in the Internal Order document, which restores all of the phrases that were omitted in the Political Program. While the Political Program sought to subordinate the struggle to the need for "international legitimacy," the Internal Order is very clear in rejecting all international peace initiatives.
    • In the Internal Order document, Fatah retains the armed struggle as a strategy in order to liberate the whole of Palestinian and eliminate Israel. Article 12 calls for "the liberation of Palestine completely and the elimination of the state of the Zionist occupation economically, politically, militarily, and culturally."
    • Article 13 calls for "establishing a sovereign democratic Palestinian state on the entire Palestinian territory." While the Political Program lists the "one-state solution" as an option in case the "two-state solution" fails, the Internal Order document mentions the "one-state solution" as the only solution.
    • Should there be any question regarding Fatah's objectives, Article 17 states: "The armed popular revolution is the only inevitable way to the liberation of Palestine," while Article 19 notes: "The struggle will not end until the elimination of the Zionist entity and the liberation of Palestine."

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