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November 18, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

IDF: Gaza Humanitarian Aid Up 900 Percent - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Humanitarian aid to Gaza has increased by close to 900% in 2009 compared to the previous year, the head of the IDF's Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, Col. Moshe Levi, said Monday.
    In the first half of 2008, international organizations transferred 606 trucks into Gaza, while in the first half of 2009, the number of aid trucks jumped to 5,300.
    In addition, since the beginning of the year, the IDF has issued over 18,500 permits for Palestinians to leave Gaza and enter Israel or travel overseas.

Abbas Has Only Himself to Blame - Shmuel Rosner (New Republic)
    If Obama is willing to negotiate with Ahmadinejad, how can Abbas get away with refusing to talk to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu?
    On the other hand, how can Abbas go back to negotiations after repeatedly promising not to do so unless Israel freezes all settlement construction?
    He can't - and the frustrated Obama administration has finally realized that negotiations are unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Death of Iranian Doctor Raises Suspicion - Scheherezade Faramarzi (AP)
    Dr. Ramin Pourandarjani, who treated victims of torture at Kahrizak, Tehran's most feared detention facility, has died amid conflicting reports of a heart attack, a car accident or suicide - raising opposition accusations that he was killed.

Iran: Muslims Must Quit British Forces - Richard Kerbaj (Times-UK)
    Ayatollah Abdolhossein Moezi, director of the Islamic Center of England, who was appointed as Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's special envoy to the UK, has told Muslim servicemen and women to quit the British Armed Forces, saying that their involvement in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars is forbidden by Islam.

Islamic Militants Boosting Role in Drug Trade - Claude Salhani (Washington Times)
    Al-Qaeda-related groups are increasingly involved in transporting drugs from West and North Africa to Europe, intelligence officials and counternarcotics specialists say.
    A Middle Eastern intelligence official said his agency has picked up "very worrisome reports" of rapidly growing cooperation between Islamic militants in Africa and drug lords in Latin America.
    "It's a weapon against the infidels in the West," said Chris Brown, a senior research associate at the Potomac Institute near Washington.
    Much of the trafficking of Colombian and Peruvian drugs passes through Venezuela, said Jaime Daremblum, the director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama Criticizes New Israeli Move
    President Barack Obama says Israel's latest move to build hundreds of new apartments in a neighborhood claimed by the Palestinians complicates administration efforts to relaunch peace talks and embitters the Palestinians. (AP)
        See also Housing Plan for Jerusalem Neighborhood Spurs Criticism - Howard Schneider
    Approval Tuesday of a plan to build 900 homes in the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem prompted sharp criticism from the White House. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said the administration was "dismayed" at the Jerusalem Planning Committee's approval of the Gilo project. (Washington Post)
        See also State Department Objects to Israeli Housing Practices in Jerusalem
    State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said Tuesday: "We find the Jerusalem Planning Committee's decision to move forward on the approval process for the expansion of Gilo in Jerusalem as dismaying....We believe that Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved through negotiations between the two parties."  (State Department)
        See also UN Secretary-General Condemns Plan to Expand Gilo Neighborhood - Yitzhak Benhorin
    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly denounced Wednesday Israel's plan to expand the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, calling it a blatant expansion of a settlement. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Says Jerusalem Construction Is Routine - Allyn Fisher-Ilan
    An aide to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday said approval for new homes in Jerusalem was part of a routine building program. "Construction in Gilo has taken place regularly for dozens of years and there is nothing new about the current planning and construction." Some 40,000 Israelis live in the Gilo neighborhood. (Reuters)
        See also Opposition Leader Livni: There's No Debate in Israel Over Status of Gilo - Attila Somfalvi (Ynet News)
        See also Israel Will Not Accept Any Restriction on Building in Jerusalem - Herb Keinon and Hilary Leila Krieger
    One senior Israeli government official said that Netanyahu was "willing to show the greatest possible restraint concerning building in the territories, and has even received praise for that restraint. But that is in the West Bank. Gilo is in Jerusalem, and that is the capital." While the prime minister would accept a temporary moratorium on new housing in the West Bank to facilitate the relaunch of negotiations with the Palestinians, he would not place any limitations on building in Jerusalem.
        It is highly unusual for the U.S. to criticize construction in Gilo, a neighborhood straddling the Green Line in the city's south and considered noncontroversial among Israelis. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin noted Tuesday: "The right to build in all of unified Jerusalem is not questioned in Israel." Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said: "Israeli law does not discriminate between Arabs and Jews, or between east and west of the city....The demand to cease construction just for Jews is illegal, also in the U.S. and any other enlightened place in the world." Initially the White House statement was titled a response to "the approval of settlement expansion in Jerusalem," but the version the White House later posted on its Web site does not use the word "settlement."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Jerusalem Neighborhood Residents Amazed at American Disapproval - Nir Hasson and Natasha Mozgovaya
    The chairman of the Gilo community administration, Moshe Ben Shushan, voiced amazement at the American disapproval, saying "this is a trend of interference in Israel's policies. I have never thought of Gilo as a settlement."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Jewish Neighborhood Had Been Under Palestinian Seige - Ronen Medzini
    Gilo's residents remember the Second Intifada at the start of the decade when their homes became a target for attacks from the neighboring Palestinian town of Beit Jala for many months. At the time, the managers of the American CNN network issued an instruction to stop referring to Gilo as a "settlement" and call it a "Jewish neighborhood."  (Ynet News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • PA Negotiator Backtracks on Unilateralism Plans - Tovah Lazaroff and Herb Keinon
    The Palestinians will not unilaterally declare an independent state, but rather seek a UN Security Council resolution endorsing a two-state solution along the pre-1967 lines, PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said Tuesday. One senior Israeli government source said that Erekat's comments were an effort to backtrack on the plan to unilaterally declare a state, following the refusal of either the U.S. or the EU to support the idea. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Hamas Rejects PA's UN Move for Statehood - Hisham Abu Taha
    Hamas rejected Monday a Palestinian suggestion to seek UN Security Council support for unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Such a declaration was merely an attempt by the rival Palestinian camp of Mahmoud Abbas to pretend it had an alternative to faltering peace negotiations, other than armed struggle, said Hamas. "Instead of threatening to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state to be established in the air, we should work on liberating the occupied territories," said Salah Al-Bardaweel, a senior Hamas leader based in Gaza. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The End of the Peace Process - Elliott Abrams and Michael Singh
    Regional dynamics in the Middle East undermine the possibilities for compromise. The Palestinian cause remains a useful tool for regimes in the region concerned about the mood of their own populations; it has been used for decades to deflect attention from their own shortcomings. Further, Iran, which was not a factor ten years ago, is today a dominant factor in regional politics. With its calls for the elimination of the State of Israel, its support for Holocaust denial, and its assistance for terrorist groups fighting Israel, Iran provides ideological and military backing for a "rejectionist" front that many had thought died with Arafat. If Iran were to obtain a nuclear weapon or even be perceived to win significant concessions from the West in exchange for remaining at the nuclear threshold, this front would gain further power. Iran would seek to undermine any compromise peace agreement reached.
        A new approach would be to leave the negotiating to the two parties and focus U.S. and international efforts on improving the background for those negotiations, by helping build a constituency for peace and countering the designs of Iran and its client spoilers of the peace efforts. A decisive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is not possible without a comprehensive and effective effort to curtail Iran's nuclear and hegemonic ambitions. If Hizbullah and Hamas are to be neutralized as an obstacle to peace, these terror groups must be isolated diplomatically and financially, and the red carpets that have been rolled out for them in some Arab capitals must be rolled back up. Finally, the supply networks that bind Iran and its terrorist allies must be disrupted. Elliott Abrams, a former deputy national security adviser, is a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Michael Singh is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (World Affairs)
  • Hard Evidence about Maj. Hasan - Christopher Hitchens
    Hasan had been in direct correspondence with a notorious preacher of violence, Anwar al-Awlaki, whose enthusiasm for the teachings and actions of al-Qaeda has long been known. Hasan bought weapons well in advance of a murderous assault on unarmed soldiers. As he unleashed his volleys, he yelled the universal cry of jihad, "Allahu akbar!" or "God is great!" He had, in spoken and written communications, demonstrated a fascination with the concept of suicide martyrdom. He seems to have been especially obsessed with the Quranic injunction that forbids devout Muslims to make alliances with Christians and Jews.
        I do not say that all Muslims are terrorists, but I have noticed that an alarmingly high proportion of terrorists are Muslim. No doubt he came in for a taunt or two, but if you want to avoid that, then don't express contempt for your fellow soldiers while in uniform. Black Americans used to be segregated. Jewish recruits were mercilessly hazed, as were men or women who looked as if they might be gay. Did any of them ever come up with an act of mass murder as a response? (Slate)
        See also Hasan's Ties to Radical Imam Raises Questions - Spencer S. Hsu
    Three weeks before Maj. Nidal Hasan purchased the semiautomatic pistol used in the Fort Hood attack, a radical Yemeni American cleric whom he frequently e-mailed gave a broad religious blessing to Muslims who attack "government armies in the Muslim world." "These armies are the defenders of apostasy," Anwar al-Aulaqi wrote in English on his Internet site July 15 from Yemen. "Blessed are those who fight against them and blessed are those shuhada [martyrs] who are killed by them."  (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    What Does "Pro-Palestinian" Really Mean? - Khaled Abu Toameh (Hudson Institute New York)

    • In recent years there has been a significant rise in the number of non-Palestinians who describe themselves as "pro-Palestinian" activists. Many of these activists have never been to the Middle East. What these folks have not realized is that their actions and words often do little to advance the interests of the Palestinians, and in some instances are even counterproductive.
    • Being anti-Israel does not necessarily turn one into "pro-Palestinian." It is hard to see how organizing an "Israel Apartheid Week" on a university campus could help the cause of the Palestinians. Isn't there already enough anti-Israel incitement being spewed out of Arab and Islamic media outlets?
    • If anyone is entitled to be called "pro-Palestinian," it is those who are publicly campaigning against financial corruption and abuse of human rights by Fatah and Hamas. Those who are trying to change the system from within belong to the real "pro-Palestinian" camp. These are the brave people who are standing up to both Fatah and Hamas and calling on them to stop killing each other and start doing something that would improve the living conditions of their constituents.
    • Instead of investing money and efforts in organizing Israel Apartheid Week, for example, self-described "pro-Palestinians" could dispatch teachers to teach young Palestinians English. Or they could send a delegation to Gaza to monitor human rights violations by Hamas and help Palestinian women confront Muslim fundamentalists who are trying to limit their role to cooking, raising children and looking after the needs of their husbands.
    • Let's substitute Israel Apartheid Week with Palestine Democracy Week. Or is delegitimizing Israel and inciting against "Zionists" much more important that pushing for an end to financial corruption and violence in Palestinian society? It is time for the "pro-Palestinian" camp in the West to listen to the authentic voices of the Palestinians.

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