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April 8, 2010

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Turkey's Erdogan Calls Israel "Principal Threat" to Middle East Peace - Marc Champion (Wall Street Journal)
    Relations between Turkey and Israel took a further battering Wednesday when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Israel as "the principal threat to peace" in the Middle East.
    In response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "We are interested in good relations with Turkey and regret that Mr. Erdogan chooses time after time to attack Israel."
    At a recent meeting of foreign-policy analysts in Istanbul held by the Turkish Policy Quarterly, Israeli and Turkish analysts agreed that the alliance those two countries built on shared security concerns in the 1990s is probably unsalvageable.
    But a report by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group released Wednesday said the belief Turkey is turning away from the West is "incorrect." It noted that Turkey's trade with Europe continues to outweigh its trade with the Middle East by a wide margin, and EU membership remains its core goal.
    Erdogan shows no sign of backing down from his opposition to imposing harsher sanctions on Iran, which together with his tough rhetoric on Israel and support for Hamas in Gaza have brought him popularity in many parts of the Middle East.

Report Card on Democratic Reforms in Arab World - Lisa Bryant (VOA News)
    Jordan ranked first and Saudi Arabia last in a new report card on the state of democratic reforms in the Arab world released Monday in Paris.
    Published by the Arab Reform Initiative, a network of 14 Arab and international think-tanks, none of the ten Arab countries ranked get high marks.
    See also Report Gives Low Marks to PA (World Tribune)
    "Palestine ranked seventh in the general index, and was the country that recorded the second largest drop in its score in the general index compared to 2008," the report said.
    The report said PA security forces were seeing an increase in funding, training, equipment and intelligence, particularly by the U.S.
    "On the negative side, however, the other PA security agencies - intelligence and preventive security - resorted to arbitrary detentions and mistreatment of detainees including torture with the full knowledge of and alleged encouragement from foreign intelligence agencies such as the CIA," the report said.
    "It can thus be said that the outside players had a negative impact on the democratization of the security sector."
    The PA also scored zero in government accountability.

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  • U.S. Weighs Offering Mideast Peace Proposal - Paul Richter
    President Obama and other U.S. officials have explored whether the administration should offer its own Middle East peace proposal to break the logjam between Palestinians and Israelis, officials said Wednesday. While officials acknowledged that the idea has advocates within the Obama administration, several officials insisted that no proposal is now on the table, nor is the administration actively trying to develop one. Officials said Obama has taken no position on whether to prepare a U.S. peace proposal.
        Philip J. Crowley, the chief State Department spokesman, said: "We're prepared to play an active role once the parties get in negotiations....I would steer you away from the idea that...we're going to try to, at this point, impose a particular view on the parties." Several analysts said word of the administration's discussions of the idea may have been floated to shock the government of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Discussions, But No Decisions, on an Obama Plan for Mideast Peace - Glenn Kessler
    Senior Obama administration officials said there has been no decision to offer such a plan, either in the coming months or later this year. They said the administration, now locked in tense talks with Israel about making confidence-building overtures to the Palestinians, is focused on arranging indirect talks between the two sides. Israeli officials have long opposed the introduction of a unilateral American plan, while Arab officials have pressed hard for one.
        A major stumbling block to any peace plan is that 1.5 million people - almost 40% of the Palestinian population - live in Gaza, now controlled by Hamas, which rejects any peace talks as well as the very existence of Israel. That was not the situation when Clinton offered the "Clinton parameters" ten years ago. (Washington Post)
        See also Netanyahu: Israel Will Reject Imposed Peace Plan - Barak Ravid and Natasha Mozgovaya
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in private meetings in recent days that Israel would not accept a Middle East peace agreement that is forced on it from the outside, sources said Wednesday. (Ha'aretz)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: U.S. and Israel Holding Serious Discussions - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a press conference Wednesday that Israel was being criticized now for the policies of every government over the last 42 years, in a reference to continued construction in all parts of Jerusalem. Referring to the peace process, he said: "What we saw over the last year, from the first day, before this government took even one step, was that the Palestinians simply climbed up the tree and said, 'We're not going into negotiations, we have all kinds of conditions.'"
        Netanyahu also played down the widely reported tension with the U.S., saying that discussions with the U.S. were continuing. "There are things that we agree on, that we don't agree on, and where we are bridging the gaps." He gave no information about the demands the U.S. administration had made and said the lack of leaks about the conversation with the administration testified to the seriousness of the discussions. (Jerusalem Post)
  • PA Names Ramallah Street after Hamas Terror Mastermind
    The future Palestinian Authority presidential compound will be built along a street named for Hamas suicide bomb mastermind Yihyeh Ayyash, Israel's Channel 10 reported on Wednesday. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel: PA Glorifies Terrorism
    The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement saying: "This is an outrageous glorification of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority. Right next to a Presidential compound in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority has named a street after a terrorist who murdered hundreds of innocent Israeli men, women and children. The world must forcefully condemn this official Palestinian incitement for terrorism and against peace."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • U.S. Should Not Give Palestinians a Free Pass - Dennis Glick and Daniel Mariaschin
    Public rebukes of Israel by the U.S. administration form a dangerous and shocking pattern. The U.S. made an end to all settlement activity, including in Jerusalem, a condition for peace talks to begin. But it hasn't put similar conditions on the Palestinians regarding something as deadly as Palestinian incitement of hatred - in the Palestinian press, on the airwaves, and in Friday sermons.
        There seems to be an asymmetrical series of expectations in the administration's demands on Israel; Israelis should do the heavy lifting, while the Palestinians are often given a free pass. The White House, for instance, hasn't demanded that the Palestinians shut down the deadly al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the terrorist wing of Fatah, as it was required to do after the 1993 Oslo Accords. Fatah last year re-endorsed armed struggle against the Jewish state. Dennis Glick and Daniel Mariaschin are, respectively, the president and executive vice president of B'nai B'rith International. (JTA)
  • Full Speed Ahead on Engagement with Syria? - Jamie M. Fly
    During her confirmation hearings in January 2009, Secretary of State Clinton said that she and President Obama: "Believe that engaging directly with Syria increases the possibility of making progress on changing Syrian behavior. In these talks, we should insist on our core demands: cooperation in stabilizing Iraq; ending support for terrorist groups; cooperation with the IAEA; stopping the flow of weapons to Hizbullah; and respect for Lebanon's sovereignty and independence." Yet, now, more than a year later, after repeated U.S. attempts to engage Damascus, it is difficult to see how progress has been made on any of these areas.
        The Obama administration followed up a year of Syrian inaction by nominating a new U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford. Our last ambassador was recalled in February 2005 following the assassination, apparently with Syrian involvement, of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. There is a reason that the Senate entered its two-week Passover/Easter recess without acting on Ford's nomination. A number of senators are rightfully concerned about the message returning an ambassador to Damascus sends to the Syrian regime. The unfortunate fact is that Syria is engaged in international terrorism, is counteracting our efforts to stabilize Iraq, is deepening ties with Iran as it continues its illicit nuclear program, and is stonewalling an investigation into its own efforts to go nuclear. (Foreign Policy)
  • Observations:

    Will Obama Impose Terms on Israel? - Elliott Abrams (Weekly Standard)

    • According to David Ignatius' column in the Washington Post, President Obama and his team are frustrated by their inability to get Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a deal, and have therefore decided we'll just impose one.
    • The inability of Israelis and Palestinians to get to the negotiating table is an iatrogenic disease: Our diplomatic doctors have caused it by making Israeli construction plans a major world crisis, thereby forcing Palestinian leaders to back away from engagement with the Israelis.
    • Ignatius' sources, "two top administration officials," tell him, "everyone knows the basic outlines of a peace deal." This is false and dangerous. First, if indeed everyone has known the terms yet agreement has never been reached, is it not obvious that neither Israelis nor Palestinians are willing and able to accept those terms? Does their embrace by an American president make them any more palatable to the people who will have to live with them?
    • Second, the conclusion that all the terms are known is quite wrong. Is the fate of Jerusalem's Old City agreed? Do Palestinians accept that Israel will keep every major settlement bloc? Do Israelis and Palestinians agree on the terms needed to guarantee Israel's security once the IDF leaves the West Bank?
    • All this will make Israeli-Palestinian negotiations even harder than they are today, for Palestinians will conclude that they have no reason to negotiate seriously, or to make concessions, when Obama may deliver what they want on a nice platter.

      The writer is a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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