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May 24, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Denies Offering Nuclear Weapons to Apartheid South Africa (Office of the President of Israel-Ha'aretz)
    "There exists no basis in reality for the claims published" Monday "by The Guardian that in 1975 Israel negotiated with South Africa the exchange of nuclear weapons," Israeli President Shimon Peres' office said in a statement.
    "Unfortunately, The Guardian elected to write its piece based on the selective interpretation of South African documents and not on concrete facts."
    "Israel has never negotiated the exchange of nuclear weapons with South Africa. There exists no Israeli document or Israeli signature on a document that such negotiations took place."
    The report claimed that such discussions took place when President Peres served as Israel's minister of defense.

Sen. Kerry Meets Syria's Assad (AFP)
    Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a second time in as many months on Saturday for talks on "regional issues," the American embassy in Damascus said.
    On his previous visit to Damascus on April 1, Kerry said President Obama's administration considers Syria a key player in efforts to revive the Middle East peace process.
    Obama's administration has pursued a year-long campaign to engage Syria.

Jihadi Cleric Al-Awlaki Calls on Muslim U.S. Servicemen to Kill Fellow Soldiers (MEMRI)
    On May 23, 2010, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula released a 45-minute interview with the Yemeni-American jihadi cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki, who encouraged U.S. Muslim servicemen to follow in the footsteps of Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter.

Salute to Israel Parade Marches in New York (CBS News)
    Spirits were bright at the 62nd annual Salute to Israel Parade Sunday. Fifth Avenue was awash in a sea of blue-and-white as thousands of people, young and old, waved Israeli flags, cheered and sang songs.

Rahm Emanuel in Israel for Son's Bar Mitzva (Ha'aretz)
    White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel arrived in Israel over the weekend for a private visit to celebrate his son's bar mitzva.
    Israeli media reported Sunday that Emanuel will also meet with Israeli leaders.

Islamists Torch UN Summer Camp in Gaza (Jerusalem Post)
    Masked gunmen from an Islamist group torched a UN-run summer camp in Gaza on Sunday, Israel Army Radio reported.
    The top UN aid official in Gaza, John Ging, said the assailants tied up the guard, burned tents, and left behind three bullets and a note threatening to kill Ging unless the UN cancels its activities for some 250,000 Gaza children.
    Two days before the incident, the "Free of the Homeland" group issued a statement criticizing the UN for "teaching schoolgirls fitness, dancing and immorality."

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  • Gates: Iran Sanctions May Be "Stronger than Expected" - Al Pessin
    U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the draft UN Security Council resolution on sanctions against Iran is stronger than he expected, and if nations follow through with even stronger steps of their own, it could help convince Iran to change its nuclear policy. "As best I can tell, if the resolution were to be passed in anything like its current form, it's actually somewhat stronger than I expected," he said. Gates says the resolution serves as a reminder of Iran's international isolation and that all the major powers oppose its nuclear weapons ambitions.
        "The resolution provides a new legal platform that allows individual countries and organizations, such as the EU, to take significantly more stringent actions on their own, that go way beyond, well beyond, what the UN resolution calls for," he said. "As we go along in this process, I think that the ratcheting up of what other countries are willing to do on their own, using the resolution as a basis, does have the potential to change behavior," he added. Gates says if Iran's leaders were not concerned about the impact of a resolution, they would not be trying so hard to block it. (Voice of America)
  • Gaza Faces Supply Glut as Smuggled Goods Flood In Through Tunnels - Tobias Buck
    Until recently, Gaza tunnel owners like Nasim could expect to make at least $50,000 in net profits every month by smuggling goods from Egypt. Today, however, Nasim says Hamas, whose security officers can be seen in the tunnel area, is taking an ever greater cut of the operators' profits. Moreover, the prices of many smuggled goods have fallen in recent months, thanks to a supply glut. Tunnels have become so efficient that shops all over Gaza are bursting with goods.
        Coca-Cola, Nescafe, Snickers and Heinz ketchup are both cheap and widely available. Tunnel operators have also flooded Gaza with Korean refrigerators, German food mixers and Chinese air conditioning units. "Everything I demand, I can get," says Abu Amar al-Kahlout, who sells household goods out of a warehouse big enough to accommodate a passenger jet. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Private Aid Ships Aim to Breach Gaza Blockade
    A fleet of nine ships from Europe and Arab states is making another attempt to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza. An Israeli government spokesman said the fleet is welcome to deliver its cargo of construction materials and medical supplies to an Israeli port. (BBC News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Implements Goodwill Gestures, Palestinians Seen as Not Serious About Talks - Herb Keinon
    Top IDF officers on Sunday updated their Palestinian counterparts on the Israeli government's decision to implement a series of goodwill gestures aimed at easing restrictions on the Palestinians in the West Bank including the lifting of 60 roadblocks and opening roads and crossings. Israeli tour guides will also be permitted to take groups into Bethlehem and Jericho.
        Israeli officials, meanwhile, expressed irritation on Sunday at what one described as the Palestinians' "endless chatter" about the content of the indirect talks. "The way the Palestinians are talking publicly raises questions about how serious they are taking the talks," one official said. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told EU ambassadors on Sunday that while Israel entered the talks with a true desire to reach a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians, there was a sense that the Palestinians were just going through the motions, hoping the indirect talks would fail so there would be no need for direct negotiations. What the Palestinians really wanted was for the international community to impose a solution. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Fatah Threatens to Resume "Armed Struggle" - Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon
    Abbas Zaki, a member of the Fatah Central Committee, told the Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad on Saturday that Fatah does not rule out the possibility of resuming an "armed struggle" against Israel if the U.S.-sponsored proximity talks fail. A senior Israeli official characterized Palestinian threats about a return to violence as a "huge problem and antithetical to the peace process." "If they return to violence, they are taking us back to the days before the Oslo process."
        Palestinian intransigence, evident in Arafat's rejection of Ehud Barak's offer at Camp David in 2000 - followed by Mahmoud Abbas' rejection of Ehud Olmert's offer in 2008 - is the reason the peace process has not succeeded, the official noted. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Two Palestinian Gunmen Killed after Infiltrating Israel, IDF Soldier Wounded
    An IDF soldier was wounded by Palestinian gunfire on Friday near the Gaza border. Earlier, two Palestinian terrorists were killed by IDF troops after they crossed into Israel from Gaza near Kibbutz Nirim. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, which the IDF Spokesperson said was meant to target a nearby Israeli community. The two terrorists crossed the border fence and hid in a ditch 20 meters into Israeli territory, where they were intercepted by the IDF. The exchanges of fire included mortar fire by both sides. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Fantasy of Hizbullah Moderation - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
    John Brennan, President Barack Obama's advisor for homeland security and counterterrorism, recently stated that the administration was looking for ways to build up "moderate elements" within Hizbullah. The fact that Hizbullah is part of the Iranian security apparatus did not seem to affect his analysis of the organization.
        Immediately following the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, Iran undertook a strategic decision to export the Islamic Revolution to the Arab and Islamic expanse. Lebanon was the first target selected, given its large Shiite population which had maintained links with Iran for many years. Hizbullah is not a national Lebanese movement. Hizbullah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, and his men are not loyal to the president of Lebanon or to the government of Lebanon, but rather to Iranian leader Ayatollah Khamenei. Nasrallah's deputy, Sheikh Naim Qassem, admitted to the Iranian Arabic-language television station al-Qawathar in March 2007 that Hizbullah requires permission from Iran's supreme leadership for its operations.
        In the words of U.S. Defense Secretary William Gates, one should view Hizbullah's military force - which extends far beyond the military force of any other political movement in the world, as well as beyond the force of many sovereign states - as the long arm of Iran. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Curing the Israel Estrangement Syndrome - James Kirchick
    Former New Republic editor Peter Beinart's recent claim in the New York Review of Books of American liberal Jewish estrangement from Zionism is largely based on a two-year-old study by Steven Cohen and Ari Kelman which found that "non-Orthodox younger Jews, on the whole, feel much less attached to Israel than their elders." However, a paper released by researchers at Brandeis University noted: "As American Jews grow older, they tend to become more emotionally attached to Israel," meaning that a survey of young Jews is not necessarily indicative of future beliefs. It also found that "general political orientation on a continuum from 'extremely liberal' to 'extremely conservative' is not related to attachment to Israel."
        Beinart portrays Israelis as the sole drivers of history, with the Arabs relegated to the role of passive, background characters. The actions of Hizbullah, Hamas, and Iran are not discussed in the 5,000-word piece until four paragraphs from the end. There is no mention that Palestinians voted Hamas into power in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. There is similarly no mention of the murderous anti-Semitism spewed in Palestinian schools, television, radio, and newspapers, or the medieval propaganda sponsored by Iran, Saudi Arabia, or even Egypt. And there is no mention of the poll, conducted just last month by An-Najah University in the West Bank, which found that 77% of Palestinians oppose a two-state solution.
        At the end of the day, if Beinart truly thinks that the Israeli government is to blame for the current impasse, his problem does not lie with Israel's defenders in the U.S. Rather, his dispute lies with the Israeli electorate, which, after all, voted the Israeli government into power. (Foreign Policy)
  • Observations:

    Israel Is a Key Ally and Deserves U.S. Support - Mortimer B. Zuckerman (U.S. News)

    • If the Obama administration wants to leave any kind of decent mark in history for its handling of the Middle East, it should invite the Palestinians to do what the Israelis have done for decades, which is to declare in the language of their own people that both sides have genuine claims to this land, that both sides have the right to live in peace, and that a viable compromise is possible.
    • If the Palestinians were to publicly begin the process of reversing Yasser Arafat's relentless delegitimization of the Israeli connection with this land, emblemized by his dismissal of the notion of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem, they would achieve the simultaneous feat of preparing their people for compromise and persuading Israel of its viability. The Israelis are clearly prepared to live with a Palestinian state along their borders. The trouble is precisely that the Palestinians are not.
    • The Israelis are now being asked to take on the risk of withdrawing from territory that is immediately adjacent to their major population centers, especially Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. If the West Bank became a platform for rocket attacks, as Gaza did, especially with the more sophisticated weaponry now provided by Iran, Israel would become uninhabitable.
    • The Islamists are not enemies of America because of Israel. They are fighting America because they see the whole West and its culture, values, and belief in democracy as antithetical to their own beliefs. Were Israel to disappear tomorrow, it would not end the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, cause Iran to stop its nuclear program, or put al-Qaeda out of business.
    • In fact, not only would a defeat for a country aligned with the United States strengthen Iran and al-Qaeda, but many Arab countries understand that Israel, with its military power, is a major counterforce to Iranian pressure.

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