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September 11, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Former U.S. IAEA Envoy: Syria May Have Several Nuclear Sites (Jerusalem Post)
    Syria may be operating more nuclear sites, apart from the reactor at Deir Azour which was bombed by Israel on September 6, 2007, former U.S. envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency Gregory Schulte told Israel Channel 10 television on Thursday.
    "IAEA inspectors actually asked to go to a number of other sites, and the Syrians wouldn't let them go there," Schulte said.
    On the issue of Iran's nuclear pursuit, Schulte said, "Iran is always trying to buy time."

Harvard Crimson Publishes Holocaust Denial Ad - Evan Buxbaum (CNN)
    On Tuesday, the Harvard Crimson, in what it said was an error, ran an advertisement questioning the reality of the Holocaust.
    The ad, paid for by Holocaust denier Bradley R. Smith and his Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust, raises questions about Gen. Dwight Eisenhower's account of World War II and the existence of Nazi gas chambers.
    Robert Trestan, civil rights counsel for the Anti-Defamation League of New England, said Smith's organization had placed ads in approximately 15 college papers around the country so far this year.
    "Would an ad that questions whether the world was flat or that slavery never happened in America have fallen through the cracks?" he asked.
    See also Why Publishing the Ad Was Inappropriate - Editorial (Harvard Crimson)
    See also Setting Holocaust History Straight - Harvard Undergraduates for Historical Honesty (Harvard Crimson)

Half a Million Jews Live Beyond "Green Line" - Sever Plocker (Ynet News)
    Half a million Jewish Israelis are living beyond the Israel-Jordan border prior to 1967.
    Some 200,000 reside in greater Jerusalem in areas annexed by Israel; another 300,000 live in the West Bank. At the current rate of growth, the Jewish population there will comprise about 750,000 people by 2025.
    The evacuation of 8,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza and their absorption in Israel cost NIS 10 billion.
    Those interested in turning back time and evacuating Israelis from the areas beyond the 1967 borders would have to invest NIS 600 billion for that end. An unreal figure.

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Libya's Turn Toward Peace? - Greg Sheridan (The Australian)
    There can be few more odious ruling families in the world than the Gaddafis of Libya.
    Seif Gaddafi visited Sydney in 2003. I had the pleasure of interviewing him then and I must say it was about the weirdest interview I ever did.
    He was meant to be the new, moderate face of Libya, but he presented as the tyrant's son from central casting. Wearing a white suit and designer stubble, accompanied by overweight bodyguards with suspicious bulges in their suits, he came, I was told, bearing a message of peace.
    It was suggested I ask him about the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. He was supposed to condemn them, demonstrating Libya's new opposition to terrorism, and at first he did. Except, of course, the attacks on the Pentagon.
    The Pentagon, I recall him saying, was the building of the devil, it was a military target, and he supported an attack on the Pentagon.

Earliest Menorah Uncovered Near Sea of Galilee - Eli Ashkenazi (Ha'aretz)
    An Israel Antiquities Authority dig near Moshava Migdal on the shores of the Sea of Galilee has uncovered the earliest known synagogue, dated to the days of the Second Temple.
    The dig is intended as a salvage operation ahead of the construction of a hotel on a site owned by the Franciscan church.
    At the center of the uncovered synagogue is an engraving of a seven-branched menorah. The synagogue's central hall measured 120 meters square and was surrounded by benches for attendees. On the floor was a mosaic and the walls were frescoed.
    "This is the first time a menorah engraving from the Second Temple age has been uncovered, the earliest menorah in a Jewish context, dated to the beginning of the Roman period," site director Dina Avshalom-Gorni said.
    See also View the Ancient Menorah (Ha'aretz)

Palestinian-Israeli Trade Looks Up - Mel Frykberg (Inter Press Service-Asia Times-Hong Kong)
    Trade between Israel and the Palestinian Authority rose 17% to $3.9 billion in 2008, according to the Israeli Tax Authority (ITA). In 2007, it was $3.3 billion, and in 2006, $3 billion.
    Palestinian imports and exports through Israeli ports rose 5% to $1.2 billion last year. "We expect trade figures to rise next year to about $5.3 billion," said Ofir Gendelman, head of the Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce.
    According to the Peres Center for Peace, 90% of Palestinian exports go to Israel, and account for 65% of Palestinian gross domestic product (GDP).

Portuguese Discover Their Jewish Roots - Cnaan Liphshiz (Ha'aretz)
    Thousands of Portuguese who believe they are descended from Jews who were forced to convert to Christianity hundreds of years ago are turning toward Judaism.
    Recent genetic studies show that some 30% of Portugal's population has Jewish blood. Around 7,000 Portuguese identified themselves as Jewish in a 2006 national survey, although only 1,000 have formal affiliation.

Holocaust Deflection and Whitewashing - Manfred Gerstenfeld (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
    Holocaust deflection entails admitting that the Holocaust happened while denying the complicity of countries or groups despite ample evidence to the contrary.
    In Lithuania, local collaborators were fully integrated in the killing mechanism.
    In Germany, Holocaust deflection includes the false claim that the Holocaust was implemented solely by special units, denying that the Wehrmacht (the regular army) was involved to a great extent in the mass murders.

Ancestral Homeland Loses More Yemeni Jews - Salma Ismail (Yemen Times)
    Yemeni Jews continue to trickle out of their ancestral homeland, with three families totaling 12 members leaving on Wednesday for the U.S.
    Last month, a 14-member family left for the U.S.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S.: Iran Nuclear Proposals "Not Really Responsive"
    Iran's latest proposals to the UN are "not really responsive" to international concerns about its nuclear program, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday. He said Tehran's latest proposals continue to insist that its nuclear file is "closed," and "That is certainly not the case." Iran has failed to clear up questions about the goals of its nuclear program with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Crowley said, and it has defied a Security Council demand that it halt its production of enriched uranium. (CNN)
        See also Iran Not Prepared to Discuss Halting Uranium Enrichment - Thomas Erdbrink
    Iran is not prepared to discuss halting its uranium enrichment program in response to Western demands but is proposing instead a worldwide control system aimed at eliminating nuclear weapons, President Ahmadinejad's top political aide Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi said Thursday. In a set of proposals on Wednesday, Iran also offered to cooperate on solving problems in Afghanistan and fighting terrorism and to collaborate on oil and gas projects. (Washington Post)
        See also Text: Iran's Nuclear Program Proposal (Pro Publica)
  • Russia Rejects New Iran Sanctions - Marc Champion and Jay Solomon
    Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made it clear Thursday that Moscow will not back tougher sanctions such as a ban on petroleum sales to Iran, and said the world would have enough time to respond if Tehran ever did try to enrich uranium to weapons grade. "Iran is a partner that has never harmed Russia in any way," Lavrov said. Russia had agreed only to sanctions in the past aimed at pressing Iran to engage with inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. Tough sanctions aimed at pushing Iran to agree to demands to shut its nuclear program were a different matter. Lavrov said, "I do not think those sanctions will be approved by the United Nations Security Council," where Russia wields a veto. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Kremlin Confirms Netanyahu's Trip to Russia - Andrew Osborn
    Russia's Kommersant on Thursday, citing a senior Kremlin source, confirmed that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, made a secret visit to Moscow last Monday to discuss Russian arms shipments to Iran and Syria. The revelation appeared to support maritime and military experts who have claimed the missing Arctic Sea cargo ship was carrying S-300 anti-aircraft missiles for Iran, that the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, found out, and that the Kremlin was given time and space to stop the delivery and cover it up in order to save face. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Diplomacy Can't Stop Arms Sales - Benny Avni
    The story of the Arctic Sea teaches an important lesson about stopping the sale of weapons to rogue nations like Iran. International agreements aren't enough to stop such arms deliveries in a world of shadowy arms dealers, greedy former generals and rogue regimes. It requires the use of all available means - including some clandestine acts. "Israel regularly follows and intercepts attempts to smuggle arms to Iran and other countries in the region," an Israeli intelligence source told me, adding, "In most cases you won't even hear about it."  (New York Post)
  • Lebanon's Hariri Quits in Attempt to Reduce Hizbullah Demands - Massoud Derhally
    Saad Hariri's decision to quit Thursday as Lebanon's prime minister-designate is aimed at forcing opposition parties to scale back demands in talks over the formation of a national unity government, analysts said. President Michel Suleiman is likely to ask Hariri, as Lebanon's leading Sunni Muslim politician, to make another attempt to form a cabinet. Hariri's coalition won 71 of 128 seats in June 7 parliamentary elections, while the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hizbullah and its allies took 57. (Bloomberg)
        See also Lebanon's Government Crisis Is About Syria - Michael Young
    Lebanon's government crisis is and always was about Syria and its yearning to regain the power over Lebanon that it lost in 2005. The Syrians don't want a government unless they can be seen as having blessed it themselves - which means Hariri must make a notable act of submission to Damascus. But apparently the U.S., with Egypt, blocked Hariri's visit to Damascus before he became prime minister. Yet Iran and Hizbullah, not Syria, hold real power on the ground. Where Syrian interests have been protected in Lebanon, they have been protected by Hizbullah, so that Iran has gradually sidelined Syria as the main opposition sponsor. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Envoy Mitchell Heads to Israel for Talks - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's scheduled meeting with U.S. envoy George Mitchell on Monday will deal not only with the settlement issue, but also with a timeline and the parameters of talks expected to be launched with the Palestinians on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting later this month. Among the issues expected to be discussed were the gestures that Israel could expect from the Arab world in exchange for a declaration of a temporary settlement construction moratorium.
        Netanyahu is expected to reiterate to Mitchell that a moratorium is only sustainable if he can show the public that this time the diplomatic process is different and includes elements - such as significant regional participation from the outset - that have not been seen before. Netanyahu also wants to discuss with Mitchell what needs to be done to ensure that the next round of talks will be different from the previous ones, which all ended in failure.
        Regarding a construction freeze, a number of outstanding issues still have to be dealt with. Israeli officials want to set guidelines as to where and how building in the settlements could continue once the freeze ended. In addition, Israel is willing to halt approval for new private housing units, but not for public buildings such as classrooms, health clinics and synagogues, in order to ensure a continuation of "normal life."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Netanyahu: We're Ready to Compromise for Sake of Peace, But Won't Be Suckers - Yuval Azoulay, Barak Ravid and Akiva Eldar
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday, "We have proved time and again that we are willing to make concessions for peace, but we won't delude ourselves - we are not willing to be suckers." Netanyahu called West Bank settlers "loyal and good citizens." "You deserve to live normal lives," he said. "We will do two things at the same time: Advance the peace process and enable you to live normal lives."
        Netanyahu reiterated that "united Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people and will remain so forever....The Israeli people is willing to do a lot for peace, but will not give up on the clear and unequivocal recognition of the Jewish people's right to the State of Israel."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Chief Palestinian Negotiator: No State Without Gaza
    The West Bank and Gaza must be politically reunited in order to establish a Palestinian state, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Thursday. "There cannot be a Palestinian state without the Gaza Strip," he told Voice of Palestine radio. (Maan News-PA)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Peace Process

  • What Is Peace? - Yossi Alpher
    Israelis want peace but don't believe it's possible, according to a host of opinion polls. For many Israelis, the peace with Egypt and Jordan has not appeared sufficiently beneficial, despite the added security it has brought, to pursue peace with the Palestinians or Syrians. The Golan frontier with Syria is Israel's quietest border even though there is no peace agreement with Damascus. And the two existing peace pacts have not brought anything approximating "normalization" - large and important sectors of the Jordanian and Egyptian publics continue to hold strong anti-Israeli views.
        Unilateral withdrawal has been even more disappointing. When Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005, its neighbors got all their territory back and repaid Israelis with rockets. Some of this has to do with the rise of militant Islam in the form of Hamas, Hizbullah and their patrons in Iran. But Israelis also perceive in the response a deep-seated Arab and Muslim rejection of Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state.
        Israelis, then, feel that the peace agreements they do have, as well as those they may achieve, are premised at best on an Arab readiness to accept them at a superficial and conditional level, one that is little different from tactical non-belligerency. This in turn reinforces the sense that Israel's security depends far more on its military might than on any peace agreement.
        In 1977, when President Anwar Sadat of Egypt came to Jerusalem, told the Knesset "we were wrong to reject you," and stated that 70% of the problem was psychological, Israelis responded by abandoning their skepticism and embracing a peace that included giving up the entire Sinai peninsula. Yet no one has followed in his footsteps. The writer is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. (New York Times)
  • Obstacle to Peace - Editorial
    Forget the settlements. If the world truly wants to identify an obstacle to peace, it could do much worse than cast its eyes toward Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa. For nearly 18 years, Amr Moussa, first as Egypt's foreign minister for a decade, and then for the last eight years as head of the Arab League, has worked mightily to poison the atmosphere against Israel. This week, however, Moussa outdid himself. With U.S. envoy George Mitchell trying to line up some normalization gestures from the Arab states toward Israel as part of a package to relaunch the diplomatic process, Moussa did what he could to stand in the way.
        At a press conference in Cairo with Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, Moussa warned there would be a harsh response against any Arab country making gestures to Israel. Moussa said, "No Arab state will offer Israel gifts on a silver platter." What Moussa evidently has yet to internalize is that peace is not a gift to Israel, but rather to the region. Steps toward normalization are not "silver platter" gifts to Israel, but a necessary precursor to peace. Israelis won't feel secure enough to make additional significant concessions until they sense their neighbors accept their existence. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Has Given Lots of Quid, But Has Received Little Quo - Cal Thomas
    There is a false premise that it's only what Israel does, or doesn't do, that affects the so-called peace process. If peace doesn't happen, blame it on the Jews. It's always their fault. George Mitchell, the administration's Middle East envoy, is visiting Israel next week to continue "negotiations." These are not real negotiations because only one side is expected to give anything and the other side is never held accountable for failing to live up to its promises. As Israel is pressured to stop building, Palestinian construction continues unabated. A new Palestinian housing project has begun in Ramallah that is expected to provide 2,000 housing units, accommodating 10,000 people. In addition, thousands of Arabs are moving into Jewish areas of Jerusalem. Only Israel is not allowed to determine where its own people live. (Washington Times)

    Boycotting Israel

  • Jon Voight Accuses Jane Fonda of "Aiding and Abetting Those Who Seek the Destruction of Israel" - Michael Posner
    Actor Jon Voight is accusing actress Jane Fonda - his co-star in the Oscar-winning anti-Vietnam war film Coming Home - of "aiding and abetting those who seek the destruction of Israel." In a letter released Tuesday, Voight said, "Jane Fonda is backing the wrong people again" by signing her name to a letter of protest against the Toronto International Film Festival's decision to shine a cinematic spotlight on Tel Aviv and ten Israeli filmmakers.
        Voight, 71, maintains that "people like Jane Fonda and all the names on that letter are assisting the Palestinian propagandists against the State of Israel....Jane Fonda's whole idea of the 'poor Palestinians,' and 'look how many Palestinians the Israelis killed in Gaza,' is misconstrued. Does she not remember what actually took place in Gaza? Did Israel not give the Palestinians of Gaza the hope that there could be peace? In response, did Hamas not launch rockets from Gaza into Israel, killing many innocent people?" "Time and again, [Israel] offered the Palestinians land. They always refused. They don't want a piece of the pie, they want the whole pie. They will not be happy until they see Israel in the sea."  (Globe and Mail-Canada)
  • The Boycott Revisited - Uri Avnery
    When I receive a missive that is dripping with hatred of Israel, that portrays all Israelis (including myself, of course) as monsters, I fail to envision how the writer imagines peace. The view of Israel as a monolithic entity composed of racists and brutal oppressors is a caricature. Israel is a complex society, struggling with itself. Reading some of the messages sent to me, I get the feeling they are not so much about a boycott on Israel as about the very existence of Israel. Some proposals, like those for a "One State" solution, sound like euphemisms. If one believes that the State of Israel should be abolished and replaced by a State of Palestine or a State of Happiness - why not say so openly? Of course, that does not mean peace. Peace between Israel and Palestine presupposes that Israel is there. (Dissident)

    Other Issues

  • Despite Washington's Conciliatory Steps, Damascus Remains Intransigent - David Schenker
    In recent months, in an effort to build confidence, the U.S. administration has dispatched seven delegations to Damascus. Yet not only are jihadis continuing to flow into Iraq via Syria, but the Assad regime appears to be actively working to undermine the stability of the Iraqi government. For the past six years, the Assad regime has provided al-Qaeda carte blanche to attack neighboring states via its territory.
        After half a year of its good-faith effort to forge a partnership with Damascus, the Obama administration has hit a wall. While Syrian officials routinely articulate a desire for improved relations with Washington, the Assad regime has yet to take steps necessary to make this possible. Absent critical Syrian follow-through on Iraq, Washington may want to reevaluate its conciliatory approach. The writer is director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (bitterlemons-international)
  • Israel Is Not an Apartheid State - Hirsh Goodman
    Since the first Durban Conference in August 2002, it has become fashionable to use the word "apartheid" as an adjective to Israel. We have the "apartheid wall" and "apartheid roads" and are regularly called an "apartheid state," as alluded to by former President Jimmy Carter in his recent book Peace not Apartheid. Israel is not an apartheid state. I know. I came from one. To compare Israel to apartheid South Africa demonstrates ignorance and, in many cases, malevolence.
        There is a clash of nationalisms over territory, not the imposition of economic and social slavery though a codex of laws aimed at discrimination for the benefit of a tiny minority of the country's population. Yes, in some places there are separate roads for Palestinians and the separation barrier is hideously ugly, but these are responses to security problems, not the imposition of a pre-meditated discriminatory system.
        Apartheid South Africa meant total economic exploitation by two million whites who enslaved and systematically discriminated against people ten times more numerous than them. Apartheid South Africa carried out more judicial hangings than any other country on earth. It was a place where people disappeared into the night never to be heard of again if they opposed the regime, including anti-apartheid activists from among the Jewish community. It was a dark, horrible regime of fear with no intention of ever making peace with the black people.
        Say what you may about Israel's conflict with the Palestinians, at least the sides are engaged in some form of conciliatory process, at least people on both sides can see a theoretical resolution of the problem. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 9Sep09)
  • Time to Get Serious about Helping Iran's Opposition - John P. Hannah
    The chances that diplomacy will convince this Iranian regime to change course and truly abandon its nuclear ambitions seem next to nil. Yet a mass protest movement has risen (and persisted) that has rocked the Iranian regime to its core and is genuinely threatening its collapse. That movement's survival, strengthening, and eventual success has become the most viable option available for satisfactorily resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis short of war.
        The administration's entire strategy with respect to Iran has been premised on getting the current regime into talks and negotiating some sort of deal. Working with its allies, the U.S. needs to make clear now that the Islamic Republic will not get away cost-free if it moves against the opposition's top leaders. The writer, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney from 2005-2009. (Weekly Standard)

    Weekend Features: Ramadan TV Specials

  • Rare TV Satire Mocks Palestinian Politicians - Mohammed Daraghmeh
    Every evening during the Muslim month of Ramadan, "Homeland on a Thread," Palestine TV's first ever attempt at political satire, spotlights inept Palestinian politicians, police bullies, and Muslim extremists. In one skit, an actor portraying Mahmoud Abbas chaired his Fatah party's seventh convention - the sixth was just held in August, after two decades of delay. In the skit, the seventh convention is 500 years in the future. TV executives acknowledged they asked Abbas' permission before running the episode.
        In another segment, a young man tried to take his girlfriend to a quiet place to talk. But the young couple gets caught in a maze of Palestinian checkpoints manned by different branches of the security forces, including police, firefighters and paratroopers, skewering the PA's many grandly named security branches who often harass residents. One show featured a Muslim extremist in Gaza who didn't recognize one of his many wives because she was draped in a black cloak and face veil, a uniform of hardline Muslim women. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Egypt Ramadan TV Serials Look to Stir Patriotism - Riad Abu Awad
    Five Ramadan serials on the Arab-Israeli conflict are airing on Egyptian television, two of them portraying the internal struggle of Arab Jews split between integration in Arab countries and the pull of Zionism. "The Spy War" for the first time tells the story of Samia Fahmy, who was arrested and executed along with her fiancee for spying for Israel after the 1967 war. "What we are trying to say is that when you live in a country, your children live in that country, your ancestors live in that country and you should be loyal to it," said producer Hisham Shaaban. "As a Muslim, your loyalty is not to Mecca and Saudi Arabia."
        Another serial, "If You Forgot," chronicles changes in Egyptian society after the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973, while "The Second Gate" tells of a mother whose son is kidnapped and taken to Israel. "My Heart Is My Guide, a biopic of the late Egyptian Jewish singer Layla Murad, tells the story of the Jewish community in the 1920s, 30s and 40s and the split between those who considered Egypt their homeland and refused to migrate and those who did leave. "In recent times, interest in the Palestinian question has been dwindling on the Arab street," said Mahmud Zaki, a media professor who stars in another serial. "There was a move to revive interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and re-ignite patriotic feelings."  (AFP)
  • Observations:

    Any U.S. Distancing from Israel Strengthens Islamists - David Makovsky (New York Jewish Week)

    • The Saudis and all six Gulf states believe that Iran has hegemonic designs on Arab oil. Senior officials in these states, as well as their counterparts in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, see Iran as hostile to the Arabs for reasons relating to a mix of historical incursions by Persia into the Arab world, aspirations for regional dominance, and sectarian differences. They fear that Iran will funnel money to militant organizations to destabilize Arab regimes and gain Iran a foothold in a Sunni Arab world.
    • Since it is the U.S. and Israel that are the most likely to serve as the strongest countervailing forces against Iran and its allies, few Arab governments actually believe that a weak Israel would serve their national interests.
    • In the post-9/11 world, there are numerous cases of converging interests between Israel and Arab regimes, shaped by a perception of common enemies. After the 2007 Israeli bombing of the Syrian reactor, the Arab regimes remained silent, with none condemning the action, indicating their displeasure with Syria's growing ties to Iran. Arab states led by Saudi Arabia were horrified that Hizbullah went to war with Israel in 2006 without the vote of the Lebanese government in a unilateral decision, facilitated by Iranian weapons. The Arabs wanted Hizbullah to be defeated, not to emerge stronger from the conflict.
    • With Iran's support for Hamas, combined with Iran's emerging nuclear program, Arab leaders see an Iran that appears to be on the march. At the start of the Gaza conflict last December, Egyptian and Saudi foreign ministers publicly blamed Hamas as being responsible for the crisis. Egypt still refuses to open its border to Gaza on a regular basis.
    • The Arab states fear that if Tehran gained a bomb, it could lead to the provision of nuclear materials to non-state actors by Iran. They also recognize that a nuclear Iran could engage in much greater coercion of its neighbors.
    • If the U.S. distanced itself from Israel, this would be the greatest windfall imaginable to the strongest Islamist elements, whether al-Qaeda or Iran, who would see it as a validation. It would lend a sense of momentum or inevitability to their cause, and countries throughout the region would view future U.S. actions through this lens. Therefore, a strong U.S.-Israel relationship remains key and a cornerstone for Mideast peace.

      The writer is the Ziegler Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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