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June 22, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Lebanese Flotilla Organizer: Send Israelis Back to Poland - Jonatan Urich (Israel Defense Forces)
    Palestinian businessman Yasser Qashlak, who stands behind the new flotilla expected to arrive in Israeli waters from Lebanon, told Hizbullah's Al-Manar television last weekend:
    "I hope that when the day comes, those ships will be able to take the European refugees [meaning: the Israelis] back to their homelands. I am calling out to the Israelis to do that....[Captured Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit needs to return to Paris, and the rest of the murderers need to return to Poland."
    He added: Do not "believe in the illusion of peace created by modern Arab leaders....Even if our leaders sign peace agreements, we will not respect them. Our children will return to Palestine."

Poll: Public in 16 Countries Supports Preemptive Strike on Iranian Nuclear Program (Pew Research Center)
    In 16 of the 22 states included in the Pew Global Attitudes 2010 survey, respondents said they prefer a military strike over the prospect of a nuclear Iran.
    In the U.S., 66% prefer a military strike compared to 24% who object.
    In Egypt, 55% supported a military strike on Iran, compared to 16% who objected. In Jordan, the figures in favor of an Iran strike are 53-20% respectively.
    Only in Turkey, more people said they would accept a nuclear Iran than respondents who preferred military action.

Arab Expenditures for Weapons, Not Science (National-UAE)
    In the Bahraini newspaper Al Wasat, Obeidli al-Obeidli underscored the fact that Israel outperforms the Arab world in scientific research.
    Some 35% of Arab academics live in the diaspora, and two-thirds of those have no plans to return.
    Saeed Hanna, a Syrian writer quoted by al-Obeidly, noted that Israel in 2004 spent 4.7% of its GNP on research and development, and about 30% of its public budget went for higher education. This is aided by extra funds from the private sector, which stands as the major sponsor of research.
    The Arab states spend 7% of their GNP on armaments, or 53 times more than they devote to science.

Uproar Over UK Methodist Report on Israel - Simon Rocker (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    Jewish leaders have condemned a "skewed" report on Israel prepared by the Methodist Church, warning it could set back interfaith relations for years.
    The report, to be debated at the church's national conference later this month, calls for a boycott of goods from "illegal" West Bank settlements, and political lobbying to end Israel's occupation and the "siege of Gaza."
    Over the past few days, Jewish organizations in London and Manchester have protested about its contents in meetings with Methodist representatives.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • NYC Car Bomb Suspect Pleads Guilty, Calls Himself "a Muslim Soldier" - Tom Hays
    Calling himself a Muslim soldier, a defiant Faisal Shahzad, 30, pleaded guilty Monday to carrying out the failed Times Square car bombing. He described his effort to set off a bomb in an SUV he parked in Times Square on May 1, saying he chose the warm Saturday night because it would be crowded with people he could injure or kill. He said he conspired with the Pakistan Taliban, which provided more than $15,000 to fund his operation.
        "It's a war. I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people," he said. He wanted to let the U.S. know that if it did not get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, halt drone attacks and stop meddling in Muslim lands, "we will be attacking [the] U.S." Shahzad, born in Pakistan, moved to the U.S. when he was 18. (AP)
  • Israel Urges UN to Shelve Flotilla Raid Probe Plan - Louis Charbonneau
    Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to shelve plans for a UN-backed investigation of the Gaza flotilla raid last month. Barak said the five-person panel Israel has established, which includes two foreign observers, would be sufficient. "We are moving ahead with our independent investigation, which we believe is clearly independent, reliable, credible and should be allowed to work," he said. (Reuters)
        See also Large Majorities in Congress Back Israel's Flotilla Raid - Ben Smith
    Large majorities in the House and Senate have signed on letters supporting the Gaza blockade and defending Israel's enforcement of it against a Turkish vessel. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, along with 83 other senators, have signed the Senate version of the letter, which is backed by AIPAC; 298 members of the House also have signed. (Politico)
  • Congress Strikes Deal on Tougher Sanctions for Iran's Suppliers - Colum Lynch and Thomas Erdbrink
    U.S. lawmakers on Monday reached agreement on legislation that would penalize Iran's business partners for selling the country gasoline, investing in its refineries, or providing financial services to firms linked to its political and military elite. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: Decision to Ease Gaza Siege Weakens Hamas - Jonathan Lis
    Israel's decision to scale back the civilian blockade on Gaza while tightening the security blockade enables Israel to focus on real security issues, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday. "The cabinet decision is the best one for Israel, because it eliminates Hamas' main propaganda claim and allows us and our international allies to face our real concerns in the realm of security," Netanyahu said. He added that the decision was coordinated with the U.S. and Quartet representative Tony Blair. (Ha'aretz)
  • Blair: No Need for Aid Flotillas - David Horovitz and Herb Keinon
    Anyone thinking of organizing an aid flotilla for Gaza should instead utilize the legitimate existing land crossings, where Israel is now lifting restrictions on civilian goods, Quartet envoy Tony Blair said on Monday. "Where I divide from some others in the international community is that I think that Israel has got a genuine security concern that it is entitled to meet," he said. "The fact that Israel says, 'Look, we're not going to allow things into the [Gaza] seaport, but you can bring them to Ashdod, and we can check them, and then they can come on to Gaza,' I think that is a reasonable position."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Peres: "No Need for Flotillas if Gaza Turns to Peace" - Ronen Medzini
    President Shimon Peres said Sunday: "If Gaza would turn to peace, she would have peace and there would be no need for flotillas....We withdrew from Gaza entirely and no Israeli was left in the Gaza Strip.... We did not understand then, nor do we understand now, why after evacuating Gaza, the rulers of Gaza started to fire thousands of missiles against civilian life in Israel. For what reason? For what purpose?"
        "If Gaza leaders would denounce terror, stop the building of tunnels and shooting missiles, stop attempting to kidnap Israeli soldiers and release Gilad Shalit who was abducted on Israeli territory, there would be no need for any sort of closure or blockade."  (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Easing the Gaza Blockade - Editorial
    Israel has a responsibility to its citizens to stop the delivery of all weapons and rockets to Hamas, which continues to rocket Israeli cities and refuses to accept Israel's right to exist. Prime Minister Netanyahu has rightly refused to abandon the sea blockade of Gaza. He cannot do that until Hamas stops rocketing Israeli cities and towns. (New York Times)
  • What Israelis Really Think about Gaza - Karl Vick
    The decision by Israel's government to loosen its grip on the flow of goods into Gaza was aimed squarely at a world watching from beyond missile range. "Look, I come from a kibbutz that's very close to Gaza," says Ran, a 40-year-old in Tel Aviv. "I go there to visit, and it's not nice." The agricultural collective he comes from, called Nirim, grows organic peanuts and sweet potatoes in fields that run right up to the barrier with Gaza. From the northern tip of Gaza, militants scramble across to launch rockets. In March, a Thai man working in a field in Nirim was killed there.
        Rocket attacks surged after Israel pulled its settlers and soldiers out of Gaza five years ago. Dahlia Scheindlin, a pollster and political consultant, says, "The narrative is, 'We left Gaza and got a rain of Kassam rockets. We gave them everything they wanted and we got a rain of Kassam rockets and a Hamas takeover.' I hear it over and over again in focus groups."  (TIME)
  • International Community Protects Hamas Regime - Barry Rubin
    The international community's protection of the Hamas regime - even though it is a revolutionary Islamist, terrorist, genocide-intending, anti-Western client of Iran that will fight Israel and subvert Egypt - makes its overthrow impossible. The government's new policy means Israel has given up the strategy of trying to reduce Gaza's economy and the rewards that Hamas can give its supporters.
        So this is the future: A revolutionary Islamist statelet, a long-term outpost of Iran, a base for spreading terrorism and subversion, a source for genocidal anti-Semitic propaganda has been established on the shores of the Mediterranean. Hamas will be in power in Gaza for a long time. It will return to war against Israel at the first opportunity. It teaches its people to kill Jews and to be terrorists.
        What could be more ironic than the fact that Western governments, frantic for an Israeli-Palestinian peace, have just helped put one more gigantic roadblock in the way? Even without Hamas ruling almost half of those under Palestinian rule, the PA probably wouldn't be able to make peace. The consolidation of a Hamas state makes that inability a certainty. The world has no idea what it has done, or how much blood will flow as a result. The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    U.S. Middle East Policy after the Gaza Flotilla Incident - Robert Satloff (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • Washington still has not made a public, ironclad commitment to prevent the UN from creating its own inquiry into the Gaza incident. And the U.S. did not stop the Security Council from adopting a condemn-first, ask-questions-later approach on the incident. By its own admission, the Security Council said it had no idea what actually happened on the Turkish vessel, but that did not stop it from issuing, with U.S. acquiescence, a presidential statement condemning Israel.
    • Ten days after the Gaza episode, the U.S. scored a diplomatic success by gaining Security Council assent to a new resolution tightening sanctions on Iran. One fact is abundantly clear: once again, the "linkage argument" - that U.S. diplomatic interests suffer from America's close connection to Israel - has been shown to be totally wrong. The Gaza crisis had no impact on the Iran sanctions vote. The "no" votes were "no" votes before the crisis; the "yes" votes were "yes" before the crisis.
    • In the view of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, Hizbullah is a responsible actor in Lebanon; Hamas is a legitimate resistance group; and Iran and Syria are Ankara's strategic partners. The question for the U.S. is whether and how to exact a price for Erdogan's brazen decision to spit in its face by leading the opposition to the Iran sanctions effort.

      The writer is executive director of the Washington Institute.

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