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August 19, 2009

In-Depth Issues:

Egypt Expects U.S. to Present Middle East Peace Plan Next Month - Edwin Chen and Janine Zacharia (Bloomberg)
    Egypt expects the U.S. to present a plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks next month.
    President Obama told Egyptian President Mubarak in a White House meeting Tuesday that he hopes "there will be a final blueprint to be declared" next month, said Soliman Awaad, Mubarak's spokesman.
    Awaad said Obama indicated the U.S. would offer a plan on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York or the summit of the Group of 20 nations in Pittsburgh, both during the third week in September.
    U.S. Middle East envoy Mitchell will meet Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu next week to work on the plan, Awaad said.
    White House spokesman Robert Gibbs quickly played down Egypt's expectation of a formal U.S. peace proposal. "We hope to continue to make progress, but I don't know of any specific plan," Gibbs said.

Video: Hamas Terrorist Hides Behind White Flag in Gaza - 8 Jan 2009 - (IDF Spokesperson-YouTube)
    Captured in this aerial footage, a Hamas terrorist plants an IED and then climbs into a house containing uninvolved civilians. Later the civilians and the Hamas terrorist exit the house waiving a white flag.
    See also Pathological Politics: Human Rights Watch's "White Flags" Report (NGO Monitor)
    Many of the 64 pages in this report are filled with details - including descriptions of "attack sites," "ballistic evidence," technological and military information, statements by forensic pathologists and "medical records" - that create the illusion of credible research.
    However, none of these claims is relevant to the central and unproven claim: that IDF soldiers attacked civilians bearing white flags.

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As Egypt's Mubarak Comes to Washington, Labor Unrest Surges at Home - Abigail Hauslohner (TIME)
    In the Egyptian Delta city of Mahalla, tens of thousands of striking textile workers have won their demands on multiple occasions over the past three years.
    Egypt has seen at least 250 strike actions this year alone, organized locally and often featuring women workers playing a leading role.
    "They were chanting against Hosni Mubarak, against Suzanne Mubarak, they were chanting against Gamal Mubarak. Outright chants," says Hossam al-Hamalawy, a journalist and labor activist, of recent strikes in the Delta.
    "They had 20,000 people marching for an hour in the city of Mahalla demanding that Mubarak will be overthrown."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama Encouraged on Israel, Palestinian Prospects - Steven R. Hurst
    President Obama said Tuesday he is encouraged by progress in U.S. efforts to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Responding to a question about reports that Israel had stopped granting permission for new settlements in the West Bank, even though projects in progress were continuing, Obama said, "The Israeli government has taken discussions with us very seriously," adding that he was "encouraged by what I am seeing on the ground." "All parties," he said, "have to take steps to restart serious negotiations." That, he said, included Palestinians efforts to end the incitement of violence against Israel. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Obama: "We're Not There Yet"
    President Obama said Tuesday: "If all sides are willing to move off of the rut that we're in currently, then I think there is an extraordinary opportunity to make real progress. But we're not there yet." "What may have changed - and this is what we have to test - is a growing realization on the part of the Palestinians that Israel is not going anywhere and is a fact, a reality that has to be dealt with; and a recognition on the part of the Israelis that their long-term security interests require finding an accommodation with the Palestinians and ultimately with their Arab neighbors." "It's a difficult issue that requires a lot of groundwork to be laid and sometimes proceeds in fits and starts."  (White House)
  • Iranian Cleric Predicts Opposition Will Topple Ahmadinejad - Thomas Erdbrink
    Defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi says opposition to the government is growing by the day. The white-turbaned Shiite cleric said in an interview Tuesday that President Ahmadinejad will be defeated by a burgeoning movement of ordinary people, ayatollahs and lawmakers. "This belief is growing at an extraordinary pace. Yes, people might be more cautious, since the situation in our country is dangerous, but their thoughts, their ideas have not changed," Karroubi said. A mass trial is underway in Tehran, in which some of Karroubi's close advisers have linked him to a Western-backed plot to overthrow the country's leadership. "The court has a special purpose. It is organized by the winners of the vote, and only their opponents have been put on trial," Karroubi said. (Washington Post)
  • Iranian Rockets Found Aimed at American Base in Iraq - Sam Dagher
    Iraqi and American troops seized a rocket launcher loaded with about a dozen Iranian-made rockets aimed at an American base in Basra, Iraqi officials said Tuesday. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • UN Watchdog Hiding Evidence on Iran Nuclear Program - Barak Ravid
    The world's nuclear weapons watchdog is hiding data on Iran's drive to obtain nuclear arms, senior Western diplomats and Israeli officials told Ha'aretz. The International Atomic Energy Agency under Director General Mohamed ElBaradei was refraining from publishing evidence obtained by its inspectors over the past few months that Iran was pursuing information about weaponization efforts and a military nuclear program.
        Sources said new evidence was submitted to the IAEA in a classified annex written by its inspectors in Iran and signed by the head of the IAEA team there in a classified report that was not incorporated into the agency's published reports. The details were censored by senior officials of the IAEA at the Vienna headquarters. "We expect the details to appear in the new report and to be made public [by Sept. 14]," a senior Western diplomat said.
        Israel has been striving to pressure the IAEA through friendly nations and have it release the censored annex. It hopes to prove that the Iranian effort to develop nuclear weapons is continuing, contrary to claims that Tehran stopped its nuclear program in 2003. (Ha'aretz)
  • Blood Libel in Sweden - Morten Berthelsen and Barak Ravid
    "They plunder the organs of our sons," read the headline in Sweden's largest daily newspaper, the Aftonbladet, which devoted a double spread in its cultural section this week to an article claiming that Israeli soldiers are abducting Palestinians in order to steal their organs. The report quotes Palestinian claims that the bodies of young men seized by the Israel Defense Forces have been returned to the families with missing organs, and makes a link to an alleged crime syndicate in New Jersey.
        The Sydsvenskan had harsh criticism for the rival paper, running an opinion piece under the headline "Antisemitbladet" by columnist Mats Skogkar. "Whispers in the dark. Anonymous sources. Rumors. That is all it takes. After all we all know what they [the Jews] are like, don't we," he says. "Now all that remains is the defense, equally predictable: 'Anti-Semitism.' No, no, just criticism of Israel." Israel Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor said the newspaper's decision to publish the story is "a mark of disgrace" for the Swedish press. "There should be no place for dark blood libels out of the Middle Ages of this type," Palmor said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israeli Polls Show Resistance to Settlement Freeze - Howard Schneider
    The Israeli public seems to have rallied around Netanyahu's refusal to halt all settlement construction, a backlash that intensified when the Obama administration made clear that it wanted Israel to stop building Jewish homes in some parts of Jerusalem as well as in the West Bank. Noting that the Palestinians had negotiated with Israel until late last year despite ongoing construction in the West Bank, Dan Meridor, Israel's intelligence minister, said he found it "strange" that the issue became a precondition for talks after the White House made public demands on Israel. (Washington Post)
  • Egyptian Dissident: Time for Obama to Turn His Back on Tyrants - Saad Eddin Ibrahim
    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, 82, has been ruling Egypt for 28 years. He's received more than $50 billion in outright U.S. aid but has failed to deliver anything to his own people. He hasn't contributed an iota to regional peace beyond what his predecessor, the late Anwar Sadat, had already accomplished at Camp David 32 years ago. There has also been an exponential rise in sectarian violence against the Christian Copts. Since Mr. Obama's celebrated speech at Cairo University two months ago, there have been more than 40 attacks. Yet Mr. Mubarak has continued to get a free pass from the U.S. and has even received outright praise from senior members of the Obama administration. The tiny fraction of U.S. aid that is earmarked for Egypt's civil society is subject to the Mubarak regime's veto. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Egypt's Next Strongman - Issandr Amrani
    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's son Gamal and Omar Suleiman, the head of Egypt's General Intelligence Service, have both been touted for most of the past decade as a potential heir to Mubarak. Many well-informed Egyptians think the next president will come from the military - and that Suleiman is the most likely candidate. Suleiman attended the Soviet Union's Frunze Military Academy in the 1960s - as Mubarak did a few years earlier - and took part in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars. When Cairo switched its strategic alliance from Moscow to Washington, he received training at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, N.C., in the 1980s. Suleiman continues to have privileged contacts with U.S. intelligence and military officials, with whom he has now been dealing for at least a quarter-century. Suleiman holds both a military rank (lieutenant general) and a civilian office (he is a cabinet minister).
        However amendments made in 2005 and 2007 to the Egyptian Constitution's provisions for presidential elections might have rendered Suleiman's candidacy moot. Active-duty military officers are not allowed membership in political parties, meaning Suleiman would have to retire before running. Then, candidates must be members of their party's highest internal body for at least one year before the election, a significant obstacle for Suleiman.
        Neither Gamal Mubarak nor Omar Suleiman present a clear departure from the present state of affairs. The prevalence of the Gamal vs. Omar debate, more than anything, highlights the low expectations ordinary Egyptians have for a democratic succession to Hosni Mubarak's 28-year reign. (Foreign Policy)
  • Observations:

    Why Is Israel Concerned About Iran Nukes? - George Jonas (National Post-Canada)

    • In a weekend conversation with Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, CNN program host Fareed Zakaria demonstrated the leading edge of current political thinking. He pressed Oren to admit that Israel is terribly upset about Iran developing nuclear technology. Having secured the ambassador's agreement that Israel wasn't ecstatic about it, Zakaria demanded to know why.
    • The message Zakaria conveyed was: The problem isn't Iran developing nuclear technology; the problem is Israel being unable to tolerate it. If nuclear proliferation is too hard or ideologically uncomfortable to prevent, just say it's no problem.
    • Equating the sensitivities of Israel, a country threatened with annihilation, with the sensitivities of the country that's doing the threatening is a new low in two-cent sophistry.
    • It isn't Israel that's offended by Iran's very existence; it's the other way around. The Jewish state has no hostile designs on the Islamic Republic; it's the Islamic Republic that has hostile designs on the Jewish state.
    • Israel's nuclear technology reduces the risk of war; Iran's nuclear technology increases it. The bomb in Israel's hand fosters peace in the region; the bomb in Iran's hand threatens war.

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