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April 16, 2010

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Iran Struggles to Sell Oil - Jonathan Saul and Simon Webb (Reuters)
    Iran is storing millions of barrels of crude on tankers as it struggles to sell its oil, trade sources said on Thursday. Oil exports are Iran's key revenue earner.
    Recent months have seen a drift by some countries in Asia away from crude sourced from Iran, but China remains a big importer of Iranian oil.

British Ban of Israeli Ad Irks Jerusalem Mayor (Reuters-Washington Post)
    Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat Thursday branded as shameful a British decision to ban an Israeli advertisement that listed holy sites in east Jerusalem as part of a tourism itinerary in Israel.
    The advertisement, which the Israel Government Tourist Office placed in British newspapers, included a photo of Judaism's Western Wall with Islam's Dome of the Rock.
    Calling the Western Wall "the heart and soul of the Jewish people and the State of Israel," Barkat said Britain's Advertising Standards Authority had made a "shameful accusation showing a complete ignorance of history."

Berkeley Student Senate Votes to Uphold Veto of Divest-from-Israel Resolution - Amanda Pazornik (Jewish Weekly of Northern California)
    On Thursday, the U.C. Berkeley student senate voted to uphold the veto of a measure urging divestment from two U.S. companies supplying defense materials to Israel.
    Twelve student senators voted to overturn the veto, while seven voted to sustain it. A two-thirds majority (14 votes) was needed to overturn the veto executed by ASUC president Will Smelko on March 24.

Lawmakers Urge Expansion of U.S.-Israel Trade Pact - Doug Palmer (Reuters-Washington Post)
    The U.S. and Israel should start talks to upgrade and expand a 25-year-old free trade agreement that has become out of date, said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) on Thursday, reacting to a new Democratic Leadership Council study that found only about 14% of U.S. imports from Israel are now covered by the pact.
    An updated agreement could help regional economic integration through expanded co-production projects in Egypt, Jordan and possibly Turkey, the report said.
    The proposal comes at a time of friction over Israeli settlement construction, but Ohad Cohen, commercial attache at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said he did not believe that would be an obstacle to talks on expanding the free trade pact.
    "This is a win-win" because it would help companies in both countries, Cohen said. "Why should anyone oppose that?"
    When the 1985 deal was signed, Israel exported about $2.7 billion worth of goods and services to the U.S. Under the pact, Israel's exports to the U.S. have grown to around $25 billion.

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Israel Sells More Drone Technology to UK - Arieh O'Sullivan (Media Line)
    Elbit, the Israeli aerospace giant, has just signed a $70 million deal to provide maintenance and logistical support for the Watchkeeper project. The project is the largest unmanned aircraft system in the world and is being designed to provide UK armed forces with essential intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capabilities.
    The deal was being worked out through U-TacS, a joint venture of Elbit Systems and the British Thales, and follows on a $500 million order to produce 100 Watchkeeper drones for the British Army.
    Until they are ready, U-TacS has been providing the British Army with the Israeli Hermes 450s, which have been deployed in Afghanistan.

The 1975 "Zionism Is Racism" Resolution: The Rise, Fall, and Resurgence of a Libel - Yohanan Manor (Institute for Global Jewish Affairs)
    The singling out of Zionism as a supposed form of racism was a device invented by the Soviet Union to justify its refusal to condemn anti-Semitism during the negotiation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in the mid-1960s.
    The failure of the Soviet-Arab strategy to expel Israel from the UN and replace it with Palestine led to the adoption in 1975 of UN General Assembly Resolution 3379, which determined that "Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination." It was only revoked in 1991.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • UN Resolution Seen as Launching Pad for Stricter Iran Sanctions - Paul Richter
    The Obama administration signaled Wednesday that the U.S. would accept weakened UN sanctions against Iran as a way to quickly assemble a broad international coalition against Tehran's nuclear program. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said, "What is important about the UN resolution is less the specific content of the resolution than the isolation of Iran by the rest of the world." He said a Security Council resolution "provides a new legal platform" for individual nations or groups, such as the EU, to take more stringent action. In that way, the UN resolution acts as a "launching pad" for economic strictures that are much tougher than those adopted by the UN.
        Some foreign diplomats have been predicting for weeks that the Obama administration and its allies would take what they could get, then look ahead to sanctions from individual countries or groups of nations. The Security Council vote, even if weak, "gives you an international blessing that is worth a lot," said one diplomat representing a government that supports sanctions. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Clinton: PA Should Join Negotiations Now
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday: "In Gaza, Hamas presides over a crumbling enclave of terror and despair. It stockpiles rockets intended for Israeli cities while the people of Gaza fall deeper into poverty....Hamas has revealed itself as uninterested in development, institution-building, peace, or progress. Hamas claims to seek peace, prosperity, and a state for its people, but it refuses to take the first necessary steps: renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements. Those are the building blocks for a viable, independent, and contiguous Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel....Unfortunately, Hamas appears set on continued conflict with Israel with little regard for what that will mean for the Palestinian people. Only by exploiting the frustration and hostility created by the conflict can Hamas hope to distract its people from its failure to govern."
        "President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad have produced very different results in a relatively short period of time. The PLO has emerged as a credible partner for peace. It has rejected violence, improved security, made progress on combating incitement, and accepted Israel's right to exist....Now, considerable work remains. The PA must redouble its efforts to put an end to incitement and violence, crack down on corruption, and ingrain a culture of peace and tolerance among Palestinians. The leadership should refrain from using international organizations, particularly the United Nations, as platforms for inflammatory rhetoric. And we strongly encourage President Abbas and his government to join negotiations with Israel now."
        "Prime Minister Netanyahu has embraced the vision of the two-state solution. But easing up on access and movement in the West Bank, in response to credible Palestinian security performance, is not sufficient to prove to the Palestinians that this embrace is sincere. So we encourage Israel to continue building momentum toward a comprehensive peace by demonstrating respect for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, stopping settlement activity, and addressing the humanitarian needs in Gaza, and to refrain from unilateral statements and actions that could undermine trust or risk prejudicing the outcome of talks."  (State Department)
  • At UN, U.S. Calls for Resumption of Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations
    The U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Alejandro Wolff, told the Security Council Wednesday: "Today, we are witnessing a struggle between those in the region who accept peace and coexistence with Israel and those who reject it and seek continued violence....The two-state solution is the only way to resolve the conflict. The status quo strengthens the rejectionists who claim peace is impossible and weakens those who embrace coexistence."
        "We renew our specific call for Arab states to establish regional and multilateral dialogues with Israel, concurrent with the resumption of bilateral negotiations. Only through good-faith negotiations can the parties mutually agree on an outcome that ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements."  (U.S. Mission to the UN)
        See also Israel: Arab World Must Show Commitment to Peace Process
    The Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, told the Security Council Wednesday: "In the pursuit of peace in the Middle East, all parties must realize that they have not only rights, but obligations as well. The Palestinians and the wider Arab world must show, in both word and deed, that they, too, are committed to the peace process."
        "They must take tangible steps to combat terrorism, to put an end to incitement, to engage in direct negotiations, and to begin a process of normalization with Israel. Israel is hopeful that the proximity talks will serve as a stepping stone towards the resumption of direct, bilateral peace negotiations. Only through such negotiations can we hope to reach a comprehensive peace agreement. Yet the success of such talks - and their transition into direct negotiations - depend upon all in the region to take confidence-building steps."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Israel Allowing Construction Materials into Gaza
    Israel allowed a shipment of construction materials into Hamas-ruled Gaza for the first time in three years on Thursday. Six truckloads of wood and aluminum entered via the Kerem Shalom crossing, Palestinian customs official Raed Fattuh said. "These are Palestinian goods that belong to tradesmen and have been stored at the port of Ashdod since mid-2007." Fattuh said Israel had decided "to allow shipments of wood and aluminum into Gaza every day except Friday and Saturday."
        Last month, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said during a visit to Gaza that Israel had approved the import of construction materials for UN projects to build 150 homes, a flour mill and a sewage treatment plant. An Israeli military official said, "Israel will not allow the reconstruction of Gaza, which we regard as a terrorist entity, because it is controlled by Hamas and the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is still held captive."  (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • White House Adviser Axelrod: U.S. "Hopeful" on Proximity Talks Process - Hilary Leila Krieger
    Even though Israel has yet to respond to U.S. demands for gestures to get the peace process moving, top White House adviser David Axelrod told the Jerusalem Post Wednesday he was optimistic about the prospects for progress. "We have an ongoing dialogue with Israel and I'm confident that we will move forward in a productive way," he said. "We have unbreakable bonds and we have a strategic alliance that's essential to both Israel and the United States, and that is an impetus for us to work through whatever disagreements that we have." He also said that the administration was "hopeful" about the proximity talk process taking off and leading to progress. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Strategic Affairs Minister Ya'alon: "No Need to Remove Any Settlements" - Herb Keinon
    Israel should not have to remove any settlements in a peace agreement with the Palestinians, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. "If we are talking about coexistence and peace, why the [Palestinian] insistence that the territory they receive be ethnically cleansed of Jews? Why do those areas have to be Judenrein?" Ya'alon said that if Israel and the Palestinians were truly headed down the path of peace and coexistence, "Jews living in Judea and Samaria under Israeli sovereignty and citizenship" should be possible. He stressed that "no settlement" should be removed, and that the country's previous withdrawals - from Lebanon and from Gaza - strengthened Hizbullah and Hamas, respectively. "That is opposed to our strategic interest and to the strategic interests of the West."
        "The policy of the Netanyahu government is that we don't want to rule over them [the Palestinians]. But not ruling over them does not mean we have to withdraw to the 1967 borders, which are indefensible borders; or that we have to divide Jerusalem in order to bring Hamas snipers into Jerusalem." He added that the U.S. administration had misdiagnosed the root of the conflict as territorial, when in reality it was about the failure of the Palestinians to recognize the right of the Jews to be here. "Those who want to continue the Oslo process, who want us to continue to give and give and give, without a Palestinian willingness to recognize our right to a national home, are cooperating with the phased plan for Israel's destruction," Ya'alon said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Rights Groups Slam Hamas Executions - Ali Waked
    Six human rights organizations in the Palestinian Authority issued a condemnation of Hamas on Thursday following the execution of two Palestinians in Gaza convicted of collaborating with Israel. The groups protested the fact that the two did not receive a fair legal process and noted that the act "was against Palestinian law which prohibits the execution of a death sentence without the authorization of the Palestinian president."  (Ynet News)
  • IDF Kills Palestinian Terrorist Planting Bomb at Gaza Border
    Israel Defense Forces troops on Friday killed a Palestinian terrorist planting an explosive near the Gaza border. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • When Armageddon Lives Next Door - Benny Morris
    I take it personally: Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wants to murder me, my family and my people. Day in, day out, he announces the imminent demise of the "Zionist regime," by which he means Israel. And day in, day out, his scientists and technicians are advancing toward the atomic weaponry that will enable him to bring this about. President Obama, when not obsessing over the fate of the ever-aggrieved Palestinians, proposes to halt Ahmadinejad's nuclear program by means of international sanctions. But the wider Obama casts his net to mobilize as many of the world's key players as he can, the weaker the sanctions and the more remote their implementation. Yet even if severe sanctions are imposed, they likely won't have time to have serious effect before Iran succeeds at making a bomb.
        At the end of 2007, the U.S. intelligence community, driven by wishful thinking, expediency and incompetence, announced that the Iranians had in 2003 halted the weaponization part of their nuclear program. Last week, Obama explicitly contradicted that assessment. At least the American administration now publicly acknowledges where it is the Iranians are headed. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Syria Seeks a Military Return to Lebanon - Michael Young
    When Syria's President Bashar Assad withdrew his army from Lebanon in 2005, there was a naive belief he had accepted the new situation and would be satisfied merely with reasserting Syrian political influence in Beirut. In fact, his ambition always was, and remains, to return Syria militarily to Lebanon.  Without a military presence in Lebanon, Bashar Assad knows, Syrian hegemony will always be incomplete. Its allies in Lebanon, other than Hizbullah, which is ultimately more Iranian than Syrian, are weak. Only an army in place can intimidate the Sunnis and the Maronites - the two communities at the heart of the Syrian regime's preoccupations since the mid-1970s, when Hafez Assad dispatched his brigades to Lebanon. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • The Trap of Foreign Forces Along the Jordan River - Amitai Etzioni
    In the book America and the World, former U.S. national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft recognize that Israel has a legitimate concern that if a Palestinian state is established, Iran and Syria will rush to load it with weapons and armies of Jihadists, or that Hamas will extend its policy of seeking to destroy the State of Israel to the West Bank. Brzezinski suggests "an American line along the Jordan River," while Scowcroft favors putting a "NATO peacekeeping force" on the West Bank. Most recently, a Washington Post op-ed by Brzezinski and Stephen Solarz mentioned "a demilitarized Palestinian state with U.S. or NATO troops along the Jordan River."
        I suggest that this idea is a dangerous trap. Abba Eban once compared a UN force stationed on the Israeli-Egyptian border, which was removed just before Nasser attacked Israel, to an umbrella that is folded when it rains. The new umbrella is not much more reliable. Second, the American troops in Iraq, and the NATO ones in Afghanistan, are unable to stop terrorist bombs and rocket attacks in those parts. There is no reason to hold that they would do better in the West Bank. Third, there are very few precedents for demilitarized states. One second after the Palestinian state is declared, many in the Arab world, Iran, and surely in Europe, not to mention Russia and China, will hold that "obviously" the new free state cannot be prevented from arming itself, whatever it says on some treaty.
        A strong case for a two-state solution has been made, but it better be based on the Palestinians developing their own effective forces and an Israeli presence on the Jordan River. Neither can rely on the U.S. or casualty-averse NATO to show the staying power for peacekeeping which neither mustered in Kosovo, Bosnia, or Haiti. The writer is a professor of international relations at George Washington University. (Global Security)
  • Gazans Tire of Their Rockets
    A macabre new joke doing the rounds of Gaza's cafes makes light of the unpredictability of the home-made rockets sporadically fired at Israel by Palestinian militants from within the territory. One of the missiles falls short, killing a family of five. "You see how effective they are," explains a spokesman in his militia's heroic communique. It is not very funny, but it reflects a growing cynicism among Gazans towards violence in which the direct and indirect costs fall most heavily on the territory's weary population.
        The rockets have maimed more Gazans than Israelis. Criticism of the rocket campaign, hitherto taboo, is now common. Hamas has suspended attacks, at least temporarily, in an effort to consolidate its rule and prevent a renewed war with Israel which it knows it cannot win. Three weeks ago Hamas' senior leaders hurried into hiding after two Israeli soldiers on patrol near the perimeter were killed. (Economist-UK)
  • A Letter to Gaza - Nonie Darwish
    I love my original culture and people. What makes me different is that I do not only love Arabs, but I also love the Jewish people. I respect their right to live in peace in their tiny homeland, Israel. We Arabs have suffered from an unnatural and consistent indoctrination into Islamic supremacy and Jew hatred for over 1400 years. Thus it has become unfathomable to the Arab mind to comprehend loving both Arabs and Jews and wishing both well. We want to encourage Arabs to look at Jews and others as human beings and not as enemies to conquer.
        The first casualty of the jihad principle is peace and that is why I never learned peace as a value in Gaza. I have never heard a peaceful song in Arabic. I cannot blame the Jewish people, or the government of Israel, for what you call the "misery" of the Palestinians. I can only blame Arab and Islamic culture. I believe that this is an Arab self-inflicted crisis that has nothing to do with Israel. Arab education has never told us the truth about the Israeli people and the story from their side and what Jerusalem means to them. We were told that Jerusalem was a Muslim city simply because Mohammed dreamt one night that he went to the farthest mosque but he never mentioned Jerusalem. The Koran never mentioned Jerusalem, which is mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible as the heart and soul of the Jewish people.
        It was the tradition of Muslim conquerors to convert churches and temples to mosques and that is exactly what happened to the Jewish Temple Mount when 100 years after the prophet Mohammed died, Muslim conquerors built the mosque right on top of it. Just imagine if Jews or Christians had built a temple on top of the Kaaba in Mecca. It is time for Muslims to extend the hand of reconciliation and peace to the Jewish people. The writer is an Egyptian-American human rights activist. Her father, Col. Mustafa Hafez, was commander of Egyptian Army Intelligence in Gaza and founded the fedayeen, which raided southern Israel between 1951 and 1956, killing 400 Israelis. (Front Page Magazine)
  • Children of Abraham - Shaukat Malik
    The Palestinian problem has not stopped some Muslim countries from dealing and having diplomatic relations with Israel. This engagement and recognition has yielded peace dividends and allowed these states to focus on economic development and the well-being of their peoples. Instead of identifying common bonds shared by Muslims with their Jewish and Christian brothers as fellow children of Abraham, religious clerics are busy infusing young Muslims with hatred especially for the State of Israel and Jews in general.
        Pakistan can empathize with the plight of the Palestinians, but that does not mean it should not recognize Israel. Pragmatism must override emotionalism. Recognizing Israel is in Pakistan's national interest. The writer is a Muslim-American CPA from Pakistan living in the U.S. since 1980. (Baltimore Sun)
  • Observations:

    Inside the Syrian Missile Crisis - Andrew Tabler (Foreign Policy)

    • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's apparent decision to transfer more accurate and longer-range weapons to Hizbullah is a disheartening development for U.S. officials, who had hoped Obama's diplomatic opening would lead the Syrian regime to moderate its behavior. As Damascus arms its Lebanese ally with an increasingly lethal array of weaponry, Syria's credibility as a peace partner for Israel is increasingly in doubt.
    • Weapons have been flowing from Syria to Lebanon for decades. However, in recent months, reports have indicated that the sophistication of the weapons systems provided to Hizbullah has grown. In October 2009, Jane's Defence Weekly reported that Syria had supplied Hizbullah with M-600 rockets, a Syrian variant of the Iranian Fatah 110, which can carry a 500-kilogram payload to a target 250 kilometers away.
    • In March, the head of the research division of the Israel Defense Forces' Military Intelligence, Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Syria had recently provided Hizbullah with the Igla-S man-portable air defense system. The shoulder-fired weapon can bring down Israeli drones, helicopter gunships, and low-flying fighter aircraft.
    • Reports also surfaced in March that Syria had delivered Scud-D missiles to Lebanon. These missiles have a range of up to 700 kilometers, which means they could hit most, if not all, Israeli cities even if fired from northern Lebanon. They can also carry chemical or biological warheads.

      The writer is a fellow in the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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