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September 8, 2010

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Palestinian Mortar Lands Near Israeli Kindergarten - Shmulik Hadad (Ynet News)
    A mortar shell fired by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza exploded Wednesday morning near a number of kindergartens in a kibbutz in southern Israel, damaging one of the buildings.
    The shell exploded a half-hour before the children were to arrive.
    The firing of rockets from Gaza increased following the launch of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Dispute in Peace Talks: Borders or Security First? - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
    Palestinian sources said Tuesday that in the renewed direct negotiations, Israel was insisting on starting with the security issue, while the PA wanted to begin with the border issue.
    On the settlement issue, the Palestinians have admitted that they would have to accept a certain resumption of building.
    Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday, "the 'blessed' intifada in the year 2000 destroyed us, destroyed everything we built."

Report: Egypt Seizes Gaza-Bound Weapons (Maan News-PA)
    Egyptian police captured nine weapons caches across the Sinai Peninsula on Tuesday, after discovering three stores a week earlier. All of the weapons were ready to be smuggled into Gaza.
    Egyptian forces said they found machine guns, ammunition, over 170 anti-aircraft shells, 90 artillery shells, and anti-tank landmines. Additionally, 100 kilograms of TNT explosives were seized.
    Egypt has launched an apparent crackdown on smuggling tunnels and weapons stores following reports that smugglers had cut several holes in a subterranean steel wall built to curb the transfer of weapons into Gaza.

Jordanian Websites Shift Political Dissent Online - Suleiman al-Khalidi (Reuters)
    Mocking officials online, exposing high-level corruption and discussing political tension could land journalists in many autocratic Middle East states in jail.
    But Jordan's leading news website doesn't shy away from hectoring the government over misappropriation of funds by senior officials or highlighting fault lines between the country's Palestinian population and indigenous Jordanians.
    Unlike neighboring Syria or Saudi Arabia, where access to the Internet is restricted and some bloggers and cyber journalists have been jailed, Jordan's independent Internet sites have been relatively free.
    Despite taking stances against official government policy, the websites also reflect concerns from within the traditional conservative establishment.
    Some sites articulate opposition emerging from the country's leading tribes, particularly over the sensitive demographic balance between citizens of Palestinian and Jordanian origin.

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    Selected features from the Daily Alert for busy readers

Jewish New Year Message - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)

Jewish New Year Message - President Shimon Peres (IMRA)

Jewish New Year Message - President Barack Obama (White House)

Video: "Echoes of a Shofar" (ToldotYisrael)
    The inspiring story of the young men who blew the shofar at the Western Wall in Jerusalem each year on Yom Kippur from 1930 to 1947 as part of the modern struggle for the rebirth of the Jewish people.
    Under a British law passed in 1930, Jews in Palestine were forbidden to blow the shofar at the Western Wall, pray loudly there, or bring Torah scrolls, so as not to offend the Arab population.
       Despite this, for the next 17 years, the shofar was sounded each year, as brave teenagers defiantly blew them at the conclusion of the fast. Some were captured and sent to jail for up to six months.
    Six of these men returned to the scene of their "crime" where they recounted their stories. 

Israel's Population Reaches 7.6 Million - Moti Bassok (Ha'aretz)
    On the eve of the Jewish New Year 5771, the population of Israel surpassed 7,645,500, of whom 5,770,900 are Jews, 1,559,100 are Arabs, and 315,500 are "other," according to data published by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Monday.
    In 2009, the growth rate among Jews was 1.7%, Muslims 2.8%, Christians 1%, and Druze 1.7%.
    See also Statistical Abstract of Israel 2010 (Central Bureau of Statistics)

17,880 Immigrants Arrive in Israel During Past Year - Gil Shefler (Jerusalem Post)
    17,880 new immigrants arrived in Israel during the Hebrew year 5770, an increase of 2,700 from the year before.
    7,340 came from former Soviet Union countries, 5,130 from English-speaking countries (North America, the UK, South Africa and Australia), and 2,420 from France.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Poll: 77% Say Palestinians Should Acknowledge Israel's Right to Exist as a Jewish State
    A survey of 1,000 likely U.S. voters conducted September 2-3, 2010, asked:
        As part of a Middle Eastern peace agreement, should Palestinian leaders be required to acknowledge Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state? Yes 77%, No 7%.
        As part of a Middle Eastern peace agreement, should Israel be required to accept the creation of a Palestinian state? Yes 51%, No 27%.
        How likely is it that Palestinian leaders will acknowledge Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state? Very or somewhat likely 25%, Not very or not at all likely 64%.
        How likely is it that Israel will accept the creation of a Palestinian state? Very or somewhat likely 42%, Not very or not at all likely 47%. (Rasmussen Reports)
  • Castro to Ahmadinejad: "Stop Slandering the Jews" - Jeffrey Goldberg
    During an interview in Havana, Fidel Castro criticized Iranian President Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and explained why the Iranian government would better serve the cause of peace by acknowledging the "unique" history of anti-Semitism and trying to understand why Israelis fear for their existence. "I don't think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything."
        "The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust." I asked him if he would tell Ahmadinejad what he was telling me. "I am saying this so you can communicate it," he answered. (Atlantic Monthly)
  • Egypt: ElBaradei Calls for Election Boycott - Mona El-Nagger
    Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has called for a boycott of Egyptian parliamentary elections this fall. Since he returned to Egypt in February, he has been seen as a serious challenger to President Hosni Mubarak's 29-year hold on power. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: There Is No Guarantee Talks Will Succeed
    In a Jewish New Year message to the nation in Hebrew, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the recent relaunch of direct talks with the Palestinians an "important step in an attempt to move forward on a framework peace agreement....I say this is an attempt, because there is no guarantee of success. There are many hurdles and many skeptics, and many reasons for skepticism. But there is a need to try to reach peace, and we are trying, sincerely but without naivete."
        Netanyahu repeated that any agreement would be based on two pillars: security arrangements implemented on the ground, not just on paper, and Palestinian recognition of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people. "We have been asked to recognize a Palestinian state, and it is only right and natural that we ask the other side to recognize the Jewish state, the state of the Jewish people," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Concerned by U.S. Proposal for International Force in West Bank - Yaakov Katz
    Israel is concerned about an American proposal to establish a multi-national force in the West Bank as one of the ways to expedite an Israeli withdrawal following any peace deal with the Palestinian Authority. The idea is being promoted by U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones, who served as security coordinator for the West Bank under former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He also served as the top NATO commander in Europe, and therefore is believed to be a proponent of using multinational forces to solve conflicts.
        The IDF, with the backing of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, is opposed to the idea and believes that before the Palestinians receive control over the West Bank, they need to be able to independently prevent the creation of a terrorist state. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also voiced reservations about an international deployment. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The Risks of Foreign Peacekeeping Forces in the West Bank - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Prime Minister Emphasizes Need to Deal with Strategic Threats
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Monday with members of the Israel Security Council led by Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Uzi Dayan. Netanyahu emphasized the need to deal with the main strategic threats, such as maintaining a solid Jewish majority in the State of Israel, preventing the creation of a hostile Palestinian entity that could threaten Israel from the West Bank as is the case today in Gaza, the Iranian threat, and the delegitimization assault against Israel. He explained the strategic importance of achieving a peace agreement with the Palestinians, but stressed that the test will not be in signing an agreement but in implementing it.
        The Israel Security Council is a public body that includes leading personalities with backgrounds and experience in various public, security, and diplomatic fields. Council members emphasized the need to insist on clear red lines in negotiations with the Palestinians, especially maintaining the Jordan Valley as Israel's eastern security border. (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Israel's Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • IAEA Report: What's Driving Iran's Latest Bout of Nuclear Obstinacy - Scott Peterson
    The IAEA report provides the latest indication of a spreading pattern of restrictions under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to limit the work of nuclear inspectors, according to Iran experts. They say hurdles facing inspectors are raised as America and Western pressure on Iran increases over its nuclear program. "What we are seeing is an accelerating loss of transparency into Iran's nuclear fuel cycle program," says Shannon Kile, a nuclear specialist at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in Sweden.
        "This is typical Iranian hardball tactics, saying 'Two sides can play tough, what are you going to do about it?'" says Shahram Chubin, a Geneva-based Iran expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "The regime is moving on as fast as it can - neither faster nor slower than usual - just as fast as it can. And eventually it will get there," says Mr. Chubin, author of the 2006 book Iran's Nuclear Ambitions. (Christian Science Monitor)
        See also Iran's Shadow Games - Editorial
    Another International Atomic Energy Agency report serves up more data on Iran's atomic progress. Ho-hum. So, barring an epiphany of seriousness by the so-called international community, one of these days Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will usher his regime into the world's club of nuclear states. What's most striking in the report is Iran's escalating war against the UN watchdog itself. Tehran is closing the blinds even on its declared, supposedly peaceful, civilian sites. The IAEA says it "is concerned that the repeated objection to the designation of experienced inspectors hampers the inspection process and detracts from the agency's ability to implement safeguards in Iran." As Iran now pulls a longer shroud over its nuclear work, how can anyone not consider anything Iran does in the nuclear field a significant proliferation threat?
        That includes the nuclear power plant in Bushehr. The nuclear fuel comes from Russia and by contract the spent rods will be sent back there. But already Iran has asked to manage the handling of the fuel jointly with Russia. Little stands in its way to one day reprocess it into weapons-grade plutonium. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Shadow of Hamas - Editorial
    Hamas quickly claimed responsibility for two shooting attacks last week in which four Israelis were killed and two others wounded, and promised it was only the beginning of a campaign to disrupt the new negotiations. Middle East diplomacy regularly inspires such extremist violence. In Gaza, Hamas supporters held a demonstration to celebrate the murders. Those who supposed that the Islamic movement would quietly observe and even passively support the bargaining of Palestinian President Abbas with Mr. Netanyahu were brutally corrected. Violence by Hamas in the West Bank serves to underscore one of the central Israeli concerns about a peace settlement: that under Palestinian rule, the West Bank could become another base for attacks on Israel, as Gaza is.
        The only real counter to attacks such as those of last week is effective policing by Mr. Abbas' U.S.-mentored security forces. Palestinian police duly rounded up scores of Hamas operatives last week but quickly released them - reminding some of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's duplicitous response to acts of terrorism. (Washington Post)
  • Roadblock to Peace: Palestinian Leader Abbas Already Balking at Real Negotiations - Editorial
    Faster than you can say "two-state solution," the direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks begun with such fanfare have hit their first huge obstacle: an utter unwillingness to budge on the part of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Four days after meeting President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in the White House, Abbas told an Arabic West Bank newspaper he is not prepared to give. Not even an inch.
        Abbas declared: "If they demand concessions on the rights of the refugees or the 1967 borders, I will quit. I can't allow myself to make even one concession." How do you negotiate with someone who proclaims his intransigence? (New York Daily News)
  • A Numbers Game in the Middle East - Joel Brinkley
    Isn't the Palestinian population growing so fast that, soon enough, it will outnumber Jews in the land between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea? A team of demographers headed by Yoram Ettinger, a former Israeli diplomat, conducted a detailed study and found, to most everyone's surprise, that Israeli Jews far outnumber Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. What's more, Jewish birth rates are higher now, too. The demographic threat, these demographers say, simply doesn't exist and the trend lines favor the Jews, not the Arabs.
        Palestinians vastly overstated their population for their own political aims. As examples, they double-counted Arab residents of east Jerusalem and included about 400,000 Palestinians who actually live abroad. At the same time, as the West Bank grows more modern and prosperous, Palestinian birth rates are falling - while some Israeli West Bank settlers are having as many babies as they can. The writer is a professor of journalism at Stanford University. (San Francisco Chronicle)
        See also More Babies Give a Boost to Israeli Jewish Demographics - Zuzana Barak
    Jewish demographics in Israel are improving, Prof. Sergio DellaPergola, an international expert on Jewish demography from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said Tuesday. According to DellaPergola, the trend in Israel is towards larger families, in comparison to the birth rate among Jews in the diaspora, which has been declining due to rapid ageing and intermarriage. The Jewish birth rate in Israel averages just under three children (2.9) per family, the highest in many years. "A high standard of living and an overall feeling of well-being contribute to this baby boom we are witnessing nowadays among Israeli Jews," he said.
        Israel's 5,770,900 Jews (out of a total population of 7,645,500) amount to 43% of the total world Jewish population. The U.S. is home to 5.3 million Jews, France has 485,000, Canada 375,000, Britain 292,000, Russia 205,000; Argentina 182,000; Germany 119,000; Australia 108,000; and Brazil 96,000. (Jerusalem Post)
  • It's About Time for an Apology to Israel - Gary Rosenblatt
    This week's cover story in Time magazine by Karl Vick, "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace," was simply indefensible The story has a narrow focus, concentrating mostly on satisfied Tel Aviv residents who are living well and enjoying life despite the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians.
        While depicted as money-obsessed and cavalier about their neighbors, Israelis in fact have displayed remarkable resilience, pragmatism and faith in themselves. Attacked by suicide bombers on an almost daily basis a decade ago, they didn't flee. They didn't panic. And they didn't teach their children to hate, or to martyr themselves. Instead they took security precautions (namely, building a separation fence/wall, which has proved successful) and went about their business as best they could under horrific circumstances.
        For this, and for carving out productive lives in the face of so many who would destroy them, they are portrayed as uncaring. Time's story does not address the attitudes of Palestinians toward Israel, or Jews, though Palestinian clerics, educators and politicians demonize Zionists and Jews everywhere so regularly that it is not considered newsworthy. (New York Jewish Week)
        See also Time Magazine Promotes Anti-Jewish Prejudice - Bret Stephens
    Nearly every Israeli has a child, sibling, boyfriend or parent in the army. Nearly every Israeli has been to the funeral of a fallen soldier, or a friend killed in a terrorist attack. Every Israeli owns a gas mask. The whole country exists under the encroaching shadows of Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and the prospect of a nuclear Iran. When it comes to scoring cheap shots against the Jewish state, Time is not the sort of magazine to allow the obvious to disturb a prejudiced hypothesis. Can the magazine point to equally pointed cover stories about internal Palestinian affairs and what, perchance, they mean for the peace process?
        Journalism aside, there's also a moral dimension here known as the delegitimization of Israel - the idea that the country ought not to exist. Insisting that Israel be wiped off the map, as Iran's leaders do with such numbing frequency, is one method of delegitimization. Suggesting that Israelis don't care about peace is another. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also For the Jews in Israel, Money Trumps All? - Victor Davis Hanson
    The recent Time magazine cover story is probably the most anti-Semitic essay I have ever read in a mainstream publication. (National Review)
  • Observations:

    Comparing Hamas to the IRA - Special Envoy for Middle East Peace Sen. George Mitchell (White House)

    • George Mitchell, who helped broker Northern Ireland's peace talks, said on Aug. 31: "We do not expect Hamas to play a role in this immediate process. But...we welcome the full participation by Hamas and all relevant parties once they comply with the basic requirements of democracy and nonviolence that are, of course, a prerequisite to engage in these serious types of discussions."
    • "I have repeatedly been asked...'well, Senator, you talk to the IRA in Northern Ireland, but you don't talk to Hamas here.' The questions reflect an incomplete understanding of what occurred in Northern Ireland and its relationship to this situation. So, first, let me say they're very different. It's not useful to try to make direct comparisons because the participants, the circumstances, the situation, the timing are all very different. And while we should learn what we can from other processes, each is unique."
    • "The reality is that in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein, the political party that is affiliated with the IRA, did not enter the negotiations until after 15 months had elapsed in the negotiations, and only then because they met two central conditions that had been established. The first was a ceasefire, and the second was a publicly stated democratic and exclusively peaceful means of resolving political issues; a commitment to renounce for themselves and to oppose any efforts by others to use force or threaten to use force to influence the course or the outcome of the negotiations; and finally a commitment to agree to abide by the terms of any agreement reached in negotiations and to resort to democratic and exclusively peaceful methods in trying to alter any aspect of that outcome with which they may disagree."
        See also Hamas Is Not the IRA - Israeli Ambassador to Ireland Zion Evrony (New York Times)
    • Underlying my Irish friends' advice to talk to Hamas is the expectation that should Israel start a dialogue, Hamas will change its ideology, renounce terrorism, recognize Israel, stop all acts of violence, suicide bombings and Kassam rocket attacks, and relinquish its weapons. But the ideology of Hamas is defined in absolutist religious terms, that of a radical version of Islam, which is not open to influence or change.
    • At the core of this belief is the desire to create an Islamist state based on Islamic law over all the land, not just the West Bank and Gaza, but Israel as well. There is no acceptance of the notion of coexistence, no support for the idea of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, but an exclusive demand, based on fundamentalist interpretations of religious texts, for control of the entire territory.
    • If Hamas were to accept these principles, abandon its radical beliefs and, like the IRA, transform itself into a partner for dialogue, it could join the peace process and put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people. Indeed, if Hamas stops rocket attacks on Israeli towns and releases Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, it can pave the way for an immediate and stable ceasefire in the Gaza region.
    • Unfortunately, given the intransigent ideological and religious foundations behind Hamas' violent actions, such an expectation is quite unrealistic.
        See also Talking to Terrorists: The Myths, Misconceptions and Misapplication of the Northern Ireland Peace Process - John Bew and Martyn Frampton (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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