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October 21, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Increases Stockpile of 20-Percent-Enriched Uranium (Fars-Iran)
    The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), Ali Akbar Salehi, announced on Wednesday that the country has, thus far, produced almost 30 kg of 20%-enriched uranium.
    Salehi said in June that Iran is potentially capable of producing 5 kg of 20% enriched uranium per month.

Blast in Hamas Compound in Gaza Wounds Five Children - Ibrahim Barzak (AP)
    A powerful explosion ripped through a Hamas military compound in a densely crowded neighborhood in Rafah in Gaza on Wednesday, wounding five children, three women and five others, Hamas said.
    The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights has repeatedly called on Hamas not to store explosives in civilian areas.
    Internal explosions are common, with bombs and rockets going off prematurely. A similar explosion in August wounded 58 people and destroyed seven houses.

Hizbullah Riding on a Wave of Confidence - Daniel Steinvorth (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    When Hizbullah organizes a major rally, al-Wilaya is always there - a revolutionary choir of young bearded men wearing paratrooper boots and brown combat uniforms - who sing about "glorious martyrs" and the "bloodsucker America."
    For weeks now, a new song by al-Wilaya has been booming from the loudspeakers of street cafes in southern Beirut - dedicated to Ahmadinejad: "You noble knight from Persia, you pride of the nations."
    "Even if Hizbullah is perhaps nothing more than a plaything of the Iranians, the Lebanese Shiites are enjoying finally being recognized as the strongest voice in the country," says Beirut political scientist Hilal Khashan.
    However, Shiite publisher and filmmaker Lokman Slim, 48, says, "The world unrelentingly overestimates Hizbullah as a parliamentary force."
    "If there were truly free elections in Lebanon, which were not based on religious proportional representation, group pressure and corruption, Hizbullah would certainly not be the strongest party among the Shiites," he believes.

Egypt's Christians Fed to Muslim "Lions" - Raymond Ibrahim (Hudson Institute New York)
    A prominent Egyptian, Muhammad Salim al-Awwa, ex-secretary general of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, appeared on Al Jazeera on Sep. 15, and accused Egypt's Coptic Christian minority of "stocking arms and ammunition in their churches and monasteries" - arms imported from Israel, no less, as "Israel is in the heart of the Coptic Cause" - and "preparing to wage war against Muslims."
    To make matters worse, Islamist leaders began to circulate baseless rumors that the Church and Pope Shenouda III "kidnap" Coptic women, who willingly convert to Islam, and torture and re-indoctrinate them back to Christianity.
    Since last month there have been at least ten mass demonstrations in Egypt condemning the Copts, who make up 12% of the population.
    The government not only has not prevented or dispersed the increasingly rabid demonstrations, but Egyptian security actually facilitates, and sometimes participates, in them.
    As history teaches, whenever a majority group casts all its woes onto a minority group, tragedy often follows.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinians Shift Focus in Strategy for Statehood - Ethan Bronner
    The Palestinian leadership is increasingly focusing on how to get international bodies and courts to declare a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem. Israeli officials reject the moves as unacceptable and a violation of the 1993 Oslo accords that govern Israeli-Palestinian relations. The Israelis say that what is really going on is a Palestinian effort to secure a state without having to make the difficult decisions on the borders and settlements that negotiations would entail.
        One effort under way is at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, which on Wednesday heard arguments on whether the Palestinian Authority could be recognized by the court in its charges against Israel's conduct in the 2008-9 Gaza war. The court only permits states to bring cases.
        Dore Gold, a former Israeli UN ambassador, said in a telephone interview from The Hague that granting the Palestinians statehood by the ICC violated their treaties with Israel, "which state that the sides will not initiate one-sided steps that will change the status quo until the final status agreements." "If they win here, the big story that will come out of this is that one of the main legal bodies in the international community, the International Criminal Court, acknowledges that the Palestinian Authority already constitutes a state," he said. (New York Times/AP)
  • Israel Not Expected to Oppose $60 Billion U.S.-Saudi Arms Deal
    The U.S. Defense Department notified Congress on Wednesday it wants to sell to Saudi Arabia up to $60 billion in weapons to help confront threats from Iran and violent extremists. The proposed sale includes F-15 fighter jets, attack helicopters and satellite-guided bombs.
        Israel isn't asking Congress for any particular steps in relation to the sale. "We're not thrilled about it," said Jonathan Peled, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Still, "we have a good, continuous and close dialogue with the administration and a strong, ongoing commitment to maintain Israel's military edge."  (Bloomberg)
  • Iran, Trying to Skirt Sanctions, Attempts to Set Up Banks Worldwide - Glenn Kessler
    Iran is secretly trying to set up banks in Muslim countries around the world, including Iraq and Malaysia, using dummy names and opaque ownership structures to skirt sanctions that have increasingly curtailed the Islamic republic's global banking activities, U.S. officials say. Matthew Levitt, a former Treasury Department official and director of a counterterrorism and intelligence program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the banking operations, even if successfully created in other countries, are likely to be small-scale and insufficient to make up for the volume of banking activity Iran has lost. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Don't Let Palestinians Use UN to Bypass Negotiations - Herb Keinon
    Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Wednesday there is increasing concern that the Palestinians may go to the UN and ask for recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 lines, or for a resolution declaring the settlements illegal. Hoenlein said what was needed now was to work to ensure that the Americans, Europeans and others realize that a knee-jerk response to this type of proposal would be counterproductive. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Obama Should End Unilateral Statehood Threat
    Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman called on the Obama administration to "close all doors" to a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. "The Palestinians are engaged in an effort to see if they can preemptively establish a state," Foxman said. "They seem to be engaged in this fantasy that the world will deliver them a state with very little. What it takes is for the U.S. to close every exit door and say 'Get off this kick, you will not have our support.'"  (JTA)
  • Gaza Flotilla Received Assistance from Turkish Government - Chaim Levinson
    Data found on a laptop of a Polish journalist, Ewa Jasiwicz, a passenger on the Gaza flotilla, indicates that the flotilla's organizers received assistance from the highest levels of the Turkish government, including Prime Minister Erdogan and other senior government officials. A record of a May 16 meeting held in Istanbul between the heads of the organizations involved and the captains of the vessels notes: "Turkey - Government did not announce openly support for the mission at first; but [in the] last few days, [we have been] getting direct support from PM and other ministers."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Obama and the Coming Palestinian State - John Bolton
    Direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, for 21 months the centerpiece of Obama administration Middle East policy, are moving inevitably toward collapse. Several ideas are circulating to skip bothersome negotiations with Israel and move immediately to Palestinian "statehood." In one, the PA would persuade the U.S. to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, within the pre-1967 cease-fire lines (often characterized, wrongly, as "borders"). The other would have the UN Security Council call upon UN members to recognize "Palestine" within those lines.
        Israel would then confront a dramatic change in its international posture. Customary international law's definition of "statehood" requires that a putative state have clear boundaries. This is why the potential Security Council resolution would refer to Palestine as a state within the "1967 borders." A Security Council resolution fixing the 1967 lines as borders would call into question even Israel's legitimacy, dramatically undercutting prospects for security and defensibility. By defining "Palestine" to include territory Israel considers its own, such a resolution would delegitimize both Israel's authority and settlements beyond the 1967 lines, and its goal of an undivided Jerusalem as its capital. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Middle East Peace Talks Impasse - Benjamin Kerstein
    The Middle East peace process appears to have reached an impasse, which was more or less expected. Neither Israel nor the Palestinians were particularly interested in negotiations in the first place. Politically, economically, and psychologically, the time could not be less ripe for serious talks dealing with the most sensitive final status issues.
        Obama has demanded next to nothing of the Palestinians, and he seems unlikely to do so in the future. As such, his next step will likely be to further pressure Israel for concessions. Netanyahu, however, has conceded all that he can without toppling his own government, and since pressure from Obama serves only to strengthen the prime minister's support among the Israeli public, he has no motivation of any kind to acquiesce to it. (Pajamas Media)
  • Start Planning for Palestinian Refugee Resettlement - Kenneth Bandler
    The staff of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), numbering some 27,000, is four times the size of the workforce of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), deployed in every other conflict where refugees need help. The Arab world's refusal to integrate Palestinian refugees and the generosity of Western governments in providing more than 95% of UNRWA's funding has assured its existence. The U.S. provides more than 25% of UNRWA's $500 million annual budget. Arab nations account for about 1%.
        In sharp contrast to the Palestinians, the 900,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands, also a product of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, were successfully absorbed in Israel and other countries around the world. The writer is the American Jewish Committee's director of communications. (Miami Herald)
  • Observations:

    Is Jerusalem Sacred for Muslims? - Hagai Mazuz and Harold Rhode (Hudson Institute New York)

    • Muslims were initially commanded to pray toward Jerusalem. But when the Jews refused to convert to Islam, Muhammad changed the prayer direction toward Mecca. Islamic sources from the first 50 years after Muhammad's death make clear that Jerusalem had absolutely no holy status for Muslims.
    • Some centuries later, Muslim cleric Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) wrote extensively about Jerusalem, and how there were only two holy cities in Islam - Mecca and Medina. He eventually became the intellectual godfather of Wahhabism, the dominant Islamic doctrine of the Saudi government.
    • Ibn Taymiyya went to great lengths to explain that the veneration of Jerusalem is nothing more than the "Judaization" of Islam and that Muslims must rid themselves of all non-Muslim innovations and return to the early Islam of Muhammad.
    • He wrote that after the second caliph 'Umar conquered Jerusalem in 637, he and his aide Ka'b al-Ahobar [a Jewish convert to Islam] went up to view the Temple Mount. 'Umar decided to build the place to pray on the southern part of the Temple Mount - the place today known as the Aqsa Mosque. 'Umar's choice of location meant that the Muslims bowed down only to Mecca and that their backs (rear ends) were facing the Rock on the Temple Mount.
    • Ibn Taymiyya wondered how Muslim clerics could have accepted Ka'b's attempts to incorporate Jewish traditions into Islam, because Ka'b did not cite any of Muhammad's companions as the source of his claim. Ibn Taymiyya also accused Ka'b of fabricating Muslim traditions and incorporating Jewish writings, i.e., the Bible, Talmud, etc., into Islam.
    • So how did Jerusalem become holy in Islam? In the 680s, a civil war erupted among the Muslims. The caliph who ruled from Damascus wanted to put down a revolt by the people who controlled Mecca. In order to weaken them, he chose to build a dome over the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and to encourage people to make pilgrimages there instead of to Mecca. So in essence, Jerusalem's sanctity to Muslims stems from a local revolt which occurred some 50-plus years after Muhammad's death.

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