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October 11, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Arab League Gives U.S. More Time to Salvage Mideast Peace Process - Edmund Sanders (Los Angeles Times)
    Arab League members decided Friday in Libya to give the Obama administration one more month to get Mideast peace talks back on track.

Poll: America Is a Pro-Israel Nation - William Kristol (Weekly Standard)
    Consider the results of a new poll done October 3 to 5 by McLaughlin and Associates for the Emergency Committee for Israel.
    93% of those polled say the U.S. should be concerned about the security of Israel, with 54% saying the U.S. should be "very concerned" about Israel's security.
    53% say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate they saw as pro-Israel, 24% less likely.
    53% say they could not vote for a candidate if he were anti-Israel, even if that candidate agreed with them on most other issues.
    See also Who Are Israel's Friends? - Jennifer Rubin (Commentary)
    In the poll, almost all the support for Israel statistically comes from non-Jews. This is simply a mathematical reality. The poll sampled 1,000 voters, only 1.6% of whom were Jewish.
    Jews by themselves are a tiny percentage of the population who, on their own, could not sustain national support for Israel. It is the support from the majority of Christians that nurtures the U.S.-Israel relationship.
    There is a large segment of Americans who, for reasons entirely distinct from religion and with no personal or ethnic tie to the Jewish state, nevertheless are strongly committed to its security and survival.
    That is remarkable, a tribute to the innate decency and common sense of the American people. They have, despite a barrage of propaganda from Israel's foes, figured out who are the "good guys" in the Middle East and which country shares our values and concerns.
    This data is helpful in rebutting the Israel-haters' rhetoric railing against the "influence of the Israel lobby."
    See also Poll Results (Emergency Committee for Israel)

Hizbullah Training at Syria Missile Base, Satellite Images Show - Avi Scharf (Ha'aretz)
    The Syrian army has a Scud missile base near Damascus, according to recent satellite photos. The photos also suggest that Hizbullah forces are being trained in the Scuds' use at the base.
    The photos, taken on March 22, show five 11-meter-long missiles (the length of both the Scud B and the Scud C) at the Adra base.
    In May, the Sunday Times of London reported that shipments of weapons from the Adra base were going to Hizbullah, and that Hizbullah had been given a section of the base for barracks, warehouses and a fleet of trucks to transport weapons to the Lebanese border.

Hamas Increasingly Unpopular in Gaza - Louisa Waugh (HeraldScotland-UK)
    Alongside the fragile economy, there is another undercurrent pervading Gazan street life; an atmosphere of tension and unease about the increasingly unpopular Hamas regime.
    Many Gazans claim Hamas is becoming more radical and oppressive. Thousands of Gazans who used to work for the Palestinian Authority in Gaza were subsequently sacked by Hamas, and are still effectively blacklisted from any professional jobs there.
    Hamas is also pursuing a more rigorous Islamic agenda, raiding venues where mixed parties are suspected.
    "What do I think of Hamas - they are good!" one waiter tells me cheerfully. He looks over his shoulder, leans forward and says: "If one of them hears me saying anything about Hamas, then I will be arrested you know. We have become frightened of them."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Abbas Weighs Unilateral Declaration of Palestinian State - Salah Nasrawi and Karin Laub
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday sought Arab backing for possible fallback options in case peace talks with Israel collapse, including urging the U.S. to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state. In recent months, some of Abbas' advisers have floated the idea of asking the UN Security Council for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem.
        Abbas adviser Saeb Erekat said Abbas asked the Arab League on Saturday to help persuade the Obama administration to unilaterally recognize such a state. If the Americans reject such a request, the Palestinians might take up the issue with the Security Council, nonetheless, Erekat said. But Washington would likely veto Security Council action. The U.S. opposes a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood. The long-standing U.S. position is that statehood should come through negotiations with the Israelis. (AP)
        See also Israel: PA Threat to Declare State Unilaterally a "Mirage" - Herb Keinon
    Israeli government officials Saturday night dismissed as "unrealistic" and a "mirage" Palestinian threats to get the U.S. or the UN Security Council to recognize an independent Palestinian state within the pre-1967 lines if the peace talks collapse. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also France "Can't Rule Out" UN Creation of Palestinian State
    French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Sunday the option of the UN Security Council creating a Palestinian state cannot be ruled out, in an interview in the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam. "But the establishment of the Palestinian state must come as a result of the peace process and be the fruit of bilateral negotiations."  (AFP)
        See also International Recognition of a Unilaterally Declared Palestinian State: Legal and Policy Dilemmas - Tal Becker (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Iranian Officials Warn of Unrest Tied to Subsidy Cuts - William Yong
    Top Iranian police officials issued a series of warnings this month against the threat of strikes and civil unrest provoked by planned cuts in subsidies in a country already stricken by high inflation and widespread unemployment. Price supports amount to $4,000 per family per year, according to a recent report by the International Monetary Fund. Cash reimbursements intended to compensate families have not yet been made, and Iranian press reports have estimated that the value of these payments could be as little as $24 per month, meaning that a family of four would receive less than one-third of the government help provided under the current subsidy regime. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Cabinet Approves Citizenship Oath Change for New Citizens - Attila Somfalvi
    The Israeli Cabinet Sunday voted 22-8 in favor of a draft amendment to the Citizenship Act which will obligate new non-Jewish citizens of Israel to pledge allegiance to a "Jewish, democratic state."  (Ynet News)
        See also Behind the Cabinet Decision
        Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Cabinet Sunday: "Our Declaration of Independence says: 'We hereby declare the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.'...The State of Israel is the national state of the Jewish People and is a democratic state in which all its citizens - Jewish and non-Jewish - enjoy fully equal rights."
        "To my regret, today, there are those who are trying to blur not only the unique connection between the Jewish People and its homeland, but also the connection between the Jewish People and its state. Democracy is the soul of Israel and we cannot do without it. No one can preach democracy or enlightenment to us. Zionism established an exemplary national state, a state that balances between the national needs of our people and the individual rights of every citizen in the country."
        "There is no other democracy in the Middle East. There is no other Jewish state in the world. The combination of these two lofty values expresses the foundation of our national life and anyone who would like to join us needs to recognize this."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Lessons of the Yom Kippur War - Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi
    The Israel state archives last week released the minutes of cabinet meetings held during the first days of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, revealing the decisions taken by the leadership at the time. In response, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi wrote: "The lessons learned from the war are a constant trauma, an ever-present shadow on the schools of the General Staff."
        "The intelligence surprise and the feeling of uncertainty that the war brought on serve as important insights for future military achievements, for the understanding of the size of our mission and of the great responsibility placed on us....This is the reason why after 62 years of independence, we continue to enlist every boy and girl. This is the reason why we place our reservists at the core of the army. This is also the reason why they continue to come."
        "The main lesson from the Yom Kippur War is that we must always have one finger on the pulse, we must never underestimate any enemy, we must be modest in our estimations, we must ask questions, we must cast doubt, we must know that we cannot rely on the success of yesterday, because it is no longer relevant."  (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Diplomacy by Timetable - Jackson Diehl
    In the Middle East negotiations, counterproductive timetables are multiplying. The one-year deadline for completing talks seems to have derived from a two-year deadline established last year by Obama's envoy, George Mitchell. Meanwhile, Israel's 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank has expired, prompting the administration to press for a new 60- to 90-day deadline. Once again the timetables are disconnected from a strategy.
        Is it possible that Netanyahu and Abbas can agree on the borders of a Palestinian state in less than 60 days and end the settlement debate? No. But then, what will happen when the next deadline arrives? Discussion will be forced on yet another timetable. (Washington Post)
  • Chavez's Secret Nuclear Program - Roger F. Noriega
    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been developing a nuclear program for two years with the collaboration of Iran, a nuclear rogue state. Venezuela is also helping Iran obtain uranium and evade international sanctions. Chavez's decision to rely on one of the world's worst proliferators to help develop his country's capabilities in this sensitive technology sets alarm bells ringing.
        A November 2008 contract between the Venezuelan state-run firm CVG Minerven and the Iranian government firm Impasco grants the Iranians a "gold mine" concession in the heart of the Roraima basin in the southeastern state of Bolivar, home to one of the world's largest deposits of uranium. A "cement plant" processes ore from the Impasco mine, but has yet to produce a bag of cement. Instead, it serves as a conduit for moving ore to a port on the Orinoco River where it is transferred onto Iranian-flagged vessels on the Atlantic Ocean.
        Security Council Resolution 1929, passed this June, ordered all governments to prohibit any Iranian involvement in "uranium mining, production or use of nuclear materials and technology." The writer is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere. (Foreign Policy)
  • Saudi Arabia and the New Strategic Landscape - Joshua Teitelbaum
    Since the end of the Cold War, a new strategic landscape has appeared in the Middle East. No longer dominated by a U.S.-Soviet rivalry, this new landscape is dominated by U.S.-Iranian confrontation. In this struggle, the U.S.' most important Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, plays a key role.
        As the Obama administration policies allow Iran to run out the clock on getting a nuclear weapon, it would appear from its recent policy moves that it believes Riyadh is primarily concerned with the Arab-Israeli conflict. While this is a concern in Saudi Arabia, it is far and away not the primary one. Indeed, there is no doubt that in its foreign policy Riyadh is much more worried about Iran's rise as a key regional actor. (MERIA Journal)
  • Observations:

    The Jerusalem Car Accident Video - Lenny Ben-David (Jerusalem Post)

    • A YouTube film clip spreading around the world showing an Israeli car hitting two Arab children in the Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem on Friday was horrifying. Thank God the children were not seriously injured.
    • Then came the subtext: The children were part of a gang attacking the driver with rocks. The boys, emboldened by some militant organizer, covered their faces to avoid identification. There's no doubt of their intention and premeditation. The driver was David Be'eri, a leader of the Jewish residents in Silwan. Be'eri's son was in the car.
    • Arab witnesses charged that the "settler" deliberately ran down the children. But I've now watched the clip scene-by-scene and in some parts frame-by-frame, and there's a deeper, even sinister, subtext.
    • There were as many photographers as rock-throwers. There were at least seven still photographers in addition to the video cameraman. There could have been more. Most filmed the scene from the same vantage point. Who invited them and coordinated the time and place? Who recruited the boys? Did they particularly plan to ambush David Be'eri's car?
    • Watch the clip and see how the photographers buzzed around the boy taking pictures while he was on the ground. Only one photographer went through the motion of extending a hand. Also watch as the wounded boy is manhandled and forcibly stuffed into a car against his will. That was no way to evacuate a casualty.
    • Every photographer at the scene bears responsibility for the children's injuries. They were tools in the hands of a dangerous propagandist, and their presence incited the kids. Then the cameramen stood by as a child laid injured. Until the photographers fess up as to who dispatched them, they should be treated as accomplices to the crime of endangering the children.

      The writer served as a senior Israeli diplomat in Washington.

          View the Video (YouTube)

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