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August 28, 2009

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Poll: Only 4% of Jewish Israelis Think Obama Is Pro-Israel - Gil Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    The number of Israelis who see President Obama's policies as pro-Israel has fallen to 4%, down from 6% in June, according to a Smith Research poll taken this week.
    51% of Jewish Israelis consider Obama more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israel, while 35% consider him neutral.
    The poll also asked Jewish Israelis whether they would support freezing settlement construction for a year as part of an American-brokered deal. 50% said no, while 41% said yes.

Al-Qaeda: Still Trying to Go Global - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Nearly eight years after the September 11 attacks, Col. (res.) Lior Lotan, a senior fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counter Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, believes al-Qaeda has not given up on attacking Western targets.
    So far, Israeli intelligence assessments that al-Qaeda would turn Israel into a major target have not materialized.
    Lotan says that Iraq al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was originally Jordanian, showed a special interest in Palestinians.
    However, developments in our area have been checked for the time being, partly because Zarqawi was killed but also because the Palestinians were not interested in such extremist elements.
    Nevertheless, groups identified with al-Qaeda have become increasingly active in Hamas-ruled Gaza. Some follow the veteran non-political Islamic movement Salafyoon, and others the Jaljalat, comprised of former members of Hamas' military wing who objected to the cease-fire with Israel.
    In February 1998, Bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri declared war on the "Crusaders" and the Jews, and called upon Muslims to launch a global Jihad against military and non-military targets.
    "Since then, they have not progressed as they wanted," said Lotan. "They are retreating. Al-Qaeda's people have not convinced the common Muslim that radicalism will redeem him. In the coming decade, we will find out whether the moderate Muslims have won."
    "A lot depends on Western support and the Arab regimes' endurance, but at the moment it seems that the extremists have been outdone."

Hizbullah Demands Return to Lebanon of Seven Villages in Israel - Nicholas Blanford (Daily
    Hizbullah has raised the demand for the return to Lebanon of seven villages in Israel's Galilee. They were originally populated by Shiites who found themselves under the French Mandate for Lebanon in 1920 before they were transferred to British-administered Palestine in 1924.

Moody's: Israel Has Weathered Global Financial Crisis (AP/Ha'aretz)
    Moody's Investors Services, in its annual report on Israel, said Thursday that Israel's economy has largely weathered the global meltdown.
    The country's short-term prospects are relatively good and the outlook for its A1 government bond rating is stable.

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Polygamy in Eurabia - Thomas Landen (Hudson Institute New York)
    During the 2005 Ramadan riots in France, several sociologists suggested that polygamy was one of the reasons for the large-scale rioting in Muslim communities among youths who lack a father figure.
    Bernard Accoyer, currently the president of the French National Assembly, said that children from large polygamous families have problems integrating into mainstream society.
    Having multiple wives is illegal under French law, but is allowed under Islamic Sharia law. It is estimated that 30,000 French Muslims have more than one wife and that more than 250,000 people live in polygamous families.
    In Britain, legislators have adopted an equally liberal approach towards polygamy for Muslim men, allowing tax breaks for their second, third and fourth wives.
    Last February, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a Conservative Peer of Muslim origin, warned that the growing numbers of Muslim men marrying up to four wives in Britain is becoming a threat to community cohesion.
    The recognition of polygamous marriages of Muslims in countries where polygamy used to be illegal - and still is illegal for non-Muslims - indicates that Sharia law is already accepted in these countries.

Israeli Cardiac Muscle Patch Succeeds in Animals (Medical News Today)
    Scientists in Israel have successfully grown heart muscle in the abdomen and then used it to patch and repair the hearts of rats after they had suffered heart attack.
    This is the first study to show it is possible to improve the health of a heart after it has been damaged through heart attack.
    The experiment was conducted by Dr. Tal Dvir, of the Department of Biotechnology Engineering at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, Israel, and colleagues, and appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Israeli Invention Fights Bedsores (Times of India)
    Researchers at Tel Aviv University have developed a unique device to heal bedsores and chronic ulcers in bedridden elderly and infirm.
    Prof. Amihay Freeman of TAU's Department of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology developed Dermastream, that uses a solution to whisk away dead tissue, bathing the wound while keeping dangerous bacteria away.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S.: Settlements No Precondition on Mideast Talks - Matthew Lee
    The Obama administration appears to be backing down on its insistence that Israel halt all settlement activity as a condition for restarting peace talks with the Palestinians. U.S. officials are now hinting that a less blanket moratorium would be acceptable provided the Palestinians and Arab states agree. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday: "We put forward our ideas, publicly and privately, about what it will take for negotiations to be restarted, but ultimately it'll be up to the parties themselves, with our help, to determine whether that threshold has been met."
        Crowley and other U.S. officials denied Israeli media reports that Mideast envoy George Mitchell had agreed to leave East Jerusalem out of the agreement and settle for a nine- to 12-month freeze in the West Bank only that would also allow the completion of projects already under construction. However, diplomats familiar with the talks say that the administration has signaled it might be able to accept an "understanding" on East Jerusalem that would entail an Israeli promise not to take "any provocative actions" there. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Ahmadinejad: Prosecute Opposition Leaders - Ali Akbar Dareini
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad called Friday for the prosecution of Iran's opposition leaders over the post-election turmoil. He said senior activists currently on trial should not be the only ones punished. Ahmadinejad said the "serious confrontation has to be against the leaders and key elements."  (AP/Washington Post)
  • UN Security Council Extends Lebanon Peacekeeping Mandate - Patrick Worsnip
    The Security Council extended on Thursday the mandate of UN peacekeepers in Lebanon but sidestepped the issue of whether they could do more to stop Hizbullah building up an armed presence in the south. Israel has criticized UNIFIL for not stopping weapons flowing to Hizbullah, who bombarded northern Israel with rockets in 2006. The UN says that is the primary responsibility of the Lebanese authorities. (Reuters)
  • Suicide Bomber Injures Senior Saudi Prince - Abdullah Shihri
    A suicide bomber in Jiddah Thursday lightly wounded Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, who is largely credited for Saudi Arabia's anti-terrorism campaign, the Saudi Press Agency said Friday. It was the first known assassination attempt against a member of the royal family since Saudi Arabia began its crackdown on al-Qaeda. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu in Berlin: "Those Who Call for the Destruction of the Jewish People Cannot Go Unchallenged"
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a visit to Berlin Thursday: "There are two lessons [from the Holocaust]. The first lesson is that we cannot allow them to prepare the mass death of innocents and that the most important thing to do is to nip it at the bud. It was possible to stop it in time. It did not happen because the main civilized powers of the day did not act in time to stop the arming of barbarism, and armed barbarism knows no limits. It has to be disarmed in time for human lives to be saved and for civilization's future to be secured."
        "This lesson joins another one and that is that it is important for the Jews to have the power to defend themselves; but it is also important for the leaders of other nations to recognize that their own fate is imperiled by those who threaten our fate, and therefore that they have to act in time."
        "We cannot allow those who wish to perpetrate mass death, those who call for the destruction of the Jewish people or the Jewish state, to go unchallenged. This is the most important lesson that we draw from the Holocaust."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Israeli Prime Minister Given Auschwitz Death Camp Plans - Allyn Fisher-Ilan
    German journalists handed Prime Minister Netanyahu a portfolio of 29 plans from the Auschwitz death camp discovered last year. (Reuters)
  • PA's Top Islamic Judge Denies Jewish Link to Jerusalem - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Palestinian Authority's chief Islamic judge, Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, said on Wednesday that there was no evidence to back up claims that Jews had ever lived in Jerusalem or that the Jewish Temple ever existed. Tamimi spoke in response to statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said that Jerusalem "is not a settlement," and that "the Jews built it 3,000 years ago." "Netanyahu's claims are baseless and untrue," said Tamimi, the highest religious authority in the PA. (Jerusalem Post)
  • More Israeli Arabs Volunteer for National Service - Sharon Roffe-Ofir
    The number of Arabs seeking to apply for national civic service has quadrupled over the past four years, according to Public Affairs Coordinator in the Administration for National Civic Service Lior Shohat. "Whereas in 2004-2005 there were only 240 Arab volunteers for national service, years 2008-2009 have seen 1,050 volunteers," Shohat said. "Currently the demand [to volunteer] is exceeding the amount of vacancies we can offer." "The will of Arab youths to volunteer is far greater than the message being conveyed by their public leaders," Shohat added. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    U.S.-Led Peace-Making Efforts

  • Charisma Won't Win Over Israelis - Shira Herzog
    Along the way to a new American peace plan due next month, U.S. President Barack Obama lost the hearts of many Israelis. If Israeli mistrust of Obama isn't addressed, the U.S. peacemaking effort will founder. Aaron David Miller, a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center, describes Obama as "tone-deaf" to Israeli sensibilities on an emotional level. The President is convinced he supports Israel and believes this should suffice for Israelis to take risks.
        Obama's charisma notwithstanding, he has failed to reassure Israelis that he understands and cares - something that with all their differences, his predecessors, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, successfully conveyed. To regain what he's lost, Mr. Obama will have to balance the toughness he's already demonstrated with a hefty dose of sensitivity and reassurance. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
  • Skepticism over "Breakthrough" Middle East Peace Plan - Robert Marquand
    The Guardian newspaper reported that Israel is close to a White House Middle East peace deal linking a partial freeze on Israeli settlements to sweeping sanctions on Iran. Yet most experts doubt the Obama team is ready to fuse the two crucial policies, particularly in the aftermath of Iranian elections. Mideast expert Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group in Washington, among others, doubts a clear linkage between Iran and Israel in the current Obama plans. "I don't think that Israel and Iran are yet factually related in the White House," Malley says. "The question marks [on an Israeli-Palestinian deal] are as sharp as ever, we aren't anywhere near the heart of the matter. But the Obama people were getting stuck on settlements. It wasn't working, so it looks like they decided to pivot, declare victory, and try to move as far as possible."  (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Prospects for Revived Mideast Peace Efforts - Patrick Vanhulle
    "The Israelis have proven four years ago, when they evacuated all of the Gaza Strip, that they are willing to pay a price if they think that a better future will follow. But the Israeli experience with these kind of removals has been very bitter," analyst Gil Yaron told Deutsche Welle. Silke Tempel, editor-in-chief of the German Council of Foreign Relations' bimonthly magazine Internationale Politik, agreed that over the past years the Palestinians in Gaza have only made things worse. "After the withdrawal from Gaza," she said, "Israel got a whole range of rocket attacks. That really did not help."
        Yaron warned that "There is a Palestinian partner on the other side that is completely divided into two entities. We have the Hamas state in the Gaza Strip and the Fatah state in the West Bank. There is no unity on the horizon on the Palestinian side. Whatever President Mahmoud Abbas says does not seem to be binding for Hamas." Yaron also notes that the Israelis have a different time frame than the West: "The West wants to solve the Palestinian problem first and then look at the Middle East as a whole. The Israelis say: before we solve the Iranian problem, we cannot solve anything else, because the Iranians are the ones that are pulling the strings behind terror organizations like Hizbullah and Hamas."  (Deutsche Welle-Germany)


  • Nuclear Drive a Casualty of Iran's Turmoil? - Borzou Daragahi
    Iran's political crisis could prevent the nation from making any swift move to ratchet up its nuclear program, said analysts and officials, giving President Obama more time to grapple with the issue. The Obama administration, concerned that Tehran is seeking to amass the materials needed to manufacture nuclear weapons, set an informal deadline of September for Iran to respond positively to an offer to discuss the matter rather than risk new economic sanctions. "The infighting in Tehran has sent up a smoke screen that further confuses the picture from the outside," said a U.S. official in Washington who is involved in formulating nuclear policy.
        For now, most Iran watchers agree that Tehran will not only be unable to respond positively to the Obama administration's offer of talks, but also is in too much political disarray to make the major decisions necessary to build a nuclear weapon. Such steps would include further enriching its uranium supply to weapons grade, or constructing controversial new facilities for speeding up the process. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Iran Upheaval Complicates U.S. Moves - Gerald F. Seib
    The most delicate question is whether there is a way for the Obama administration to open a conversation with Iran's government without also discouraging or undercutting the opposition, which has demonstrated that there is broad dissatisfaction - even disgust - with that government. "It's possible with a great deal of nuance," says Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. If the talks happen not directly but within a broader conversation organized by the group of world powers, he says, "I think there is a way those discussions can be had without pouring water on the opposition or sending the signal to the millions in the streets that the U.S. is trying to cut a deal with the government." But, Sadjadpour adds, talking directly with the now-iron-fisted Mr. Ahmadinejad would be "poisonous."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Shame on Iran - Editorial
    Iran's political opposition is continuing to challenge the ruling hard-line mullahs. The government continues to conduct cruel mass show trials designed to intimidate the opposition and legitimize the illegitimate - the re-election of President Ahmadinejad. (New York Times)
  • Iran and Syria: So Happy Together - Barry Rubin
    Statements made during the visit of Syrian President Assad to Iran this month, by Assad and Iranian President Ahmadinejad, reveal a great deal about the two allies' strategy which seems to escape Western observers. There are huge benefits Syria derives from its alliance with Iran including Islamist legitimacy, protection against being attacked or pressured, money, weapons, cooperation in anti-Israel terrorism and spreading both countries' influence among the Palestinians, Lebanese and Iraqis. Once Iran gets nuclear weapons, which is on the horizon, the alliance's value for Syria will rise dramatically.
        Assad correctly views Ahmadinejad and the Iranian regime as even stronger after the election. Dictators respect repression. Watching the gradual concessions made by the West to the Iran-Syria bloc, and its evident fear of confronting them, Assad stated in Tehran that he was confident the international community would accept Iran and Syria more than it had done in the past. The two countries are very consciously coordinating strategy in a war against Western interests and the relatively more moderate Arab regimes, a conflict that Western governments don't even perceive as existing: "Iran and Syria are on the same front, and any political event is an opportunity which must be used in the best way possible while helping one another," said Assad. (Jerusalem Post)

    Other Issues

  • Hamas Official: We Should Not Delude Ourselves that We Won the War
    Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad wrote in a July 1, 2009, article on that the Arabs and Palestinians must stop depicting their defeats as victories. "We really want victory over Israel - to defeat this hateful occupation and see it in retreat, under siege, and obliterated - but we want the facts and figures to speak for themselves."
        "When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, reaching into the depth of the capital Beirut, and afterwards expelling the PLO, down to the last of its soldiers (as the entire world watched the ships carrying the fighters into exile) - we called it victory." "When [Israel] impudently and arrogantly dared to invade Lebanon once again, in 2006, and destroyed infrastructure and forced Hizbullah to sign an agreement undertaking not to fire missiles into northern Israel (which it has also honored) - we called this victory." "When [Israel] challenged the entire world and razed Gaza to the ground,...sowing in it destruction and ruin (just like in the 2006 Lebanon war), we called it victory."
        "The important question is how to defeat Israel. We all desire, and long with all our hearts, to see Israel beaten, destroyed, and humiliated. We all want the nightmare removed - but the important question (that has bedeviled us for 60 years) is - how? It makes no sense for us to continue to entertain ourselves with hopes of endless future victories."  (MEMRI)
  • Palestinian Leaders' Intransigence Perpetuates Their People's Suffering - Barry Kay
    At any time through 1967, the Arabs then in complete control of the West Bank and Gaza could have declared a state, as not one Jewish settlement existed on their land, but refused to do so. All Arabs then, and for many years afterward, refused to accept the legitimacy of any Jewish state, the position Hamas maintains to this day. The Israeli-Palestinian dispute is not a conflict between good and evil, but rather between two peoples, each of which is entitled to a homeland. That one is immeasurably stronger than the other makes it neither right nor wrong. The intransigence of Palestinian leaders suggests they are masochistic in preferring to perpetuate their people's suffering rather than to reach a compromise. The writer is a political science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. (National Post-Canada)

    Weekend Features

  • Ted Kennedy Became Part of Our Family - Sarah Wildman
    Ted Kennedy was the youngest son of one of the most rabid isolationists, an old-school anti-Semite in the mold of Father Coughlin. But Joe Kennedy's sons rebelled against that anti-Semitism. The Kennedys and the Jews emerged as stalwarts of an established progressive caucus. The shift reflected a larger movement toward a declining tolerance of cultural anti-Semitism. Maybe it wouldn't have been Ted to cement that bond, if his brothers had lived. But he took the mantle of philo-Semitism up as though it was his idea from the outset.
        "Kennedy, although not of the World War II generation exactly, was from the Hubert Humphrey-Alan Cranston school of liberals who were passionately pro-Israel, partially because the World War II vets among them had witnessed the Holocaust," said Gil Troy, a professor of history at McGill University. "Kennedy's consistent support for Israel, along with his support for Soviet Jewry, were givens, not in the sense of being taken for granted, but in the sense of being so central to his identity and worldview, it was assumed." In Kennedy's half-century in public office, he was a consistent champion of "Jewish" issues, and he worked tirelessly for Soviet Jewish refuseniks from the early 1970s - well before the cause was widely supported. (Tablet)
  • Jews Have Lived in Hebron for Three Millennia - Jerold S. Auerbach
    On Aug. 23-24, 1929, the Jewish community of Hebron was exiled following a horrific pogrom. Until 1929, Jews had lived in Hebron for three millennia. There, according to Jewish tradition, Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah to bury Sarah. It was the first parcel of land owned by the Jewish people in their promised land. Ever since, religious Jews revered Hebron as the burial site of their matriarchs and patriarchs. The Jewish community of Hebron - some 700 people - recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of their return after the Six-Day War of 1967. All the other ancient peoples mentioned in the Bible have vanished. But Jews still live in Hebron.
        Hebron Jews are relentlessly vilified as fanatics who illegally occupy someone else's land. As religious Zionists, they are the militant Jewish settlers whom critics love to hate. It is seldom noticed that their most serious transgression - settlement in the biblical land of Israel - is the definition of Zionism: the return of Jews to their historic homeland. The writer, a professor of history at Wellesley College, is the author of Hebron Jews: Memory and Conflict in the Land of Israel (2009). (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Obama's Mideast Vision - Michael Young (Daily Star-Lebanon)

    • Obama feels that an America forever signaling its desire to go home will make things better by making America more likable. That's not how the Middle East works. Politics abhor a vacuum, and as everyone sees how eager the U.S. is to leave, the more they will try to fill the ensuing vacuum to their advantage, and the more intransigent they will be when Washington seeks political solutions to prepare its getaway. That explains the upsurge of bombings in Iraq lately, and it explains why the Taliban feel no need to surrender anything in Afghanistan.
    • Engagement of Iran and Syria has also come up short. However, there was always something counterintuitive in lowering the pressure on Iran in the hope that this would generate progress in finding a solution to its nuclear program. Where the Obama administration erred was in not seeing how dialogue would buy Iran more time to advance its nuclear projects, precisely what the Iranians wanted, while breaking the momentum of international efforts to force Tehran to concede something - for example, temporary suspension of uranium enrichment. For Obama to rebuild such momentum today seems virtually impossible, when the U.S. itself has made it abundantly clear that it believes war is a bad idea.
    • In Syria, the Assad regime has shown no signs of breaking away from Iran, even as it has facilitated suicide attacks in Iraq and encouraged Hamas' intransigence in inter-Palestinian negotiations in Cairo. The Obama administration can, of course, take the passive view that Syria is entitled to destabilize its neighbors in order to enhance its leverage; or it can behave like a superpower and make the undermining of vital U.S. interests very costly for Bashar Assad. But it certainly cannot defend its vital interests by adopting a passive approach.
    • With respect to the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, Obama has taken Israel on over its settlements. However, there is more to Palestinian-Israeli peace than settlements. Obama is exerting considerable political capital to confront Israel, but it may be capital wasted at a moment when Hamas can still veto any breakthrough from the Palestinian side and render the whole enterprise meaningless. But how can the U.S. weaken Hamas when improving relations with its main regional sponsors, Iran and Syria, remains a centerpiece of American efforts?

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