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July 8, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

Syria Condemns U.S. Ambassador's Visit to Hama (Al-Jazeera-Qatar)
    Syria has accused Washington of "interfering" in its affairs by sending its ambassador to the restive city of Hama.
    Robert Ford toured the city on Thursday to show solidarity with residents facing a security crackdown after weeks of demonstrations against Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president.
    "The presence of the U.S. ambassador in Hama without previous permission is obvious proof of clear evidence of the United States' involvement in current events in Syria and its attempt to incite an escalation in the situation, which disturbs Syria's security and stability," the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Israel Prohibits Brazil from Selling UAVs to Venezuela or Bolivia (El Universal-Venezuela)
    Brazil will start manufacturing unmanned aircraft with help from Israel, thus allowing the South American country to control drug trafficking in its border areas.
    However, Miki Bar, a representative of IAI, which manufactures the UAVs, said Brazil was not authorized to sell the aircraft to its neighbors, the Bolivian newspaper Pagina Siete reported.
    Venezuela's Hugo Chavez expelled Israel's ambassador in 2009 in solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

New Flotilla Song from Latma (Jerusalem Post)
    In the immediate aftermath of last year's flotilla to Gaza, Latma, a satirical media criticism website, produced the video clip "We Con the World" which received millions of views.
    On Thursday, Latma released a new video clip on the latest attempted flotilla to Gaza: The Audacity of Dopes Band brings you "Guns, Guns, Guns!"
    View the Video (Latma-YouTube)

Switzerland Freezes Syrian Assets; Money Smuggled to Lebanon (Albawaba-Jordan)
    The Swiss government has announced that it has frozen 27 million Swiss francs ($31.8 million) belonging to senior Syrian officials as part of Swiss sanctions imposed on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
    There are reports that senior Syrian officials have recently smuggled $20 billion to Lebanon, highlighting growing fears of the imminent collapse of the current Syrian regime. 

Egyptian Natural Gas Supply to Israel Resumes (Reuters)
    Supply of Egyptian natural gas to Israel has resumed, Ampal-American Israel Corp., a shareholder in East Mediterranean Gas Co., said Wednesday.
    Saboteurs blew up a pipeline carrying gas from Egypt to Israel and Jordan on Monday in the third attack this year.
    Israel Electric Corp. said the gas that was flowing from Egypt was equivalent to only 30-40% of the contractual amount due to be supplied.

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The Economic Case for Supporting Israel - George Gilder (Wall Street Journal)
    Israel cruised through the recent global slump with scarcely a down quarter and no deficit or stimulus package.
    It is behind only the U.S. in an array of leading-edge technologies.
    In the face of a global campaign to boycott its goods, it raised its exports 19.9% in 2010's fourth quarter and 27.3% in the first quarter of 2011.
    Tiny Israel's unparalleled achievements have become vital to the U.S. economy and military capabilities.
    U.S. defense and prosperity increasingly depend on the ever-growing economic and technological power of Israel. We need Israel as much as it needs us.

80 Percent of IDF Recruits Ask to Serve as Combat Soldiers - Avihai Chiim (Israel Defense Forces)
    "Last year, 80% of recruits requested to serve as combat soldiers," Maj.-Gen. Orna Barbivai, head of the IDF Human Resources Directorate, said Tuesday.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel, Europe Turn Back Pro-Palestinian Activists at Airports - Jeremy Last
    Scores of pro-Palestinian protesters trying to reach Israel were blocked at airports in Europe and two American activists who arrived in Israel were deported Friday, Israeli officials said. Israel had asked foreign airlines to prevent blacklisted travelers from boarding Israel-bound flights. At Israel's request, several airlines barred about 200 would-be protesters from boarding flights to Israel from Europe, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. (AP)
        See also Israel Asks Foreign Airlines to Block Departure of Pro-Palestinian Activists - Zohar Blumenkrantz
    Israel's Transportation Ministry has asked foreign airlines to report to Israeli authorities if any on a list of 300 blacklisted passengers appear on their flights to Israel in the next 24 hours, stressing that these people will not be granted entry into Israel and that the foreign airlines would need to fly them back to their countries of origin after they were deported. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Gaza Fly-In Hits Turbulence - Yair Altman
    About 50 passengers at the Lufthansa terminal at Paris' De Gaulle airport were turned back Friday, after French authorities discovered their names were included on Israel's list. The Hungarian airline Malev stopped dozens of French activists from boarding its plane in Paris. In Brussels, three Frenchmen were denied boarding a Swiss airline flight heading to Israel. Authorities at Geneva International Airport prevented 50 passengers from boarding a flight to Israel. The group caused a small ruckus and tried to barge through the airport's security gate. (Ynet News)
  • U.S. House Warns Palestinians on Statehood Bid
    In an overwhelming 406-6 vote [13 answered "present"], the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday warned the Palestinians that they risk cuts in U.S. aid if they pursue UN recognition of a future state not defined in direct talks with Israel. The symbolic resolution sent a stern message to the Palestinians one week after the U.S. Senate unanimously approved a similar measure. "Any Palestinian unity government must publicly and formally forswear terrorism, accept Israel's right to exist, and reaffirm previous agreements made with Israel," says the resolution, crafted by Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Democratic House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. It warned of "serious implications for the United States assistance programs for the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority" if they seek UN recognition of a future state. (AFP)
  • Captured Gaddafi Soldiers Tell of Low Morale in Libyan Army - Ernesto Londono
    Beleaguered by NATO's bombing campaign, low morale and desertions, the Libyan army is relying heavily on fighters from sub-Saharan Africa as Moammar Gaddafi's government struggles to beat back rebels forces east and west of the capital, captured fighters said in interviews. The detainees said that as many as half the forces deployed by the Gaddafi regime to the front lines come from countries such as Niger and Mali. (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. House Rejects Bid to Halt Funding of Military Operations Against Libya - Felicia Sonmez
    The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday rejected a measure that would have withdrawn funding for U.S. military operations in Libya in a 199 to 229 vote. (Washington Post)
  • The UN Human Rights Council's Expert on Israel - Gabriel Latner
    On June 29, Richard Falk, the UN Human Rights Council's expert on Israel, posted a cartoon on his blog depicting Lady Justice, with robes and scales, holding a dog by a leash. The dog is eating a dead body. On closer examination, the dog is wearing a coat that says "U.S.A.," as well as a skullcap decorated with the Star of David, the emblem the Jewish people. After a reader sent Falk a link showing the cartoon on his own website, Falk wrote: “Maybe I do not understand the cartoon, and if it offends in this way I have removed it from the blog. It may be in bad taste to an extent I had not earlier appreciated, but I certainly didn't realize that it could be viewed as anti-semitic [sic], and still do not realize."  (National Post-Canada)
        See also U.S. Calls on Richard Falk to Resign from UN Rights Council
    Ambassador Eileen Donahoe, U.S. Representative to the UN Human Rights Council, issued the following statement on Thursday: "I am repulsed by the recent cartoon posting to the personal blog written by Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on "the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967."
        "Mr. Falk's continued comments and postings to his personal blog are deeply offensive, and I condemn them in the strongest terms. I am registering a strong protest with the UN on behalf of the United States. The United States has often been critical of Mr. Falk's approach to his mandate, including his one-sided and politicized view of situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. We hope that he will resign, recognizing that his continued status as a UN mandate holder is a blight on the UN system."  (U.S. Mission to the UN in Geneva)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Gaza Flotilla Founders - Yaakov Katz
    The protest flotilla to Gaza seemed to come to an end on Thursday, when organizers decided to send more than half of the activists in Athens home. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Unity Deal on Hold - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah has been put on hold, Aziz Dweik, a senior Hamas representative in the West Bank, said on Wednesday. Hamas and Fatah have failed to agree on a prime minister to head a new Palestinian unity government. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel to Recognize South Sudan - Ilan Lior and Barak Ravid
    Israel is expected to recognize South Sudan as an independent state in the coming weeks, according to sources at the Foreign Ministry. South Sudan will declare its independence on Saturday. Israel plans to announce recognition immediately after the U.S. and EU countries do so. The Foreign Ministry has been exchanging secret messages with the government of South Sudan for a long time.
        In October 2010, the president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, declared that Israel is not an enemy and that he will weigh diplomatic relations with it, including the opening of an Israeli embassy. Nearly 2,000 refugees from South Sudan are living in Israel and, following the establishment of diplomatic relations, Israel will seek to repatriate most of them. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Arab World

  • The Arab Spring Has Given Way to a Long, Hot Summer - Richard N. Haass
    Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya have had their turn; now Syria occupies center stage. Syria's future rests on whether a handful of Alawite generals are prepared to keep killing their fellow citizens to preserve the Assad regime and, more fundamentally, Alawite primacy. Syria's violence is just one further sign that the promise of the Arab spring has given way to a long, hot summer in which the geopolitics of the Middle East are being reset for the worse.
        The effects go wider still. Relations between Israelis and Palestinians are increasingly strained. Israelis are more reluctant than ever to make concessions in light of the disarray on their borders, while the new voice for Arab publics emerging from the upheavals makes it more difficult for Arab governments to compromise. The Quartet needs to work with, not dictate to, local parties. Launching a new negotiation is surely preferable to taking the issue to the UN General Assembly, where positions are likely to harden. The writer is president of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Financial Times-UK)
  • The Arab Spring Is an Economic Revolt - Fouad Ajami
    For generations the Arab populations had bartered away their political freedom for economic protection. They rose in rebellion when it dawned on them that the bargain had not worked, that the system of subsidies, and the promise of equality held out by the autocrats, had proven a colossal failure. The old order of merchants and landholders was upended in the 1950s and '60s by a political and military class that assumed supreme power in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Algeria and Yemen. As a rule, they hailed from the underclass and they put the merchant classes to flight.
        In the 1950s the Jews, Greeks, and Italians who had figured prominently in the economic life of Egypt were sent packing, taking with them their skills. In Iraq, the Jews of the country, on its soil for well over two millennia, were dispossessed and banished in 1950-51. In Syria, the Alawites, the religious sect to which the Assad clan belongs, had been poor peasants and sharecroppers, but political and military power raised them to new heights. If the tremendous upheaval at play in Arab lands is driven by a desire to capture state power - and the economic prerogatives that come with political power - the revolution will reproduce the failures of the past. The writer is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Syrian Rebellion
    Could the central Syrian city of Hama come to define Bashar Assad's rule in the same way it did his father's? Over 70 were shot dead during protests on June 3. Fearing escalation beyond its control, the regime temporarily pulled out most forces. Free to protest, tens of thousands took to the streets. Some reports suggest 300,000 people, including women and children, turned out on July 1, the biggest protest to date.
        Today's protesters have different aims and use different means to fight the regime. Far from being violent Islamists, many wish for a secular democracy and have not picked up weapons - at least not so far. "We were left to die the first time. We won't this time," says one defiant city resident. Like his father, Bashar could forever be tainted by blood shed in Hama. The city has unmatched reserves of defiance that make it the most likely site of an eventual bid by protesters to win control of territory and hold on to it. (Economist-UK)

  • Other Issues

  • Flotilla Diplomacy Proves the Importance of Hard Power - Evelyn Gordon
    With diplomatic efforts to stop this year's flotilla to Gaza a seeming success, a new myth has arisen: The success of this year's effort proves Israel could also have stopped last year's flotilla without bloodshed had it only been a bit smarter. But the sorry truth is Israel's diplomatic efforts succeeded this time only because of its willingness to use force last year.
        Last year Israel tried desperately to stop the flotilla peacefully. It negotiated frantically with Turkey, but Ankara reneged at the last minute. It begged the countries whence the ships were sailing (Turkey, Greece and Ireland) not to let them depart, but to no avail: The unanimous response was democracies can't bar peaceful demonstrators from sailing the high seas. So why was it suddenly okay for democratic countries to intervene this year? Because this year, they had an excuse: The intervention was meant to prevent bloodshed. (Commentary)
  • The Flotilla Flop - Roz Rothstein and Roberta Seid
    The "Free Gaza" Flotilla II campaign appears to be a flop. Leaders of the international community essentially pulled the plug on what they recognized as a potentially dangerous anti-Israel publicity stunt. The International Red Cross said there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and whatever goods are needed can be delivered through legal, official entry points. It is now clear that members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas organized and raised money for the flotilla. Roz Rothstein is CEO and Dr. Roberta Seid is Education/Research Director of StandWithUs. (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
  • Face the Enemy - Mario Loyola
    Many of the flotilla supporters are pitifully innocent activists who believe that the Palestinians are a subjugated people. There are few conflicts in history in which one side was more clearly in the wrong, and the other more clearly in the right, than in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On one side, there is a diverse coalition of people dedicated to peace, tolerance, democracy, and the rule of law, which has been mercilessly abused and attacked for 100 years.
        On the other is an obscurantist, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, fascistic, and murderous political movement that persecutes homosexuals, represses women, and glorifies the murder of children in their sleep. The activists are right - the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about good vs. evil. They're just confused as to which is which. (National Review)
  • The Palestinian Money Hole - Daniel Greenfield
    The World Bank report for 2011 found that only 16% of those living in the West Bank under PA control were living below the poverty line. The poverty rate in Washington, D.C., is 18.9%. Greece's poverty rate is 20%. Spain's is nearly as high. And 17% of the EU population is considered to be at risk of poverty. Israel's poverty rate is nearly 24%.
        The Palestinian Authority is a wholly subsidized enterprise paid for by American and European taxpayers. The PA payroll stands at over 150,000 people. That's one government worker for every 10 adults - 1 of every 5 males. Last month the PA passed a law putting all imprisoned terrorists, even members of Hamas, on its payroll. Now the PA expects foreign donors to enable it to continue paying money to convicted murderers. (Front Page Magazine)
  • Six Years On, Lessons of Gaza Withdrawal Resonate for West Bank - Linda Gradstein
    Yossi Klein Halevi, a journalist and a fellow at Jerusalem's Shalom Hartman Institute, says support for Jewish settlers in the West Bank has gone mainstream in a way that support for settlements in Gaza never did. "Two generations have grown up in Israel who see the settlements not only as part of Israel but as the heart of Israel," he says. (JTA)

The Cost of Palestinian Unilateralism - Michael Singh (Foreign Policy)

  • With the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations stalled for more than two years, the tide of support for recognition of Palestinian statehood at the UN General Assembly in September is growing. Palestinian unilateralism has been buoyed not only by strong support from Arab nations, but also from Britain and France.
  • Yet PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad reported that of the $971 million in pledges made by donors, so far this year only $330 million had actually been paid. That the same friends who are promising their UN votes to the PA are failing to follow through on their aid pledges should give Palestinians pause.
  • The last IMF report on the Palestinian economy noted that continued economic recovery depended on further reductions by Israel in restrictions on movement and access within the West Bank and Gaza and better coordination between the PA and Israel on the collection of "clearance revenue" (essentially taxes and fees collected by Israeli authorities and transferred to the PA).
  • These boil down to Israeli-Palestinian cooperation, which is threatened by the specter of Palestinian unilateralism in September. As the report on unfulfilled donor pledges makes clear, the Palestinians cannot count on the friends cheering them on rhetorically to step up financially if the going gets rough post-September.
  • For Israelis and Palestinians, there is no unilateral path to peace and prosperity; these will be achieved only through the hard work of negotiations. This is the sobering lesson Palestinians should take from the latest economic data, and the unified message the U.S. and its allies should deliver to Ramallah.

    The writer, a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council, is managing director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
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