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April 27, 2010

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Jones Apologizes for Jewish Joke - Ben Smith (Politico)
    National Security Adviser James Jones has apologized for telling a Jewish joke last week at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Though Jones' audience didn't take offense, the joke drew questions about its content.
    Jones' statement Monday said: "I wish that I had not made this off-the-cuff joke at the top of my remarks, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it. It also distracted from the larger message I carried that day: that the United States commitment to Israel's security is sacrosanct."

Turkey, Syria to Hold Joint Army Drills (AFP)
    Turkish and Syrian soldiers will hold joint drills this week in yet another sign of the flourishing ties between the two neighbors, the Turkish general staff said Monday.

Israel's Chief Censor: "I Will Censor Anything that Will Be Useful to the Enemy" (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    Col. Sima Vaknin-Gil, 44, Israel's chief censor, said in an interview:
    "In 1988, the High Court of Justice laid forth an extremely rigid test. In order to censor a publication, there has to be an 'imminent certainty of actual harm to state security.' That same ruling mentions that in any case in which there is a direct conflict between the freedom of the press and state security, then state security will prevail. But our approach is very liberal. In the past, I served in intelligence - and I wish that our enemies would publish some of the things we approve; it would serve me greatly."
    "Our enemy is the intelligence officer sitting in Damascus and reviewing the Israeli media and Internet. I will censor anything that comes across my desk that I believe will be useful to the enemy for purposes of gathering valuable information. It can be one letter, one word, one line. At times, I regret, it can be more - but we aim to keep our intervention to a minimum."

Israel to Help African Farmers Fight Desert - David Lewis (Reuters)
    Shalom Simhon, Israel's minister of agriculture and rural development, said sharing know-how, especially in irrigation and water management, was his focus on a tour of Senegal, Ivory Coast and Gabon.
    "Israel is the only country in the world that has been able to conquer the desert. More than 50% of our exports are coming from semi-arid areas. This is our strength - this we would like to bring here."
    "Senegal's traditional agriculture is one crop a year. We know how to do three and four crops a year. We can teach that."
    Senegal already hosts several Israeli-funded projects using low-pressure drip irrigation to increase productivity.
    Simhon said advances in technology had allowed Israeli farmers to use 30% less water while almost doubling output over the last decade, leaving the country with a 150% food surplus.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama Assures Israel of U.S. Commitment - Matt Spetalnick
    President Barack Obama assured Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday of Washington's "unshakeable" commitment to the Jewish state's security. Obama had "dropped by" Barak's meeting at the White House with U.S. national security adviser Jim Jones. (Reuters-Washington Post)
  • U.S. Denies It Blocked Israeli Strike on Syrian Weapons Convoys to Hizbullah - Josh Rogin
    Arab press reports claimed that U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Michele Sison told Lebanese officials last week that the U.S. had stopped Israel from launching a strike against truck convoys carrying weapons shipments to Hizbullah. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the idea that America waived Israel off a strike on Syrian weapons transfers is "totally false." Regardless, the controversy reflects the tensions in the region following reports of new Syrian weapons transfers, including possibly Scud missiles, to Hizbullah. The U.S. is still not clear that any Scuds have been transferred, but there is an acknowledgment that Syrian weapons transfers are increasing in both quantity and quality. (NPR)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Abbas: "I Don't Want to Declare Unilateral Statehood" - Avi Issacharoff
    PA leader Mahmoud Abbas on Monday told Israel's Channel 2 that he opposes a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, contradicting comments by PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Abbas also said he is prepared to work with Prime Minister Netanyahu and is committed to returning to the negotiating table next month if the Arab League approves indirect talks. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Arab League Likely to Reject U.S. Proposal for Peace Talks
    The Arab League is expected to reject the Obama administration's proposal for indirect Middle East peace negotiations, Syria's Al-Watan daily reported Tuesday. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas is unlikely to accept any offer for peace talks that does not meet the League's approval. (Ha'aretz)
  • White House May Be Realizing Rift with Israel Not a Wise Move - Yitzhak Benhorin
    Last week the White House sent senior officials to Jewish organizations with a similar message about the unshakeable relationship between the U.S. and Israel. Something prompted President Obama himself to send a letter to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and declare that a Mideast peace treaty cannot be imposed from the outside, stressing that "We have a special relationship with Israel and that will not change." Someone reached the conclusion that the top U.S. brass must quickly put out the political fire.
        The U.S. is indeed determined to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians, yet suddenly the Jerusalem issue no longer makes headlines, and suddenly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict no longer risks the lives of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, Obama himself stressed that "Our alliance with Israel serves our national security interests." The U.S. pressure on Jerusalem was apparently the breaking point for quite a few Jews among his supporters.
        Peace and the two-state solution are still among the most urgent challenges on the American president's agenda. However, it appears that the Americans will be making every effort to avoid public confrontations with the Israeli government in the future. (Ynet News)
        See also White House Launches Israel PR Offensive - Laura Rozen
    The White House is engaged in an aggressive effort to reassure Jewish leaders that the tense relationship between the Obama administration and the Israeli government that has played out in public in the past few months does not signify any fundamental change in U.S. policy. Concern within the administration over the domestic repercussions of the recent clashes with Prime Minister Netanyahu's government reached a critical point about two weeks ago. Since then, administration officials have mounted what amounts to a public relations blitz.
        Still, officials and Washington Middle East watchers emphasize that what has changed is the public relations strategy, not U.S. policy. And that does not change the fact that substantive disagreements remain between the U.S. and Israeli governments on issues such as East Jerusalem. (Politico)
        See also Has the Obama Administration Turned Over a New Leaf? - Ed Koch (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Anatomy of a False Allegation: The Petraeus Controversy - Steven Stotsky
    You've heard it from CNN and from the BBC that Gen. David Petraeus warned "that American lives are being endangered by the widespread bitterness engendered by an unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict." The original source of Gen. Petraeus' alleged remarks is Mark Perry, one-time advisor to PLO leader Yasser Arafat who advocates for American engagement with Hamas and Hizbullah terrorists.
        In fact, Petraeus' written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee lists the stalled Middle East peace process as one of eleven factors contributing to regional instability. Petraeus himself bluntly rejected Perry's interpretation of his testimony. While acknowledging that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict complicated his job, Petraeus reiterated that his Senate statement "did not say anything about settlements, didn't say anything about putting our soldiers at risk or something like that."
        The most striking aspect of this episode has been the endorsement by major media outlets like CNN and BBC of an unsubstantiated blogger's account to support their selective reading of Senate testimony against Petraeus' own word. The claim that he holds alleged Israeli intransigence in the peace process responsible for putting American lives at risk is not supported by anything the general has said or written. (CAMERA)
  • Obama Should Ask Abbas to Deliver, as Netanyahu Did, a "Two States" Speech - David Horovitz
    The Obama administration, replicating some of its Israel pressure on the Palestinian side, should ask Mahmoud Abbas to stand up and deliver, as Netanyahu did at Bar-Ilan University last year, his version of the "two states" speech, his vision of peaceful coexistence. Let Abbas speak in Arabic, to his own people - with his leadership colleagues on hand to publicly support and applaud him - and let him tell them that the Jews, too, have historic rights to Palestine.
        Let him make plain that viable compromise is vital to the future well-being of both peoples. Let him recall that the international community, in partitioning British mandatory Palestine, provided for a Jewish and an Arab entity side by side - that the provision for revived Jewish sovereignty was integral to the right the Palestinians seek to realize for their own historically unprecedented independence.
        And let him declare, therefore, that he recognizes that the demand for a "right of return" for millions of Palestinians to what is now Israel is a dream that must be abandoned, for the Jewish nation has the right to that small sliver of sovereign land of its own. Wouldn't such a speech be an ideal, immediate test of Palestinian intentions? Wouldn't such a speech serve Palestinian, Israeli and American interests? (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Refusal of the Muslim World to Recognize Israel's Jewish Character Still the Greatest Obstacle to Peace - Ron Prosor (Guardian-UK)

    • History demonstrated that Jews could not survive, let alone flourish, at the whims of majority cultures. This is not merely an academic argument but a lesson lived, learned and branded into Israel's DNA.
    • Israel's raison d'etre is to be the "state for the Jews." Yet the historical rationale of our quest for self-determination is often misunderstood as a religious aspiration. In 1896 the Austrian Jewish journalist Theodor Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State). Herzl, an assimilated secular Jew, concluded that Jews could only achieve freedom, dignity and human rights with a state of their own.
    • Jewish individuals had enjoyed success before 1948. But through the State of Israel, for the first time in 2,000 years Jewishness was not an obstacle to be overcome, or a glass ceiling to be smashed, but a basic fact of life. Jewish identity is the essence of our national character. It is also a central issue to be resolved with the Arab and Muslim worlds that surround us. The greatest obstacle to peace remains our neighbors' refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state in our historic homeland.
    • Jews have been indigenous to Israel for 3,000 years. Before 1948 the only independent sovereign state there had been the ancient Jewish kingdoms. It is fitting that as the colonial era drew to a close, Israel's original inhabitants restored their independence.
    • Western leaders are constantly urged to press Israel to make concessions. Suggestions of how the Arab world could advance the cause of peace are thinner. As a start, Arab leaderships must be persuaded to recognize not only the existence of Israel but the realities of who we are. Israel is not a temporary inconvenience to be demonized, destroyed or wished away, but the independent, legitimate and permanent nation-state of the Jewish people.

      The writer is the Israeli ambassador in London.

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