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April 7, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Egyptian Pro-Democracy Demonstrators Beaten, Arrested in Cairo - Janine Zacharia (Washington Post)
    Egyptian police on Tuesday beat and detained at least 90 pro-democracy demonstrators in Cairo who were calling for constitutional reforms and the repeal of an emergency law that restricts an array of personal rights.
    Parliamentary elections are slated for this year and a presidential election for next year. President Hosni Mubarak, 81, who had surgery last month, has not said whether he will compete.

IAEA Inspects Syria Reactor in Uranium Traces Probe (Reuters-Washington Post)
    UN inspectors have been able to revisit a Damascus nuclear research reactor as part of a probe into possible covert atomic activity in Syria, diplomats said on Tuesday.
    But Syria continues to deny inspectors follow-up access to a desert site where Israel bombed a building in 2007 which U.S. intelligence reports said was a nascent, North Korean-designed nuclear reactor geared to yield atomic bomb fuel.
    The IAEA has also been seeking access to three other Syrian sites under military control whose look was altered by landscaping after inspectors asked for access.

Jerusalem Quartet Performance in London Disrupted by Anti-Israel Protesters - Jonny Paul (Jerusalem Post)
    Last week, five anti-Israel protesters interrupted a performance by the Jerusalem Quartet at Wigmore Hall in London, shouting abuse at the musicians as the concert was broadcast live on BBC radio.
    In a statement, the Quartet said: "The demonstrators were ignorant of the fact that two of us are regular members of Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, composed of Israeli and Arab musicians....It is destructive of our attempts to foster Israel-Arab relations for us to be the subject of demonstrations of the kind we suffered yesterday."
    "We no more represent the government of Israel than the audience at the Wigmore Hall represented the government of the UK."

Yemen Upholds Death Sentence for Contact with Israel (AFP)
    A Yemeni appeals court on Saturday upheld the death sentence against Bassam al-Haidari who was found guilty of contacts with former Israeli premier Ehud Olmert on the Internet.
    Israel has dismissed the whole case as "totally ridiculous."

Kuwaiti Singer Sparks Furor for Singing in Hebrew - Habib Toumi (Gulf News-UAE)
    Kuwaiti singer and composer Emma Shah, 28, has sparked furor in Kuwait after she sang a song in Hebrew at a local club.
    After she sang: "Come...Let us rejoice, be happy, enjoy" in Hebrew as part of a recital of songs, she was immediately accused of promoting Zionist ideas and pushing for normalization of relations with Israel.
    Shah said she was shocked by the negative reaction to a song that called for peace and co-existence. She insisted that the song did not include any insults to Arabs.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama Weighs New Peace Plan for the Middle East - David Ignatius
    President Obama is "seriously considering" proposing an American peace plan to resolve the Palestinian conflict, according to two top administration officials. The American peace plan would be linked with the issue of confronting Iran, explained a senior official. "We want to get the debate away from settlements and East Jerusalem and take it to a 30,000-feet level that can involve Jordan, Syria and other countries in the region," as well as the Israelis and Palestinians. "Incrementalism hasn't worked," he continued, explaining that the U.S. cannot allow the Palestinian problem to keep festering - providing fodder for Iran and other extremists.
        Obama's attention was focused by a March 24 meeting at the White House with six former national security advisers. Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security adviser for presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, urged Obama to launch a peace initiative based on past areas of agreement; he was followed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security adviser for Jimmy Carter, who described some of the strategic parameters of such a plan. Support for a new approach was also said to have been expressed by Sandy Berger and Colin Powell, who served as national security advisers for presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, respectively.
        A political battle royal is likely to begin soon, with Israeli officials and their supporters in the U.S. protesting what they fear would be an American attempt to impose a settlement and arguing to focus instead on Iran. The White House rejoinder, expressed by a senior official, is: "It's not either Iran or the Middle East peace process. You have to do both."  (Washington Post)
  • Obama Bans "Islam," "Jihad" from U.S. Security Strategy - Matt Apuzzo
    President Barack Obama's advisers will remove religious terms such as "Islamic extremism" from the central document outlining the U.S. national security strategy to emphasize that the U.S. does not view Muslim nations through the lens of terror, counterterrorism officials said. The National Security Strategy document, that previously outlined the Bush Doctrine of preventative war, currently states: "The struggle against militant Islamic radicalism is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century."  (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu to Attend U.S. Nuclear Security Summit - Barak Ravid
    Prime Minister Netanyahu will attend the nuclear security summit hosted by President Obama in Washington on April 12-13, the Prime Minister's Bureau said Tuesday. More than 40 world leaders are expected to discuss disarmament as well as ways to reduce the threat of terrorist groups and rogue nations gaining access to nuclear weapons. Netanyahu is not expected to hold meetings with Obama during the summit. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel "Not Ready to Pay for the Pleasure of Talking with the Palestinians"
    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel's Russian-language radio on Tuesday: "We are ready for any negotiations - either direct or through mediators. But still, we believe that direct negotiations are the only real alternative for reaching an agreement. The refusal of direct negotiations would be indicative of the actual intentions of our counterparts. And again, why should we pay an additional price for the pleasure of negotiating with the Palestinians through a mediator? They're conditioning their willingness to talk through the Americans on a lot of requirements. I'm not ready to pay for the pleasure of talking with them."
        Q: What do you think about the latest statements of Salam Fayyad, who is actually threatening to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state?
        Lieberman: "Lots of agreements and obligations have emerged since the Oslo accords, and we [the current government] abide by them all, though we were not responsible for the Oslo accords. A unilateral decision by the Palestinian authorities to announce their independence would release us from all of our obligations. Then, we can respond by unilateral decisions of our own, such as extending our sovereignty over settlement blocs in the West Bank, construction in the E-1 zone [adjacent to Jerusalem], and so forth."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel Aid Pays U.S. Dividends that Exceed Cost - Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ)
    American military aid to Israel is essential not only for Israel's national security, but for America's. Under the 2010 U.S. budget, about $75 billion, $65 billion and $3.25 billion will be spent on military operations and aid in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, respectively. Israel will receive $3 billion, in military aid only. There is no economic aid to Israel. About 70% of the aid must be used by Israel to purchase American military equipment, providing real support for U.S. high-tech defense jobs.
        The U.S. and Israel are jointly developing state-of-the-art missile defense capabilities which are already providing security to Israel and U.S. civilians and ground troops throughout the region. America's special relationship with Israel provides the U.S. with real-time, minute-to-minute access to one of the best intelligence services in the world regarding al-Qaeda, Hizbullah, Iran and Hamas. The U.S. receives invaluable information about anti-U.S. and terrorist organizations and regimes. For about 2% of what the U.S. spends in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan this year, Americans can take pride in the return on our investment in aid to Israel. (Bloomberg)
  • The Palestinians: Why Negotiate? The U.S. Will Extract Concessions for You - Mark Silverberg
    Israel's official position for the last forty years has been that east Jerusalem's status will not be negotiable in any future agreement with the Palestinians. This policy did not prevent the conclusion of peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, nor did it preclude the Palestinians from negotiating with Israel for more than fifteen years after the Oslo Accords of 1993. Now, suddenly, it has become a major issue with this administration, and an impediment to world peace. Apparently, a zoning dispute in Israel's capital city is more important than addressing the nuclear threat posed by Iran.
        Seeing a potential break between Washington and Jerusalem, Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have done everything possible to undermine the U.S.-Israeli relationship even more. Palestinian incitement and violence against Israel and Jews have increased as we have seen in renewed missile attacks from Gaza and Arab riots across Israel and the West Bank. When the U.S. distances itself from Israel, it does not win influence with the Arab world. It only justifies the Arab world backing away from any peace settlement. The Obama Administration has jeopardized not Israel's stature but its own regional interests and its international credibility. (Hudson Institute New York)
  • Why AIPAC Is Good for the Jews - and For Everyone Else - Walter Russell Mead
    The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is powerful less because of the money and energy that its (mostly Jewish) members bring to the table than because of the widespread sense in Washington that being pro-Israel is the popular position in the U.S. If you think U.S. Middle Eastern policy should be less pro-Israel, attacking and bemoaning AIPAC won't get you anywhere. It's the 98% of Americans who aren't Jewish that you need to persuade; if the broad American majority ever decides that backing Israel as much as we do is a bad thing, then policy will gradually change - no matter what AIPAC does.
        There's another question about AIPAC: Is the presence of high profile and influential lobby groups based on Jewish money and Jewish community organizing a danger to the American Jewish community? The answer is a clear no. Lobbying for Zion turns out to be good for the Jews. In fact, the (mistaken) view that Jews are more hawkish than most Americans on the subject of Israel probably works to reduce anti-Semitism in the U.S. In America, lobbying for Israel makes Jews look more patriotic, more American, even in a certain way more pro-Christian. (American Interest)
  • Observations:

    Iran's Leaders Believe Islam Will Conquer the World - Michael Totten (

    Reza Kahlili [a pseudonym] joined Khomeini's Revolutionary Guards right at the beginning in 1979. His book A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran, was released this week. He told me in an interview:

    • Iran's leaders "have shown through their behavior over the past three decades that they have one goal, and that's to confront the West. If you look more deeply into the thought processes of the people controlling the government, these are people who strongly believe Islam will conquer the world. Every act they commit is in that direction. They don't just want a nuclear bomb to make them untouchable. They think it will be the trigger for Islam conquering the world. If all they wanted was to protect their government, as many are saying, they have the best opportunity right now. They can negotiate with the West, join the global economy, be respected and all that, but they refuse to do so."
    • "The least that's going to happen if they become a nuclear power is that they'll become more aggressive and hold the world hostage. Just look at the past thirty years of behavior. They arm Hizbullah, Hamas. The defense minister is on Interpol's Most Wanted list. They're providing arms to the Taliban. They've gone to Venezuela, Mexico, they're spreading their forces. The least that will happen is they'll become the power in the Middle East and they'll control the energy resources of the world."
    • "They believe what they say. I know they do. I know Khamenei has private prayers with the Mahdi [the prophesied redeemer of Islam]. It's all crazy talk, but they take it seriously. Thirty years ago they were told the Mahdi wants them to proceed with the nuclear project, and that's why they're not bending. They think they're untouchable and that the Mahdi wants it. It would be a disaster for the world. They should not be allowed to become a nuclear armed power."

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