Canada Lobbied Hard Against Palestinian Statehood Bid - Campbell Clark and Justin Ling (Globe and Mail-Canada)
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird personally took to the phones last year to try to swing countries to oppose Palestinian efforts to be recognized as a state by the UN, according to newly released documents that reveal how intensely Canada worked behind the scenes to block the statehood resolution.
Baird called at least eight fellow foreign ministers from countries including Chile, South Korea and Australia.
Canadian diplomats have lobbied other countries on other UN votes, but when the foreign minister personally does the calling, it's a signal that Ottawa considers the issue a priority.
"The parties should be building trust. Pushing the UN path is counter-productive to achieving this trust. We should encourage the Palestinians to return to peace talks instead," Baird was to tell acting Australian foreign minister Craig Emerson.
Egypt Is Running Out of Money - Spengler (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
Egypt's liquid foreign exchange reserves have fallen to $9 billion, equivalent to just two months' imports.
Foreign exchange futures markets expect the Egyptian pound to lose half its value during the next year, and Egyptians have responded by hoarding diesel fuel, propane gas and other necessities.
Fuel supplies in Egypt are 35% below normal levels, according to local UN observers. "It has been three months since a fuel shortage hit Egypt, and people's patience is wearing thin amid fears the crisis could disrupt the production of subsidized bread," the UN-sponsored IRIN reported from Cairo on April 2.
"Thousands of cars queue outside petrol stations from early morning, while long queues form outside gas cylinder centers."
U.S. Keeps Carriers near Gulf Ahead of Iran Talks (AFP)
The U.S. is keeping the pressure on Iran with the presence of two aircraft carriers close to the Persian Gulf.
"There are currently two carrier strike groups in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations," Lt. Commander John Fage, a navy spokesman, said Monday.
"USS Abraham Lincoln is currently in the north Arabian Sea (not in the Gulf itself) and USS Enterprise is transiting the Gulf of Aden."
The Enterprise has replaced the USS Carl Vinson, which is conducting maneuvers in the Bay of Bengal before returning to the west coast of the U.S.
Israel's Rocket-Hunting Ace Got His Start Playing "Warcraft" - Amir Mizroch (Wired)
Idan Yahya, 22, an Iron Dome "gunner," currently holds the record for the number of rockets intercepted: 8.
The geek who grew up playing "Warcraft," a real-time strategy computer game, is the Israeli army's top rocket interceptor.
"There are a lot of flashing blips, signs, symbols, colors and pictures on the screen. You look at your tactical map; see where the threat is coming from. You have to make sure you're locked onto the right target. There's a lot of information and there is very little time. It definitely reminds me of 'Warcraft' and other online strategy games," says Idan.
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- Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak: Build in the Settlement Blocs, But No New Settlements - Fareed Zakaria
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview Sunday:
We have to reach a two-state solution, we have to live side-by-side - Israel, on one hand, and a Palestinian state. That's basically what Netanyahu said in his Bar-Ilan University speech. And we should straighten what we call the settlement blocs, namely the densely populated Jewish areas of the West Bank, and beside them a viable, normally flourishing Palestinian state should be established.
To tell you the truth, all those 350,000 Israelis are living on a very small fraction of the West Bank. Altogether, these are probably 5-6% of the whole area.
So I think that if the whole settlement blocs together will not take more than 10% and certain swaps will take place, there is room for a solution. And I think that those settlement blocs which are going to remain part of Israel in the final status agreement should be built and developed as any other part of Israel.
I was the prime minister 12 years ago. I negotiated very generous proposals with Arafat, together with President Clinton. I put far-reaching proposals on the table that were rejected by Arafat. And he turned deliberately to terror. During that time, in the West Bank we were building four times the pace of construction that Israel is executing now.
I was the defense minister in Ehud Olmert's government five years ago when he proposed an extremely generous proposal to Abbas. We were building about twice the pace that we are building now.
So this government of Netanyahu is not the most aggressive in building. We are not going over any hill or valley and establishing new settlements. Not a single new settlement has been built in the last three years since this government is in power.
- U.S. Envoy: Low Hopes for Quartet Meeting
Washington has low hopes that a high-level meeting Wednesday will restart the long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the U.S. ambassador to Israel said.
But while prospects for an immediate breakthrough "are probably not very bright, that doesn't mean you can't make some progress, and set the groundwork for larger progress at some period of time," Daniel Shapiro told the Jerusalem Post ahead of the Washington meeting at Blair House of the Quartet on the Middle East, on the sidelines of a Group of Eight foreign ministers meeting. (UPI)
- Court Flips Egypt's Timetable: Election, Then Constitution - David D. Kirkpatrick
An Egyptian administrative court on Tuesday suspended a committee appointed to draft a new constitution, all but guaranteeing that Egypt will elect a president before it ratifies a new charter.
(New York Times)
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- Israel: Lebanese Targets Fair Game in War with Hizbullah - Yaakov Katz
Israel will attack Lebanese government targets during a future war with Hizbullah, senior Israeli defense officials said, amid speculation that a war could erupt in the North following a future strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
"It was a mistake not to attack Lebanese government targets during the [Second Lebanon] War in 2006," a senior defense official explained. "We will not be able to hold back from doing so in a future war."
After the outbreak of the 2006 war, the official said, the U.S. asked Israel to refrain from bombing Lebanese government targets so as not to weaken the prime minister at the time, Fuad Siniora, who was aligned with the West.
"This will not be the same in the future, particularly now that Hizbullah and the government are effectively one and the same," the official said.
- Police Gearing Up for Another "Flytilla" - Yaakov Lappin
Israel's Public Security Ministry and the Israel Police are preparing for an attempt by pro-Palestinian activists to land en masse at Ben-Gurion Airport on Sunday and create disturbances. Police will arrest and deport activists back to their point of origin as quickly as possible. Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch told Channel 1 TV on Monday that Israel hopes to succeed in preventing many activists from boarding planes by sending blacklists with their names to foreign airports like it did last year. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Dear Serial Protesters - Dror Eydar
Dear protesters: We would be happy if you staged a protest flightilla against the Palestinian leadership, which has rejected our peace offers time and time again. Take a look at the Palestinian textbooks that indoctrinate generations to hate Israel and deprive the Jewish people of rights to even a part of its homeland.
Look at Hamas-run Gaza and try to find Palestinian rights.
On the way, head over to Syria and protest against the deaths of some 10,000 Syrians in one year. (Israel Hayom)
- A Crack in Europe's Consensus on Iran - Ilan Berman
Back in January, the European Commission voted on a series of punitive economic measures against Iran, chief among them a pledge by member states to cease imports of oil from the Islamic Republic by mid-summer. Yet less than three months later, the effort is in danger of being undermined from within by a Greece in economic free-fall.
That is the contention of a new intelligence report by Securing America's Future Energy, or SAFE, a Washington, D.C.-based energy policy group, which argues that the deepening fiscal woes of the Papoulias government in Athens have forced it to increase its reliance on Iran as a source of energy, with potentially disastrous consequences.
Greece consumes a quarter of Iran's total oil exports to the Continent of approximately 700,000 barrels daily. At least two other Eurozone nations - Spain and Italy - are also dependent to a significant degree on Iranian oil.
The writer is vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council.
(International Business Times)
See also Spain No Longer Imports Oil from Iran
"We haven't imported Iranian oil since the end of February as businesses have diversified their buying because of European sanctions," a Spanish foreign ministry spokesman said Tuesday.
- Tom Friedman's Skewed Vision of Non-Violence - Ed Koch
In an April 4 New York Times op-ed article, Tom Friedman endorsed what he designated to be "non-violent resistance by Palestinians" against Israel. He added that Palestinians need to "accompany every boycott, hunger strike or rock they throw at Israel with a map" delineating their territorial demands.
I was attacked by "nonviolent" Arab rock throwers while touring the old Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem in 1991. I needed nine stitches.
Many Israelis have been badly injured, sometimes permanently maimed, in such "nonviolent" assaults. Last September, Asher Palmer, 25, and his infant son, Yonatan, were killed when "nonviolent" rocks were thrown at their car, causing a fatal crash.
Can't we all agree that in the English language, the terms "nonviolent" and "rock throwing" are mutually exclusive?
The writer is a former mayor of New York City.
- Iran Wins If Assad Wins - Zalman Shoval
The country that stands to gain the most from Assad's survival is Iran - Assad's biggest diplomatic, military, and financial backer. If the Baath regime remains intact, Iran will reap geopolitical and strategic fruits as it strives for regional hegemony. Iran will enter nuclear talks with the West with more leverage. This will manifest itself, or perhaps is already manifesting itself, in mounting Iranian audacity. The writer served twice as Israel's Ambassador to the U.S.
See also Syria's Regime Is Another Doomed Dictatorship - Paul Collier
The Syrian regime is willing to kill protesters en masse. About one in 10 are getting injured, a rate so exceptional for mass protest that it calibrates both the courage of citizens and the depravity of the regime. The writer is professor of economics at Oxford University.
Last Chance with Iran? - Emily B. Landau and Ephraim Asculai (Diplomat-Japan)
- The current dynamic between Iran and the international community has a long history, and the upcoming round of negotiations can't be divorced from the experience of almost ten years of diplomatic efforts to get Iran to back away from its military nuclear ambitions. In every previous round, Iran has used a diplomatic setting to play for time, rather than to negotiate in earnest, and the haggling over the venue could be an indication this trend is likely to continue.
- There can be little doubt that the demonstrated seriousness of the international community - the U.S. and EU in particular - with regard to sanctions is a major factor behind a greater sense of potential than in the past. Assessments are that the Iranians are feeling the heat of biting sanctions, and the increased threats of military consequences are another important component in their apparent willingness to seek a negotiated outcome.
- The ten-year experience of not negotiating in good faith means that Iran must prove that it's serious about reaching a deal that in essence will mean giving up on its goal of achieving a military capability in the nuclear realm, before the international community suspends the most crippling sanctions.
- The critical issues that must be dealt with from the perspective of the international community include the installation of centrifuges and the operation of the Fordow underground enrichment facility; the enrichment of uranium to 20%; the installation of advanced centrifuges; the construction of a heavy-water natural uranium reactor, capable of producing plutonium; the military-related R&D work on the development of a nuclear explosive mechanism at secret facilities; and the development of a nuclear-capable missile warhead.
- At the more general level, Iran's expressed animosity towards the West must be reduced, and the rejectionist rhetoric and threats of action against Israel in particular must disappear.
Emily B. Landau is director of the Arms Control and Regional Security program at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies. Dr. Ephraim Asculai is a Senior Research Fellow at INSS, after more than 40 years at the Israel Atomic Energy Commission.
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