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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
May 19, 2011

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Fayyad Loses Bid for Head of Palestinian Unity Government - Saleh Naami (Al Ahram-Egypt)
    Informed sources say that Salam Fayyad, the head of the Palestinian government in Ramallah, is no longer being put forward by Fatah as a candidate for the premiership in the forthcoming transitional government.
    Fayyad met with intense opposition from circles in the Fatah leadership.

Poll: Palestinian Support for Suicide Attacks Highest in Arab World (Pew Global Attitudes)
    A new survey finds that in key Arab nations and other predominantly Muslim countries, views of the U.S. remain negative, as they have been for nearly a decade. In Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan, views are even more negative than they were one year ago.
    In Jordan, Lebanon and Pakistan, most say their own governments cooperate too much with the U.S.
    In Lebanon, while nearly nine-in-ten Shia offer a positive view of Hizbullah, nine-in-ten Sunnis and three-quarters of Christians rate Hizbullah negatively.
    Recent surveys have documented a decline in support for suicide bombing and the percentage of Muslims who say this type of violence is often or sometimes justifiable stands at 10% or less in Indonesia, Turkey and Pakistan, with steep declines over the last decade in Lebanon and Jordan.
    Palestinian Muslims, however, remain an outlier on this question: 68% say suicide attacks in defense of Islam can often or sometimes be justified, a level of support essentially unchanged from 2007.
    And in Egypt, support for suicide bombing is actually on the rise - 28% believe it can be justified, up from 8% in 2007.

Iran Backs Nuke Plans Despite Earthquake Risks - George Jahn (AP)
    The leaders of earthquake-prone Iran have rejected concerns by the country's top scientists about a plan to build a national nuclear reactor network, according to an official from a member nation of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
    The official said Tuesday the report by Iranian scientists warns that "data collected since the year 2000 shows the incontrovertible risks of establishing nuclear sites in the proximity of fault lines" in Khuzestan and 19 other Iranian provinces.

Hamas MP: The Jews Were Brought to Palestine for the "Great Massacre"  (MEMRI)
    Hamas MP and cleric Yunis Al-Astal told Al-Aqsa TV on May 11, 2011:
    "The [Jews] are brought in droves to Palestine so that the Palestinians - and the Islamic nation behind them - will have the honor of annihilating the evil of this gang."
    "In just a few years, all the Zionists and the settlers will realize that their arrival in Palestine was for the purpose of the great massacre, by means of which Allah wants to relieve humanity of their evil."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Focus Is on Obama as Tensions Soar Across Mideast: 1967 Lines Under Consideration by Administration - Helene Cooper and Ethan Bronner
    A busy week of diplomacy unfolds with President Obama's address on the Middle East and his meeting with Israel's prime minister. One administration official said that there remained debate about whether Mr. Obama would formally endorse Israel's pre-1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations over a Palestinian state, a move that while not necessarily a policy shift, would send an oratorical signal that the U.S. expected Israel to make concessions.
        But Mr. Obama did not plan to present an American blueprint for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, White House officials said, and it remained unclear if he would even endorse a Palestinian state on pre-1967 lines, a move opposed, administration officials said, by his chief Middle East adviser, Dennis Ross. (New York Times)
  • Obama Imposes Sanctions on Syrian Leader, 6 Aides - Joby Warrick and Liz Sly
    The Obama administration ramped up the pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday with economic sanctions that targeted his personal finances and linked him explicitly to human rights abuses in his government's brutal crackdown on demonstrators. "President al-Assad and his regime must immediately end the use of violence, answer the calls of the Syrian people for a more representative government and embark upon the path of meaningful democratic reform," David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department's acting undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in announcing the move. (Washington Post)
  • Muslim Brotherhood Raises Syria Profile - Nour Malas
    Despite years of shifting alliances and a recent internal struggle for leadership, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood's role as one of the oldest organized antigovernment movements could prove effective amid the power void of Syria's opposition. Last summer, Muhammad Riad al-Shakfa succeeded Ali Bayanouni as the Syrian Brotherhood's leader, raising concerns that gains made under Bayanouni to shift the movement to the center would be reversed. The party under Shakfa, seen as taking a harder line, found itself "sitting on the sidelines of history" as the Arab Spring swept into Syria.
        "People on the street are getting tired, they're running out of resources, and they don't have that much experience," said one protest coordinator outside Syria. "They recognize, and we have to recognize, that the Brothers are better organized and better funded."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Ex-IAEA Official Adds Weight to Syria Atom Suspicion - Fredrik Dahl
    Satellite images and other information indicate Syria was building a covert atomic reactor when Israel bombed the site in 2007, a former senior UN nuclear inspector said on Tuesday. Olli Heinonen, who stepped down as deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2010, said "satellite imagery, procurement, and infrastructure information tend to point (in the) direction that the destroyed building at Dair Alzour was, indeed, a nuclear reactor at an advanced state of construction."
        Western diplomats expect the IAEA to say in its next quarterly report that it believes the Syrian facility was a reactor under construction. The U.S. and its European allies are expected to seize on this finding to push for a decision at a June 6-10 IAEA meeting to send the file to the UN Security Council. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Russians Wanted IDF Attache as Double Agent
    After Russia's expulsion of Israel's military attache, IDF Col. Vadim Leiderman, on allegations of espionage, new reports claim that Russian intelligence tried to recruit him as a double agent. Leiderman refused to cooperate and was therefore expelled. (Globes)
  • Turkish Flotilla Organizer IHH Condemned Bin Laden Killing
    The Turkish IHH, which played a central role in organizing last year's as well as the upcoming flotilla to Gaza, joined other Turkish Islamist organizations in denouncing the killing of Osama bin Laden by the Americans. On May 5 at a press conference in Istanbul, IHH representative Osman Atalay said that killing bin Laden had been clearly illegal, and called for the condemnation of "American terrorism."  (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
        See also Turkey, the Global Muslim Brotherhood, and the Gaza Flotilla - Steven G. Merley (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Hamas Insists: No Talks with Israel - Elior Levy
    Hamas spokesman Mahmoud al-Zahar insisted his organization would not negotiate with Israel despite a statement to the contrary made by Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal, the Palestinian paper Al-Quds reported Wednesday. "We do not agree to such negotiations and do not encourage them - just the opposite," he said. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Hamas Poisons Peace Process - Rep. Eric Cantor and Rep. Peter Roskam
    Don't be fooled by Hamas apologists in the West, who refuse to accept Hamas at its word. Let us not blind ourselves to Hamas' genocidal outlook. This [Fatah-Hamas] reconciliation does not mean Hamas will moderate itself. It means the PA is dealing a death blow to a troubled peace process, in which it has seldom demonstrated the courage to engage.
        Under the new accord, for the first time, Hamas TV broadcasts are to be sent into the West Bank. Shows designed to poison the minds of young Palestinians by lauding the ways of jihad and perpetuating hateful lies about Israel, Jews and the U.S. will likely further radicalize the West Bank. Remember, these are the same broadcasts that notoriously aired a Mickey Mouse-like cartoon character teaching children to "annihilate the Jews." The U.S. must use every tool in our diplomatic arsenal to make clear that we will not tolerate a Palestinian government that includes Hamas. (Politico)
  • Confrontation along Israel's Borders: New Realities and a New Challenge - Mordechai Kedar
    For years, I have been hearing of plans by Palestinian refugees in Gaza, Lebanon and Syria to march en masse toward the Israeli border, under the watchful, headline-making eye of the international media. The violent confrontations along Israel's borders of this past Sunday were made possible by a number of regional and diplomatic factors that have coalesced together. First and foremost is the development of a "Yes, we can" sentiment - the belief that unarmed masses can overcome and defeat dictators. Another element is the link between Syria, Lebanon and Gaza - the Iranian link. These three arenas are all under the influence of the ayatollahs.
        When Israel's enemies see it compromising its core principles under external pressure, hopes rise that additional pressure will be rewarded with further concessions. Strong pressure from Palestinian refugees, for instance, will lead war-weary Israelis to give up on that point too - Israel's adversaries think. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • What Other Surprises Are the Palestinians Preparing for Israel? - Jacques Neriah
    One of the main components of Israel's security is the deterrence factor Israel projects towards its enemies. The unarmed confrontation with Israel on May 15 - led by demonstrators marching towards the border while chanting slogans - was a first. As one of the participants put it: "Without weapons, with our bare hands, we succeeded in crossing the border....Tomorrow, with Allah's will, we will reach and liberate Jerusalem and the whole of Palestine." Israel must find the resolve and ingenuity to deal with unarmed demonstrators. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Mahmoud Abbas' Formula for War - Jackson Diehl (Washington Post)

  • Desperate to jump-start an Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Obama administration and its European allies are piling pressure on Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, demanding that he offer a plan, concessions - something - that will provide the basis for starting negotiations with Palestinians.
  • Yet the leader of the Palestinian "moderate" branch, Mahmoud Abbas, is not only refusing to make any concessions of his own but is also turning his back on American diplomacy - and methodically setting the stage for another Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Two weeks ago, Abbas blew up four years of U.S.-sponsored institution-building, relative peace and growing prosperity in the West Bank by signing a "reconciliation" agreement with Hamas - a deal that probably will obligate him to fire his progressive prime minister, release scores of jailed Hamas militants and bond his security forces with Hamas' Iranian-equipped army.
  • On Tuesday, he published an op-ed in the New York Times in which he committed himself to seeking a UN General Assembly vote on Palestinian statehood in September. Yet Obama persists in telling Jewish leaders and members of Congress that "Abbas is ready to make peace."
  • The record of the past several years suggests something very different. In 2008, Abbas refused to accept a far-reaching peace offer from Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, even as a basis for discussion; nor would he make a counteroffer. For two years he has stoutly resisted peace talks with Netanyahu, even while conceding that the nominal reason for his intransigence - Israel's refusal to freeze settlements - was forced on him by Obama.

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