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November 24, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Egypt's Islamists - Aryn Baker and Abigail Hauslohner (TIME)
    When Egyptians go to the polls Nov. 28, all of the candidates of the country's largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, will be on the ballot as "independents," a transparent subterfuge that allowed the group to win one-fifth of parliamentary seats five years ago. The government argues that religion has no role in Egyptian politics.
    Founded in Egypt in 1928, its Islamist teachings have inspired violent groups like Hamas. Both Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri were influenced by the movement's embrace of political Islam.
    Gen. Fouad Allam, a former chief of Egypt's internal security services, raises the specter of an Islamist takeover of a key U.S. ally and describes a scenario in which Egypt's current peace treaty with Israel "would change 100%."
    The group has long been a vociferous critic of Israel. The Brotherhood's prescription for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is total abandonment of peace talks, coupled with international support for Palestinian armed resistance. Not surprisingly, Israel views the Brotherhood warily.

A Second Look at the Silwan Incident (YouTube)
    A Jewish resident of Jerusalem was caught in a well-planned ambush by Arab rock-throwers, a media event with a number of photographers prepared to document the ambush.
    The adults are hiding behind the children. In the video we can see the faces of the ones who arranged the ambush - a number of Fatah leaders from Silwan.
    Are we seeing a settler who had run over children who had just finished their prayers in a mosque, or a man who was caught in a dangerous ambush that was laid by terrorists?
    See also Video - Controversy in Jerusalem: The City Of David - Lesley Stahl ("60 Minutes"-CBS News); Read Transcript

Princeton to Vote on Boycotting Israeli Hummus - Samson Schatz (Daily Princetonian)
    The Princeton Committee on Palestine has asked for a student referendum on offering an alternative to Sabra hummus, a creamy, chickpea delicacy, in all university retail locations.
    50% of Sabra Dipping Company is owned by PepsiCo, and 50% is owned by the Strauss Group, an Israeli company.
    The Strauss Group sponsors a range of community outreach programs, including raising money for premature infants in Serbia and providing scholarship funds to children with cancer. The Strauss Group also provides care packages of free hummus to Israeli soldiers.
    PCP is encouraging you to vote for a clause that starts down the road of delegitimizing the State of Israel, because it targets an Israeli company for feeding the soldiers in its own country's army.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Report Suggests Problems with Iran's Nuclear Effort - William J. Broad
    International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors reported Tuesday that when visiting the main Iranian enrichment plant at Natanz on Nov. 16, they found that engineers had stopped feeding uranium into the long rows of centrifuges. Six days later, Iran said it had restarted the process. Independent experts suggested that the computer worm suspected of being aimed at Iran's nuclear program had caused the machines to break down. David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, said the new disclosures made incapacitation from the Stuxnet worm "sound more credible."
        American officials have not claimed responsibility for the worm, but they do say the Obama administration has stepped up a broad covert program, inherited from the Bush administration, to undermine Iran's nuclear program.
        The report added that the atomic agency "remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear-related activities," including "development of a nuclear payload for a missile."  (New York Times)
        See also IAEA Report Confirms Iran Temporarily Shut Down Centrifuges - Glenn Kessler
    "The shutdown is definitely interesting," said Ivanka Barzashka, research associate at the Federation of American Scientists. "It is consistent with replacing all of the software operating your controls." The Institute for Science and International Security in Washington noted that nearly 4,000 centrifuges sit idle at the facility, and the average monthly production of low-enriched uranium per centrifuge declined by about 10%. (Washington Post)
  • IAEA Report: Syria's Nuclear Stonewalling Deepens - Sylvia Westall and Fredrik Dahl
    Syria is refusing UN nuclear inspectors access to multiple suspect sites and has provided scant or inconsistent information about its atomic activities, an International Atomic Energy Agency report showed. For over two years Syria has blocked IAEA access to the remains of a desert site which U.S. intelligence reports say was a nascent North Korean-designed nuclear reactor to produce bomb fuel. The site, known as either al-Kibar or Dair Alzour, was bombed to rubble by Israel in 2007. The report showed Syria dodging agency questions about nuclear material, failing to keep to an inspection and monitoring plan agreed to earlier this year, and giving inconsistent information in letters to the IAEA. (Reuters)
  • Gambia Deals Blow to Iran's Africa Diplomacy - Najmeh Bozorgmehr and William Wallis
    Painstaking efforts by President Ahmadinejad of Iran to build support in Africa were dealt a blow on Tuesday when the west African state of Gambia gave Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave, in a move that appears linked to the seizure in Nigeria last month of an Iranian consignment of rockets and explosives. The Nigerian authorities believe that the arms supplies were destined for Gambia. (Financial Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Jerusalem Sources Contradict U.S. Reports of Deal Progress
    Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said there has not been progress in reaching a deal with the U.S. on a West Bank construction freeze, Army Radio reported on Wednesday. Reports coming from Washington on Tuesday had said that the two parties finalized the text of such a deal. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Report: U.S. Completes Letter on Freeze Deal - Hilary Leila Krieger and Herb Keinon
    The parties have finalized the text for the U.S. letter to Israel concerning the terms of a renewed settlement freeze, according to Middle East expert David Makovsky. Makovsky, who spoke at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Tuesday, referred to a "verbal affirmation" from Netanyahu to Secretary of State Clinton that there would be "meaningful progress" on border issues during the 90-day freeze. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Calls on PA to Distance Itself from Western Wall "Study" - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev called on the Palestinian leadership Tuesday to publicly disassociate itself from the PA "study" denying Jewish claims to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. "Denying the Jewish connection to the Western Wall is to deny reality. If you deny the Jewish connection to the Western Wall you are in fact denying the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Land of Israel itself," Regev said. "When they deny the Jewish connection, they are unfortunately raising very serious questions as to their true commitment to reconciliation."
        Regev said this type of statement was to be expected from "Ahmadinejad's Iran, Hizbullah or Hamas, but to deny the Jewish connection to the Western Wall is something that we wouldn't expect from a partner in peace, and I call upon the Palestinian leadership, President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, to publicly disassociate themselves from it."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • View from Middle East: President Obama Is a Problem - Ben Smith
    President Obama's peace process is viewed almost universally in Israel as a mistake-riddled fantasy. Talks with Arab states over gestures intended to build Israeli confidence - a key part of Obama's initial plan - have long since been scrapped. And in the world's most pro-American state, the public and its leaders have lost any faith in Obama and - increasingly - even in the notion of a politically negotiated peace. Virtually nobody in Israel who isn't required by the logic of politics to express public faith in the political process of peace talks has much faith that the talks will lead anywhere. (Politico)
  • Palestine Aid Models Must Change - Kieron Monks
    The Palestinians are one of the world's largest beneficiaries of foreign aid, receiving over $3 billion annually (not including the budget of UNRWA itself). In 2009, over 60% of Palestine's gross national income, and almost 100% of government expenditure, came from aid. PA budgets allocate ten times more money to security than to agriculture.
        The Palestinians' NGO sector has become a byword for corruption, incompetence and meaningless job creation. Thousands of NGOs have sprung up, bloating the aid industry without delivering long-term benefits. Naseef Mu'allem, director-general of the Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy, revealed that "JICA - the Japanese government aid mission - invested $5 million last year, but practically what they spent is $600,000. The rest is given as salaries, accommodation, hotels...and transportation for the foreign employees here but not for the Palestinians."  (Guardian-UK)
  • Stop Pretending Jerusalem Is an Obstacle to Peace - Nathan Diament
    Jerusalem, the historic capital of Israel, should not be an impediment to Mideast peace. But thanks to the current intransigence of Palestinian leaders, that is precisely what it has become. The Palestinian demand for a total construction freeze in Jerusalem as a precondition for talks is a new demand. Construction in Jerusalem has never been an impediment to peace or peace negotiations. Historic agreements were reached with both Egypt and Jordan despite ongoing construction in the city. More than 15 years of construction in Jerusalem went on while Israel held meaningful peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.
        Dividing a city never works. No city in all of recorded history has been cleaved into two halves without damaging the whole. Jerusalem must be unified under a single flag that recognizes and guarantees the rights of all its citizens. It is time for the U.S. government to make that point clear - rather than continuing to equate building in Jerusalem with building elsewhere in disputed land. At some point during any successful peace negotiations, the Palestinian leadership will have to choose between an opportunity to build a Palestinian state, or pursuing a weak and unrealistic claim to Israel's capital. The writer is director of public policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. (New York Daily News)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Critics Are Afraid of Democracy - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)

    • Israel's Knesset vote to require a referendum to ratify any peace deal that involved the surrender of Jerusalem or the Golan Heights is being slammed in the Arab world as well as by other foes of the Jewish state.
    • Any Israeli government that chose to sign an agreement that called for the re-division of Jerusalem or handing the strategic Golan Heights back to Syria would be strengthened by the knowledge that their decisions would have to be ratified by the people. A referendum would give any peace deal the seal of democratic approval that it must have to succeed.
    • But what most of those who have commented about this measure don't mention is that so long as the political culture of the Palestinians regards the acceptance of a Jewish state as anathema no matter where its borders might be drawn or who controls Jerusalem, then any discussion of a referendum to ratify a peace deal is more science fiction than political science.
    • After 17 years of fruitless concessions made in the name of peace, most Israelis have understandably grown cynical about a process that has proved to be an exchange of land for terror, not peace. If Abbas wants to change their minds, all he has to do is be willing to make peace and demonstrate to Israel's people that he means it. Israeli democracy would be the best guarantee of a two-state solution, if only he were prepared to act as if he actually wanted one.

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