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April 28, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel's Strategic Value in the Post-Cold War Era - Judith Apter Klinghoffer (History News Network)
    The Israeli military has done much to enhance U.S. military ability in the post-Cold War era.
    As retired IDF intelligence officer Dani Reshef writes: "When the U.S., for its own reasons, went to war against Muslim states, Israel possessed the most extensive knowledge base of the type of fighting involved as a consequence of its experience in Lebanon and in fighting Palestinian terror."
    "Since 2003, the American army in Iraq has made extensive use of Israeli technology in using and fortifying vehicles. Operational methods, defensive measures, identification and diffusion of mines as well as training methods were transferred from Israel to the American army and saved the lives of hundreds of American soldiers."
    In addition, "Israel helped to militarize and make more precise American drone technology....Indeed, it was the use of Israeli methods which enabled the U.S. to increase significantly its use of drones."
    "Foreign sources estimate that up to 400 American military personnel went through Israeli training in real-time intelligence gathering to identify and pinpoint military targets."

Fatah Eyes Bigger Slice of Fayyad's West Bank Palestinian Government (Reuters)
    Leading members of the dominant Fatah movement are demanding more power in the PA cabinet of U.S.-backed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Fatah officials said on Tuesday.
    Fatah's Revolutionary Council wants to turn the interior affairs, finance and foreign affairs portfolios currently held by Fayyad loyalists over to Fatah members.
    A close confidant of Fayyad said the premier would not mind Fatah taking any post except finance, which he holds and which is off-limits.

Israelis Maintain Presence in Haiti for the Long Haul - Larry Luxner (JTA)
    Yehonatan Abraham, 30, a medic from Beersheba, spends his mornings vaccinating quake survivors in Haiti against infectious diseases. In the afternoons, he helps the World Food Program hand out meals to 1,000 children a day.
    "Last week I saved a person's life, a 29-year-old man with severe pneumonia," Abraham said.
    Natan - Israeli Coalition for International Humanitarian Aid has opened several schools in refugee camps, using military tents left behind from the IDF field hospital.

Six Jewish Babies Born in Dachau Reunite 65 Years Later (DPA-Ha'aretz)
    U.S. soldiers who liberated the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau in April 1945 were amazed to discover seven Jewish mothers and their babies who had somehow avoided execution or starvation.
    This week, six of those former babies are to gather for an emotional reunion at Dachau as Germany's ARD television airs a documentary exploring how three infant boys and four infant girls slipped through the cracks of the Nazi killing machine.

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  • Gates: Hizbullah Has More Rockets than Most Governments in the World
    U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said after a meeting at the Pentagon with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Syria as well as Iran were providing Hizbullah with weapons of "ever-increasing capability." "We are at a point now where Hizbullah has far more rockets and missiles than most governments in the world." A Pentagon report on Iran released last week said that Hizbullah had rearmed itself to beyond the levels seen before the 2006 war, despite UN-backed efforts to curb weapon shipments to the group. In addition, Iran provides $100-200 million per year to support Hizbullah. (Reuters-Washington Post)
        See also Transcript of Gates-Barak Press Conference (Defense Department)
        See also Clinton Hails "Excellent" Talks with Israel's Barak (AFP)
  • Jerusalem Mayor Denies Housing Construction Freeze - Matthew Lee
    Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Tuesday denied any formal or informal freeze in Jewish housing construction in the eastern part of the city and that reports of a de facto halt to building Jewish homes there were wrong. He also said he could not accept Palestinian control of any portion of the city, likening such a move to putting a "Trojan horse" into the middle of a predominantly Jewish community. "There is no freeze," the mayor said during a visit to Washington. "It's not true." He added that he foresees the city's population growing from 800,000 to 1 million in 10 years, keeping a 65-35% ratio between Jewish and Arab residents.
        He said that the current slowdown was the result of Israeli shock at being "slapped in the face" by the U.S. "It takes some time to recover from such an attack from a friend like the U.S. administration," Barkat said, adding that local and district commissions that oversee housing approvals had begun to meet after a brief hiatus. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Pace of Planning for East Jerusalem Projects Slows - Isabel Kershner
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has established a new committee to ensure that he would never again be surprised by an east Jerusalem housing announcement. Mark Regev, a spokesman for Netanyahu, said the new mechanism was intended to improve oversight and coordination "so that the lower levels of government will not take steps that have an impact on national security and foreign relations."  (New York Times)
  • Gaza Taxes Rise as Hamas Battles Cash Crisis - Tobias Buck
    The Hamas government in Gaza is increasing taxes and introducing a string of levies to fight a mounting financial crisis. Most of the 25,000-30,000 Gazans employed by the local government received their wages for the past two months either late or only partially. "This is the first time since June 2007 [when Hamas took power] that there is any real indication there are issues of liquidity for the government," one Gaza-based Western official said. "I think Hamas has not been able to generate as much funding from outside, and there are rumors the group is not getting as much as it used to from Iran," said Mokhemra Abu Saada, a professor of political science at Gaza's al-Azhar University.
        Jamal Nassar, a Gaza-based Hamas legislator, blamed an international crackdown on money flows to Gaza: "The siege on the Palestinian government [in Gaza] has been tightened recently and because of this it has been unable to bring in funds from abroad." He said the Hamas government depended on "foreign aid" to cover 90% of expenditures, with only 10% covered by local taxes and levies. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Palestinian Faction Warns of "Explosion" over Hamas Taxes
    The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) warned Tuesday of an "explosion" if Hamas continues collecting a raft of new taxes. (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Egypt Denies Calling Israel an "Enemy State" - Barak Ravid
    Over the last few days, Arab media reported that Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit was asked during a visit to Beirut if he had any messages to relay from Israel regarding reports that Syria transferred Scud missiles to Hizbullah. Aboul Gheit reportedly answered that his country does not relay messages from "the enemy." In response, Israel's ambassador to Cairo, Yitzhak Levanon, on Monday filed an official complaint with the Egyptian Foreign Ministry. The director of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry stressed that Aboul Gheit was misunderstood, and that he meant to say that he could not relay messages from Israel to Lebanon because Lebanon sees Israel as an enemy state. (Ha'aretz)
  • Bin Laden Tried to Get Nukes, Says Former Bodyguard
    Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden tried to obtain nuclear weapons, according to his former bodyguard, Nasser al-Bahri. "He dreamed of getting nuclear weapons, and I'm sure that had he got hold of them, he would not have hesitated to use them," al-Bahri told Al-Quds al-Arabi on Wednesday. Al-Bahri, who is currently residing in Yemen, revealed that he always carried bullets in order to kill Bin Laden should the al-Qaeda leader be arrested. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Obama's Jerusalem Stonewall - Mortimer Zuckerman
    Mr. Obama has undermined Israel's confidence in U.S. support. He uses the term "settlements" to describe massive neighborhoods that are home to tens of thousands of Jews. It certainly sends signals to the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority followed the president's lead and refused to proceed with planned talks until Israel stops all so-called settlement activities, including in East Jerusalem.
        President Obama's attitude toward Jerusalem betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the history of the city. After Israel was recognized as a new state in 1948, it was immediately attacked by the combined armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The attacks were repelled, but the Jordanians conquered East Jerusalem and separated it from its western half. In 1967, the Arab armies again sought to destroy Israel, but it prevailed in the famous Six-Day War and reconquered East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip.
        Under Jordanian rule, from 1948 to 1967, dozens of synagogues were destroyed or vandalized. The ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was desecrated, its tombstones used for the construction of roads and Jordanian army latrines. The rights of Christians as well as Jews were abused, with some churches converted into mosques. Since Israel reunited Jerusalem in 1967, it has faithfully protected the rights and security of Christians, Muslims and Jews. Christians now control the Ten Stations of the Cross; Muslims control the Dome of the Rock. Yet the Palestinians often stone Jewish civilians praying at the Western Wall below. Freedom of religion in Jerusalem should not be compromised by American policy. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Who Speaks for the Palestinians? - Elliott Abrams
    Abbas said he hopes to get Arab League approval for indirect talks with Israel. This is a giant step backwards. With all the talk about the critical importance of Palestinian independence, Abbas is now refusing to make any decision about peace, instead deferring to Arab states. This is a return to the days when the Palestinians were under the control of Arab states rather than masters of their own future. Putting the Arab League in charge magnifies the influence of bad actors. To get negotiations going, the Obama administration now has to convince not only Abbas, but Bashar al-Assad. The writer is a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Weekly Standard)
  • Gaddafi: Man's Worst Friend? - Dana Milbank
    President Obama won the unstinting support Monday of one of the world's most prominent leaders: His Excellency Brother Leader Moammar Gaddafi of Libya. The man Ronald Reagan dubbed the "mad dog of the Middle East" is professing Obama love. "I really endorse and support the policies that he has adopted so far," Brother Leader said Monday, referred affectionately to the president as "our son Barack Obama."
        Gaddafi was not done stirring up conspiracy theorists. "The Muslim world welcomed very much the arrival of Obama to the presidency, because the ordinary citizen knows that President Obama is a youth of an African descent....He comes from, originally from a Muslim family, maybe even of an Arab origin." Just what Obama needed: The mad dog of the Middle East is his new best friend. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Moderate Arabs Will Stop Iran? Think Again - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)

    • In the military exercises Iran held this week in the Persian Gulf, the Revolutionary Guards' navy dropped mines, practiced blowing up ships, photographed underwater targets and carried out exercises in electronic warfare and the operation of Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles. The exercise was witnessed by a high-level military delegation from Qatar.
    • Voices opposing Iran sanctions have been raised in Saudi Arabia. Former head of Saudi intelligence Turki al-Faisal, who heads the King Faisal Institute of Global Strategic Studies, said in an interview to al-Arabiya that "the ties between the Gulf states and Iran are historic ties that are built on interests, blood relationships and proximity," and that despite the Iranian threat to neighboring countries, this could not be compared with the Israeli threat.
    • Thousands of Iranian companies fill office buildings in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, whose trade with Iran amounts to some $12 billion.
    • American policy relies on the assumption that the "moderate" bloc of Arab states, especially the Gulf states, are likely to curb the influence of Iran in the region. Iran, however, is conducting a sophisticated policy that may actually succeed in enlisting Arab states on its side. The "moderate bloc" is therefore likely to be a slogan invented at the White House that will not necessarily yield much practical benefit vis-a-vis Iran.

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