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August 27, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: U.S. Looking at Alternatives to Polish and Czech Anti-Missile Bases - Including Israel (AFP-Defense News)
    Washington will scrap plans to put anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic and is looking at alternatives including Israel and Turkey, the leading Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza reported Thursday, citing U.S. officials.
    Washington said the goal was to ward off potential Iranian attacks, pointing to Tehran's nuclear program.

Iranian Newspaper: Palestinians Must Not Accept Anything Less Than Israel's Annihilation (MEMRI)
    An editorial in the Iranian paper Jomhouri-e Eslami on June 23, 2009, said: "Official Palestinian recognition of the Zionist regime by the Palestinians is Israel's most cherished dream. It would deal a death blow to aspirations for a Palestinian state, granting everlasting legitimacy to the Zionist regime."
    "The Palestinians must not be satisfied with anything less than the annihilation of the Zionist regime - a goal that is within reach."

Canadian Filmmakers Object to Branding Israel as Enlightened and Liberal - Tahal Frosh (Ha'aretz-Hebrew)
    Three Canadian filmmakers are planning to withdraw from the Toronto Film Festival to protest its recognition of the 100th birthday of the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.
    The protesting filmmakers object to the branding of Tel Aviv and Israel as enlightened and liberal instead of conducting a critical discussion of the "occupation."

Give Hamas a Rocket - Tim Marshall (Sky News)
    Missiles fired at a mosque. Muslim prisoners "executed" in cold blood. International outrage and demonstrations in the streets of London? Nope.
    And why might that be? The Palestinians were killed by Palestinians.
    Hamas desecrated holy ground, firing rocket and after rocket at the mosque, some hit surrounding houses.
    Where is the outrage about these murders? The petitions, the calls for a boycott? Unless the Israelis kill them, people don't care.

Israel Moves Toward Energy Independence - Neal Sandler (BusinessWeek)
    On Aug. 11 it was reported that the huge natural gas reserves off Israel's Mediterranean coast discovered in January are 16% bigger than estimated just one month ago.
    Energy experts reckon this once energy-poor country now has enough natural gas to meet its needs for the next two decades.
    Israel's National Infrastructure Ministry predicts that demand will triple from 4 billion cubic meters annually this year to 12 billion cubic meters in 2016 as power plants and industry rapidly switch from oil to gas, a far more environmentally friendly fuel.
    "Five years from now gas will provide one-third of our energy as power plants and industry switch over," predicts Amit Mor, CEO of Eco-Energy, a Herzliya-based energy consulting firm.
    By comparison, gas accounts for 15% to 20% of energy supplies in the U.S. and most Western European countries.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Diplomats: Iran "Pragmatists" Proposed Nuclear Halt - Louis Charbonneau
    Iranian leaders received and rejected in May a proposal from domestic "pragmatists" for a temporary suspension of "limited scope and duration" of Iran's nuclear enrichment program to resolve its feud with the West and avoid new UN sanctions, Western diplomats said. (Reuters)
        See also Iran's Factional Disputes Grow Increasingly Bitter - Michael Slackman
    On Wednesday, aides to Iran's president lashed out publicly at two former presidents, the nation's most influential dissident cleric said government officials had taken a "deviant path," and a government-aligned Web site reported that the Tehran prosecutor had been fired. "The game in Iran is no longer between the reformists and the conservatives," said Mustafa El-Labbad, director of the Middle East Center for Regional and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "It is now between the pragmatists and the radicals."  (New York Times)
        See also The Tumult in Tehran - Editorial
    The protesters have been routed from the streets of Tehran, but the political turmoil in Iran continues unabated behind the scenes. Given the internal tumult and uncertainty, it looks increasingly doubtful that the regime will respond meaningfully to the Obama administration's deadline of late September to discuss curtailing its nuclear program. (Washington Post)
  • Netanyahu to Press Merkel on German Trade with Iran, Sanctions - Gwen Ackerman
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will press Chancellor Angela Merkel during talks in Berlin Thursday to curb German trade with Iran and steer efforts to tighten sanctions against the Iranian government. Germany "must take the lead in harsher sanctions against Iran," Netanyahu told reporters in Berlin Wednesday after meeting with German President Horst Koehler. While he welcomed Germany's "aggressive" policy on Iran that has seen trade cut, he said there's room for a "significant further reduction."  (Bloomberg)
  • Hariri: Hizbullah to Be Part of Next Lebanon Government
    Lebanese prime minister-designate Saad Hariri said Tuesday as his bid to form a government entered its eight week: "The national unity government will include the (ruling) March 14 alliance, and I also want to assure the Israeli enemy that Hizbullah will be in this government, whether it likes it or not, because Lebanon's interests require all parties be involved in this cabinet." Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned: "If Hizbullah joins the government it will be clear that the Lebanese government will be held responsible for any attack coming from its territory against Israel."   (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu Offers Nine-Month Settlement Freeze - Barak Ravid
    In a meeting with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell in London on Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented a proposal for resolving the ongoing Israeli-American dispute over construction in the settlements, suggesting a temporary nine-month freeze, a government source said. Mitchell will return to Jerusalem in the second week of September with the goal of finalizing an agreement. The new Israeli proposal will exclude some 2,500 housing units on which construction has already started. Additionally, in special cases where it is necessary to keep "normal life," Netanyahu wants to be able to erect public buildings - mainly kindergartens and schools.
        Finally, Israel wants the freeze to have a clear "exit plan." In Israel's view, the freeze is a confidence-building measure that must be matched by reciprocal steps from the PA and Arab states. If these fail to materialize, Israel wants an American guarantee that it will not oppose renewed building. (Ha'aretz)
        See also U.S. Drops Demand for Israel Building Freeze in Eastern Jerusalem - Barak Ravid
    The Obama administration has agreed to Israel's request to remove eastern Jerusalem from negotiations on the impending settlement freeze. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Unilaterally Declared Palestinian State Violates Oslo - Alan Baker
    PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad has proposed to establish a de facto Palestinian state within two years, with or without Israeli cooperation. However, the establishment of a state outside the agreed-upon process would appear to ignore a central component of the framework in which Fayad himself is permitted to function, and from which he derives his own authority. The 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip still remains the valid source of authority for the Palestinian administration in the territories, pending the completion of a permanent-status agreement, which would replace the "interim" agreement.
        According to the seventh subparagraph of the Final Clauses (Article XXXI) of the Interim Agreement, "Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent-status negotiations." Clearly this provision places a reciprocal and parallel obligation on each of the parties not to unilaterally alter the status of the territories until such change is mutually agreed upon. The intention of the parties during the negotiations was clear - the Palestinian side will not declare a unilateral state, and the Israelis will not declare annexation.
        In actual fact, Prime Minister Fayad's aim to build state institutions has never been a subject for negotiation with Israel. So why is there a need to present it as if it is done deliberately behind Israel's back? The writer is a former legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry and former ambassador to Canada. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also International Recognition of a Unilaterally Declared Palestinian State: Legal and Policy Dilemmas - Tal Becker (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Sweden's Shame - Alan M. Dershowitz
    Virtually every government official in Europe went out of their way to condemn the depiction of perfectly innocent cartoons that offended some Muslims by portraying Mohammed. No reasonable person could argue that depicting a long-dead religious figure comes anywhere close to falsely accusing contemporary Jews of murdering innocent Palestinians to steal their organs.
        As a strong defender of freedom of speech, I am offended by Sweden's craven complicity with evil. Freedom of speech carries with it certain obligations as well. One of those is to condemn false speech. The best answer to false speech is not censorship, it is truthfulness. By remaining silent in the face of the bigoted falsities contained in the Aftonbladet article, the Swedish foreign minister inevitably creates the impression that he sympathizes with the writer, and perhaps even with his conclusions. Silence in the face of evil is not an option. (FrontPageMagazine)
  • Take Them to Court - Yossi Klein Halevi
    Most of all, Israel needs to use this affair to challenge the general climate of demonization in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe, and expose the conceptual links between classical anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Accusations like the Swedish blood libel aren't just a threat to Israel's good name, but could become a physical threat to Jews everywhere, by encouraging the fantasies of genocidal jihadists. Terrorists could take "revenge" for the kind of Israeli "crimes" raised by Aftonbladet. In the current atmosphere, where the most inconceivable conspiracy theories involving Jews are readily believed by millions in the Muslim world, Aftonbladet's recklessness is, potentially, an incitement to murder. (Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies-Shalem Center)
        See also Shouldn't Sweden Do Some Soul-Searching? - Zvi Mazel (Sveriges Television-Sweden)
        See also Israeli Scholar Confronts Swedish Journalist
    Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University confronts Swedish journalist Donald Bostrom of Aftonbladet. (YouTube)
  • Observations:

    Naive Pan-Arabism in Washington - Michael Doran (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)

    • The president's famous speech in Cairo was intended to inaugurate an era of multilateral negotiation, which, however, has not materialized. In fact, U.S. credibility, if it truly has been enhanced, certainly has not generated the expected cooperation. In fact, the Arab states have treated the president to an extraordinary rejection of his basic conception.
    • The U.S. received a resounding "No" from the Saudis, Jordanians, Kuwaitis, and Egyptians - from, that is, the closest Arab allies of the U.S. if our closest Arab allies cannot work together in support the administration's multilateral project, what can we expect from hostile states like Syria?
    • It is not all that surprising that the Arab states did not feel obliged to get out and help George Mitchell push the peace process along. What is surprising, however, was the public nature of their rejection. The Saudis led the way in announcing that the Obama doctrine of collective responsibility for peace was flawed at its core.
    • It wasn't supposed to be like this. The president's advisors told him that his Cairo address, especially combined with open pressure on the Israelis, would generate a wave of Arab cooperation.
    • Here's one, modest recommendation: Drop the notion of brokering a comprehensive peace while reaching out to enemies and antagonists. This idea rests on the erroneous conception of a shared Arab interest in resolving the conflict with Israel. Anyone with a deep knowledge of Arab history knows that collective Arab interest is a shallow fiction propagated by a discredited ideology, pan-Arabism.
    • Saudi Arabia has never been a major player in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and certainly does not want to start now. It's about time we started building our strategies around the Saudis as they actually are rather than as we would wish them to be.

      The writer served as Senior Adviser to the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the State Department.

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