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May 25, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

UN Atomic Agency Finds Higher Enrichment at Iranian Site - George Jahn (AP-ABC News)
    The International Atomic Energy Agency has found traces of uranium enriched up to 27% at Iran's Fordo enrichment plant, which could mean the country has moved closer to producing the uranium needed to arm nuclear missiles, diplomats said Friday.
    This is above Iran's highest-known enrichment grade, which is close to 20%, and which already can be turned into weapons-grade material much more quickly than Iran's main 3.5%-enriched stockpile.

Canada's Foreign Minister Defends Support of Israel - Lee-Anne Goodman (Huffington Post-Canada)
    Canada's foreign affairs minister John Baird was the keynote speaker Thursday at the Religious Liberty Dinner in Washington, where he forcefully defended his government's strong support of Israel.
    "We contend that modern anti-Semitism lives in the disproportionate criticism Israel receives, and the refusal to accept its right to exist," he said.
    "The world cannot take the words of Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran as mere rhetoric and risk appeasing these malicious actors in the same way the world appeased the Nazis.... Under our prime minister, and under this foreign minister, Canada will stand with the Jewish state and people as they struggle to protect their very right to exist."

Video: Just One Minute - Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon (YouTube)
    Israel's deputy foreign minister calls on the International Olympic Committee to devote a minute of silence during the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games in remembrance of the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
    Sign the Petition to the International Olympic Committee

Report: Israel Offered $6 Million to Turk Raid Victims - Jonathon Burch and Tulay Karadeniz (Reuters-Chicago Tribune)
    Turkish lawyer Ramazan Ariturk said on Thursday that Israel had offered to pay $6 million to victims of Israel's storming of a Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla to settle lawsuits against the Israeli military.
    However, a senior Israeli official said that Israel, having indicated last year that it was prepared to indemnify victims without accepting blame, had not renewed its offer.

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Israeli Everest Climber Saves Turkish "Brother" - Sharon Udasin (Jerusalem Post)
    After training for two years, Nadav Ben-Yehuda, 24, was maneuvering through the final 1,000 meters from Mount Everest's Camp IV to its summit - the highest in the world at an altitude of 8,848 meters - when he suddenly came to a stop some 250 m. away from the summit.
    He saw the body of his friend from the base camp, Aydin Irmak, 46, sprawled lifelessly on the icy ridges. "When we saw my friend Aydin there was no question," Ben-Yehuda said.
    Had he chosen to continue climbing, Ben-Yehuda would have been the youngest Israeli ever to make it to Everest's summit. "It really changed my plans," he said.
    Lifting Irmak over his shoulders, Ben-Yehuda carried his Turkish-New Yorker friend for about eight hours back down to Camp IV - without gloves and without oxygen, as his mask had already broken.
    The negative 40-degree Celsius temperatures left both men with severe burns all over their faces, and Ben-Yehuda's ungloved hand is blackened to a crisp, some of which may need to be amputated.
    But eventually, the men made it back to Camp IV, where a helicopter came to their rescue - allowing both of them to live.

Why the Cultural Boycott of Israel Is a Blunt and Backward Instrument - Fintan O'Toole (Irish Times)
    In the case of Israel, boycotts will always be interpreted as an expression of anti-Semitism and as a prelude to worse attacks.
    Because anti-Semitism still exists, there is a duty to be especially careful about a boycott that suggests that Israelis as such are not fit people for cultural exchange.
    Why Israel in particular? Would Dervish be hounded if they agreed to play in Iran, whose regime is viciously contemptuous of human rights? Should Riverdance stop touring China?

Technion Improves Microscope Resolution Ten-Fold - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich (Jerusalem Post)
    Haifa's Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has registered a patent for a new technique that improves tenfold the performance of any type of sophisticated microscope and imaging system without making hardware changes.
    The discovery, published in the Nature Materials journal, has aroused great interest in the scientific world and is being described as a "breakthrough."

The Book of Ruth Comes Alive in Antique Photos Taken 100 Years Ago (Israel Daily Picture)
    The Jewish holiday of Shavuot will be celebrated on Sunday. Shavuot, the festival of weeks, marking seven weeks after Passover, is the festival of first fruits. According to Jewish tradition, it is the day the Children of Israel accepted the Torah at Mt. Sinai.
    The reading of the Book of Ruth is one of the traditions of the holiday. Photographs from the Library of Congress from 100 years ago depict members of the American Colony in Jerusalem - religious Christians - re-enacting the story of Ruth.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran, Big Powers Agree to More Nuclear Talks in June in Moscow; Sanctions to Stay - Andrew Quinn and Justyna Pawlak
    Iran and world powers agreed to meet again in Moscow on June 18-19 for more talks over Tehran's nuclear program. Western powers insist Tehran must first shut down enrichment activities before sanctions can be eased.
        After the second round of talks ended in Baghdad, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "All of our sanctions will remain in place and continue to move forward during this period." A senior U.S. official said sanctions coming into effect in coming weeks would increase leverage on Iran in the negotiations, noting that "maximum pressure is not yet being felt by Iran."  (Reuters)
        See also Iran Balks at "List of Israeli Demands"
    Iranian media on Thursday said the chances of talks with world powers continuing after the current Baghdad negotiations are "very low." Iran's Al-Alam and the Fars and Mehr news agencies all criticized the P5+1 proposals as essentially echoing demands from Israel. "The discourse used in the talks very much resembles...that used by the Israeli prime minister and defense minister," Al-Alam said. (Al-Akhbar-Lebanon)
  • Muslim Brotherhood Candidate to Face Former Prime Minister in Egyptian Runoff - David D. Kirkpatrick
    The Islamist candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi, will face Ahmed Shafik, a former Air Force general who briefly served as former President Hosni Mubarak's last prime minister, in a runoff to become Egypt's first freely elected president, several independent vote counts concluded Friday.
        Shafik campaigned on promises to use a firm hand against the protests and lawlessness that have prevailed since Mubarak's ouster and his law and order message resonated with voters, helping him to overtake candidates previously considered front-runners such as former Arab League head Amr Moussa and dissident former Brotherhood leader Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, who came in third. (New York Times)
        See also Egypt's Ultraconservatives Look to Presidential Vote to Plant Seeds for Islamic Path (AP-Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Syrian Rebels Tried to Kill Assad's Top Aides, Israeli Officials Confirm - Barak Ravid
    Israel has reliable information showing that an attempt was made to assassinate several top Assad regime officials four days ago in Syria, senior Israeli officials said on Thursday. Syrian President Bashar Assad's brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, and several other senior officials were indeed poisoned, but prompt medical treatment saved their lives.
        "The Syrian revolt is no longer in faraway cities; it's reached the leaders of the regime," one senior Israeli official said. "An assassination on a similar scale in the future could accelerate the regime's collapse. The opposition has the tools to reach the heads of Assad's regime, and in this case, it's been proven."
        Israeli officials said the poisoning was carried out by the Free Syrian Army's Al-Sahaba battalion. The targets included Mohammed Said Bakhtian, national secretary of the Baath Party, whose bodyguard poisoned the food served to senior regime officials during a meeting of the "crisis management cell," charged with managing the ongoing fighting in Syria. (Ha'aretz)
  • Boycott Israeli Products? Not in the PA - Elior Levy
    Despite a Palestinian campaign that calls for the boycott of Israeli products, Palestinian consumers "love and buy Israeli products," says one Bethlehem minimarket owner. "Lots of people prefer to buy Tnuva products simply because there is tighter supervision and they want to feel safe in what they buy. It has nothing to do with politics. When we buy a product from you (Israelis) we know it is under supervision and only made with fresh ingredients."
        Imad Naama, who owns a cleaning and hygiene product warehouse, explains that there is no comparison between the quality of Israeli products and other brands. "If my clients see that the product has Hebrew letters on it or if it says the product is from Israel, they are sure that it is better," he notes. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Iranian Influence in the Levant, Egypt, Iraq, and Afghanistan - Frederick W. Kagan, Ahmad K. Majidyar, Danielle Pletka, and Marisa Cochrane Sullivan
    The Arab Spring has brought a growing Sunni-Shi'a sectarian tinge to regional conflict, and Iran finds itself on the wrong side of that fight in most countries in the region. As that sectarian conflict spreads, Iran will have more difficulty presenting itself as a pan-Islamist regional leader - and Saudi Arabia, and possibly Turkey, likely will emerge as the obvious and natural Sunni Arab resistance to the Persian Shi'a.
        The ascension of Hizbullah to a position of dominance in Lebanese politics in 2011 has allowed Tehran to establish much more direct relationships in Beirut without the mediation of Syria. This could not have come at a better time for Iran, as it suggests that Iran's interests in the Levant can be protected and advanced even with a greatly weakened Syrian regime. (American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War)
  • Iran Is Seeking Lebanon Stake as Syria Totters - Neil MacFarquhar
    Iran's eagerness to shower money on Lebanon when its own finances are being squeezed by sanctions is the latest indication of just how worried Tehran is at the prospect that Syria's leader, Bashar al-Assad, could fall. Iran's ardent courtship of the Lebanese government indicates that Tehran is scrambling to find a replacement for its closest Arab ally. It is not only financing public projects, but also seeking to forge closer ties through cultural, military and economic agreements.
        Many Lebanese see Iran's gestures not as a show of good will, but as a stealth cultural and military colonization. The Lebanese have largely accepted that Iran serves as Hizbullah's main patron for everything from missiles to dairy cows. But branching out beyond the Shiites of Hizbullah is another matter. "Hizbullah has developed into being a beachhead of Iranian influence not only in Lebanon, but on the Mediterranean - trying to spread Iranian culture, Iranian political domination and now an Iranian economic presence," said Marwan Hamade, a Druse leader and Parliament member. "But there is a kind of Lebanese rejection of too much Iranian involvement here."  (New York Times)
  • Iran's Lengthening Shadow in the Gulf - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    Amid the intensifying conflict with the West, Iran is maintaining a policy of projecting force in the Gulf and surrounding areas, building new military bases along the Gulf's shores, performing naval maneuvers, and practicing ship takeovers and special-forces activities.
        With these moves Iran is trying to signal that it is prepared for a conflict with the U.S. in the naval domain, seeking to convey both to the U.S. and its Gulf neighbors that it is the ascendant power in the region, and that the region's security is in its hands and not those of external powers. Yet this activity has had a unifying effect on the GCC member states which fear Iran's lengthening shadow.
        Given the Arabs' weakness and lack of a charismatic figure who could lead a Sunni Arab response to the mounting Iranian challenge, the need for American power in the region - to create the necessary balance against Iran and protect energy sources - has only grown. The writer is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Iran Talks in Baghdad: Western Naivete - Reza Kahlili
    It's hard to overestimate the degree of naivete on the part of the West as it heads toward another round of nuclear talks with Iran. Clearly, Iran is stalling for time to develop a nuclear weapon. At the Istanbul talks last month, the West agreed for the first time to Iran's demand that it may enrich uranium, with restrictions - despite UN resolutions to the contrary. The Islamic regime has continuously believed that the more its nuclear program is expanded, the more likely the West will eventually accept a nuclear Iran. Today Iran has enough enriched uranium to eventually make six nuclear bombs. The writer, a former CIA operative in Iran's Revolutionary Guard, teaches at the U.S. Department of Defense's Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy. (Christian Science Monitor)

  • Other Issues

  • How Many Palestinian Refugees Are Actually Refugees? - Jonathan Schanzer
    Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) is trying to get a handle on the real number of Palestinian refugees in the Middle East - a move that could result in a change of status for millions of Palestinians. His proposed language for the 2013 foreign appropriations bill would require the U.S. government to confirm just how many Palestinians currently served by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) are actually refugees. It would challenge the status of the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of Palestinian refugees - a great many of whom were never personally displaced in the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli wars.
        By UNRWA's own count, the number of Palestinians who describe themselves as refugees has skyrocketed from 750,000 in 1950 to 5 million today. The number of Palestinians serviced by UNRWA who are true refugees from wars past is believed to be closer to 30,000 people. If the Kirk amendment is adopted, this new tally would then become the focus of America's assistance to UNRWA for refugee issues.
        Proponents do not call for a full cutoff to the descendants and will seek to ensure that UNRWA services keep flowing to those who are needy. The U.S. would simply not view them as refugees - just people living in the West Bank or Gaza and below the poverty line. The writer is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Foreign Policy)
        See also U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Count of Actual Palestinian Refugees - Adam Kredo (Washington Free Beacon)
        See also Is the UN Making the Palestinian "Refugee" Problem Worse? - Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post)
  • Israelis Cling to Faith in Peace Treaty - Joshua Mitnick
    In the past year, Israel has bulked up its border defense along the chaotic Sinai Peninsula, watched its multibillion-dollar natural-gas supply deal with Egypt evaporate, scaled back its embassy in Cairo after its offices were ransacked, and listened to Egyptian presidential candidates discuss tinkering with their 33-year-old peace pact. Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, said Israel's paramount interest is protecting the pact. "In a region that's in flux, the peace treaty is a pillar that Israel clings to," he said.
        "I don't Egyptian regime that abrogates the peace treaty with Israel," said Minister for Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon in an interview with Israel Radio. "Even an Islamic regime will probably be committed to the peace treaty with Israel." "I don't think we should see a dramatic change in the strategic policy of Egypt in the future no matter who is elected and no matter how blunt the statements by this future president might be," said Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national-security adviser.
        One of the litmus tests will be the new government's relationship with Hamas, an Islamist movement that controls Gaza and is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, said Amb. Gold. Declining Egyptian control over the Sinai Peninsula has raised the threat of cross-border attacks. A strike by militants who Israel says were sent by Palestinians in August left eight Israelis and five Egyptian soldiers dead. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Hamas Elections in Gaza - Results and Significance
    In mid-April 2012, secret elections were held for Hamas' leading institutions in Gaza. The election results indicated an increase in the power and independence of the Hamas leadership in Gaza within the movement, together with a weakening of the external leadership. There was also a rise in the power of Hamas' military-terrorist wing within the Gaza leadership, leading to a blurring of the borders between the terrorist wing and the Hamas government.
        The elections marked a generational shift in the political bureau: 8 of the 15 new members elected are middle-aged, with some of the old guard leadership forced to step down. One of those elected to the political bureau was Fathi Hamad, who serves as minister of the interior and is responsible for Hamas' internal security apparatuses. He is also involved in terrorist activities, heading a group called "The Defenders of Al-Aqsa," which promotes terrorist attacks against Israel without admitting Hamas' responsibility for them.
        Palestinian terrorists released from Israeli jails in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange have been integrated into the movement's leadership in both the political bureau and the General Shura Council. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Israel Is a Nation of Survivors - Robert Fulford
    A nation of survivors and the descendants of survivors, Israel has now survived for 64 difficult years. By this point it would seem to have staked a reasonable claim on the affections of all nations that share its beliefs in honest elections, independent judges and freedom of speech and commerce. But in the community of democratic states Israel is more often regarded with suspicion. Unwarranted hostility is one of the forces it routinely faces while pursuing survival.
        Its sworn enemies are routinely treated with more sympathy. The universities of North America have become comfortable homes for a pro-Palestinian movement that is genially tolerated despite its outrageous rhetoric and mobster tactics. The UN is so profoundly prejudiced against Israel that most people no longer notice its behavior; those who believe UN reports must also believe Israel commits more crimes against human rights than all other nations combined.
        In 1947 the UN approved a two-state partition of Palestine, which the Jews accepted but the Arabs did not. In May 1967, the Arab states again decided they could not tolerate Israel's existence. They gathered their armies and moved toward its borders. "The Arab people want to fight," said president Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt.
        The Arab states, whose aggressive misjudgment and incompetence caused the West Bank of the Jordan River to fall into Israeli hands, now blame Israel for the sin of acquiring it. Israel has tried to trade back this territory in various land-for-peace schemes, to no avail. (National Post-Canada)
  • EU Lawmaker: Israeli-Palestinian Coexistence Begins with Small Steps - Asaf Gabor
    A unique meeting occurred last week in Brussels with the visit of a delegation of people who live each day with the problems and challenges of life in the West Bank, including Sheikh Hader al-Jaabri, a Palestinian leader from Hebron, and Gershon Masika, head of the Samaria regional council. The vice-chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, Fiorello Provera of Italy, explained how he saw the conflict: "The suffering of Israel and the Palestinians is not caused by the disagreement over land. The fact is that the steps Israel took such as the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005 didn't bring it closer to peace or improve the conditions of the Palestinians."
        "During my last visit to the university in Ariel I saw scenes that many who speak of a two-state solution have never seen. Jewish and Arab students are learning there side-by-side and preparing joint academic projects to improve their economic situation. In the Barkan industrial park I saw factories where Palestinians and Jewish settlers work together in the same factory. Against this wonderful reality, the chairman of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas, is working with all his might to prevent joint projects between the settlers and their Arab neighbors....In my opinion, small joint steps like these will lead to more serious progress than talk of a far-reaching agreement."  (Makor Rishon-Hebrew, 18May12)

A Lull in the Drift toward War with Iran? - Aaron David Miller (CNN)

  • The hope is that negotiations can create an opening for a small deal on the nuclear issue in which Iran would agree to enrich uranium at much reduced levels, agree to inspections and perhaps even export its stockpile of weapons-grade material out of the country in return for an easing of some of the less onerous sanctions. The only problem with this approach is that its chances of success are dubious. The negotiating process may well produce limited understandings. But it's hard to see how these will turn into a sustainable deal that can convince the West, let alone the Israelis, that Iran has given up its quest for nukes.
  • The Iranian regime wants the bomb, not primarily to have the option of attacking Israel, a possible fringe benefit, but as a hedge against regime change and as a prestige weapon in its quest for regional power and influence. Iran fashions itself a great power, and great powers believe they need the ultimate weapon. Iran's nuclear program is too advanced, too entrenched, too redundant and too secretive to be stopped permanently, even by military attack. To do so, you'd need to change the regime.
  • The nuclear issue needs to be seen in the context of the broader dysfunction in the relationship between Washington and Tehran. Truth is, the regime is right. America wants an end to its repression and brutality, freedom for the Iranian people and Iran's regional ambitions curtailed.
  • There's almost no issue on which Washington and Tehran agree. Given the level of suspicion and mistrust, the odds of finding a sustainable modus vivendi soon are slim to none.
  • We wouldn't have the tough sanctions we do if it weren't for President Obama's and the Europeans' fear of an Israeli strike. The Iranian regime won't stop, and will inch closer to a breakout capacity to produce a weapon. The Israelis will then have to decide whether to launch a military strike or bring enough pressure on the Obama administration to do so, even if it only means a setback of a year or two.
  • Only one country can stop Iran from acquiring a military nuclear capacity - that's Iran, should it judge the costs of acquisition too high.

    The writer, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, served as a Middle East negotiator in Democratic and Republican administrations.
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