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March 4, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Americans Love Israel Even More Than You Think - Barry Rubin (Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya)
    Public opinion polls can be useful in countering myths. Gallup's latest poll measuring how Americans feel about different countries rates Israel 67% favorable and 25% unfavorable.
    Only one-fourth of those 25%, that is 6%, are really hostile. After 20 years or so of intensive media criticism, hostility on campuses, double standards, and controversy, that's nothing short of remarkable.
    At the same time, the PA receives constant good publicity in the media, campuses, and among policymakers as moderate and friendly to the U.S. Yet only 20% are favorable to the PA and a whopping 70% are negative.
    What about the idea that young people are steadily becoming more hostile to Israel? While 70% of those over 55 are favorable to Israel, that number only sinks to 63% for those between 18 and 34.
    Why does all this matter? It matters to members of Congress who are running for election in November and know that voters don't want to see them bash Israel.

    See also Israel Increasingly Popular. Surprised? - Editorial (New York Jewish Week)
    Support for Israel among Americans is at a 19-year high, according to a February Gallup poll that found that 63% side with Israel in the Mideast conflict, compared to 15% who support the Palestinians.
    For all the criticism of the mainstream press among pro-Israel advocates in this country, most Americans get their news and views about the Mideast from the very same news media so often perceived of as biased against Israel. Somehow a positive message must be getting through.
    The encouraging survey results do not mean that we should, as a community, ease up on our advocacy for Israel. But we should keep our work in perspective, mindful of and grateful for an American society that appreciates the importance of Israel as a strong and loyal ally in an increasingly dangerous neighborhood.

The Arab Lobby Racks Up Another Victory - Benny Avni (New York Post)
    This week the Arab countries convinced Western reporters that they're advancing the peace process with Israel when the Arab League gave its nod of approval for Mahmoud Abbas to participate in indirect talks with Israel.
    Yet, in reality, Israelis and Palestinians have publicly conducted direct talks since the early 1990s. The Palestinians broke off those talks last year under increasing pressure from leading Arab countries, which hoped President Obama would lean hard on the new government of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

United Arab Emirates to Follow Third Reich Policies Against Jews (Pravda-Russia)
    Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan al-Tamim said on March 1 that anyone who looks or sounds like a citizen of Israel will be blocked from entering the country.
    It is not quite clear, though, how Arab officials are going to identify Israelis. Will the Emirates liken itself to the Third Reich and use rulers and protractors to measure the shape of the nose and the skull structure? If it does, the UAE will lose all of its friends in the West.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Britain to Block Arrest Warrants for Foreign Officials - Damien McElroy and Tom Whitehead
    The British government is to announce plans to stop politically-motivated groups using British courts to secure arrest warrants for visiting foreign officials. The move follows an outcry over a series of attempts to detain high-profile figures during trips to London, including Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister. Under the proposals, the Crown Prosecution Service will take over responsibility for prosecuting war crimes and other violations of international law, ending the current system in which magistrates are obliged to consider a case for an arrest warrant presented by any individual. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Britain Must Protect Foreign Leaders from Private Arrest Warrants - Prime Minister Gordon Brown (Telegraph-UK)
  • U.S. Circulates New Draft Proposal for Iran Sanctions - Neil MacFarquhar
    The U.S. is circulating a draft of new, tougher sanctions against Iran that concentrate on the banking, shipping and insurance sectors of Iran's economy, UN Security Council diplomats said Wednesday. The focus is on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which runs a vast array of Iranian businesses, while the oil industry is not included.
        The proposed measures are likely to be diluted in further talks. The initial reaction from Russia was that the measures were too strong. The Western nations want a Security Council resolution finished before May when Lebanon, home to the militant group Hizbullah that is closely allied with Iran, will be president of the Council.
        Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a trip to Latin America, was unable to budge Brazil from its opposition to sanctions against Iran. Brazil's president, Luiz da Silva, said Wednesday, "It is not prudent to push Iran against a wall." Brazil is a voting member of the Council. (New York Times)
        See also EU Ready for New UN Sanctions after Iran "Provocation"
    The European Union confirmed Wednesday that it would support new UN sanctions against Iran, reacting to provocative steps recently taken by Tehran over its nuclear program. "Iran's persistent failure to meet its international obligations and Iran's apparent lack of interest in pursuing negotiations require a clear response, including appropriate measures," the EU said in a statement to the IAEA's governing board in Vienna. (DPA)
        See also China Still Rejects Iran Sanctions
    China said Thursday it will continue to push for a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear standoff, rebuffing efforts by Western powers to introduce a new set of sanctions against Iran. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China would continue to "make constructive efforts for a proper resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiations."  (AP)
  • Mitchell Returns to Middle East Amid Hopes for Talks - Arshad Mohammed
    U.S. special envoy for Middle East peace George Mitchell will travel to the region over the weekend to see if Israel and the Palestinians are ready to begin indirect peace talks, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday. The visit follows a declaration of support by Arab League ministers for such talks, a gesture that Washington hopes will allow the two sides to resume a dialogue, albeit via U.S. mediators. The public stance by the Arab ministers was designed to give Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas regional cover to resume talks. (Reuters-Washington Post)
        See also Mideast Peace Talks Could Begin Next Week - Barak Ravid, Jonathan Lis and Avi Issacharoff
    The U.S. is hoping the sides will declare the beginning of indirect talks on Sunday, ahead of the arrival of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Monday. Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Knesset Wednesday that "it seems the conditions for proximity talks are ripening."  (Ha'aretz)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu Would Meet Syria's Assad "Any Time, Any Place" - Avi Issacharoff and Jack Khoury
    The Prime Minister's Bureau said Wednesday that Prime Minister Netanyahu is willing to meet with the Syrians immediately and without preconditions. A statement to the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat said, "Netanyahu is prepared to immediately set out for Damascus to meet with President Assad, or to invite him to Jerusalem, or to meet with him in a third country."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Is Arab Opposition to Jerusalem Development Plan a Facade? - Abe Selig
    While Arab residents of the King's Garden/El-Bustan neighborhood in Jerusalem have declared they adamantly oppose Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat's plan to redevelop their neighborhood, sources inside city hall and among the residents themselves have hinted that behind closed doors, the two sides are closer to an agreement than has been reported thus far. When details of the plan were first revealed two weeks ago, a senior city hall official said the municipality and local residents were "very close" to an agreement. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Thinking the Unthinkable: War with Iran - Walter Russell Mead
    President Obama clearly doesn't want a war with Iran (and neither do I), but if history teaches anything, it's that you can't always get what you want. There are signs that the Iranian mullahs overestimate their clout and underestimate America's ability to confront them. In the past, Iranian radical factions have turned up the temperature in the U.S.-Iranian relationship in order to improve their political standing at home. Calling on Iranians to unite against the foreign menace has worked before, isolating moderates and consolidating the radicals' grip on power.
        It would be easy for radical clerics to miscalculate and, intending only to stage a crisis, to overreach and set off a war. Paradoxically, the only way to avoid scenarios like these with Iran may be to make the regime and its radical allies fear us more than they now do. Somehow the mullahs need to understand that a real shooting war between the two countries almost certainly means regime change in Tehran.
        There are quiet ways of communicating a truth that the Iranian leaders must never forget: that an attack on the forces of the United States would be an act of suicidal folly. But we should not be so polite and so low key that they miss the main point. The writer is the Henry Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. (American Interest)
        See also Poll: 60 Percent of Americans Say Force Required to Stop Iran (FOX News)
  • Israel's Historic Roots Are Real - Jeremy Sharon
    Palestinian protests against the restoration of Jewish heritage sites are part of a campaign of delegitimization against Israel. The inclusion in Israel's heritage restoration project of two of the most sacred Jewish sites, the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb, has sparked riots and led supposedly moderate Palestinian leaders to burst forth with disturbingly inflammatory rhetoric, with the U.S. State Department and the UN secretary general both reprimanding Israel for the decision as well.
        This latest uproar is another example of the general Palestinian unwillingness to accept and acknowledge the deep-seated historical roots of the Jewish people in the region. The Cave of the Patriarchs is mentioned in the Bible and has been a focus of Jewish pilgrimage for more than 3,000 years as the burial place of the people's three forefathers. The refurbishment of two shrines central to Jewish history in no way threatens Palestinian political ambitions. What it does do is present an obstacle to those who wish to erase Jewish history in the region. (Guardian-UK)
  • Observations:

    Israel Was Not Alone in Wanting to "Detonate" the Hamas Missile Man - Stephen King (Irish Examiner)

    • I was in Dubai at the weekend. If you ask no questions, the Emiratis won't ask you any either. That's why Mahmoud Mabhouh dropped by presumably. Some say he was buying arms. He was one of the military leaders of Hamas, after all. Nor do we know which of his five passports he was traveling on.
    • Much of the Irish media, without much in the way of evidence, has jumped to the unreserved conclusion that his assassination was a Mossad operation. Maybe it was: the Israelis, as usual, are not commenting one way or the other. They are just glad he's gone.
    • But it seems a whole lot of people - not just the Israelis - wanted Mabhouh out of the way. Hamas themselves don't seem sure who killed Mabhouh. Some of their officials are pointing the finger at one or another of the Arab governments. He was wanted by the authorities in Jordan and Egypt, for instance. Some Arab media have reported that the operation against Mabhouh may have been carried out by a rival Palestinian group. Who knows, perhaps his untimely death was due to a split within Hamas? They, presumably, knew his whereabouts and his plans at all times, as did the Iranians. The Syrians too.
    • The Dubai authorities themselves have not actually provided any forensic evidence that points to Israel, just a series of photos and videos of random hotel guests. Besides, the persons shown in these images are not shown committing any crime. Nor has anyone come forward and said they recognize any of these people.
    • It does make you wonder. There is an almighty stink about "passport fraud," but no Western government has much to say about the fact that the terrorist in charge of illegally smuggling missiles from Iran to Hamas apparently had an open invite to hang out in Dubai. Funny that, isn't it? Mabhouh was on a mission to acquire Iranian weapons for use against civilians. He was a combatant. Unlike his victims, he was fair game for whoever crept into his hotel room that night.

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