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March 5, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Aid to Palestinian Authority Used for Terrorists - Jonathan D. Halevi (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-Hebrew)
    A considerable portion of the aid raised for the Palestinian Authority at the Sharm el-Sheikh conference will go to support terrorists held in Israeli jails and their families.
    PA support for Palestinian security prisoners totals NIS 165 million per year. Support is due to increase by NIS 800 a month per prisoner beginning in March 2009.
    PA financial aid to convicted terrorists continues even after their release.
    This aid serves as a form of social security for current and former prisoners and sends a message that their terrorist activities are officially sanctioned by the Palestinian Authority.

Syria Pressures Cyprus over Iran Weapons Ship - George Jahn (AP)
    The EU and Syria are engaged in a tug-of-war over an intercepted ship suspected of transporting explosives from Iran to Palestinian militants in Gaza, European diplomats say.
    Two diplomats said that Syria, described by the U.S. as the port of destination for the vessel, is pressuring Cyprus over what it should do with the ship's cargo.
    A government official from a country in the region said that a delegation led by Syrian Justice Minister Mohammed al-Ghufari visited Cyprus last month and "was instructed to reach secret agreements with Cyprus" that would allow the Syrians to receive at least part of the cargo at the Syrian port of Latakia.

UK Scientists Rally Behind Museum's "Israel Day" - Arifa Akbar (Independent-UK)
    More than 100 academics including some of the UK's most senior scientists have written a letter in response to "pernicious" calls for London's Science Museum to cancel its Israel Science Day event to be held Thursday.
    The letter accused those campaigning against the event of "preventing British schoolchildren from being inspired by scientific discovery and innovation."
    "Science crosses borders, builds bridges and transcends national and political divides. It can unite people but the protesters seek only to divide and exclude. At a time of high community tensions, these boycotts are especially pernicious."

Jordanians Accused of Plot to Kill Israeli Investor (AFP)
    Two Jordanians, Luai Shehadeh, 37, and Mohammed Odallah, 36, were charged on Wednesday in a Jordanian military state security court with attempting to kill an Israeli factory owner in the northern city of Irbid on Jan. 3.
    "In 2008, the two agreed to target Jews in Jordan and bought two AK-47 rifles to implement their scheme," a judicial official said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S.: Evidence Mounts of Syrian Nuclear Cover-up - Mark Heinrich
    The U.S. said on Wednesday that UN inspectors had found growing evidence of covert nuclear activity in Syria, and European allies said a lack of Syrian transparency demanded utmost scrutiny. The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is looking into U.S. intelligence reports that Syria had almost built a North Korean-designed nuclear reactor meant to yield bomb-grade plutonium before Israel bombed it in 2007.
        Gregory Schulte, U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, said it was essential that Syria allow inspectors to examine debris removed from the bombed facility as well as three other military sites which satellite pictures showed Syria "sanitized" - landscaping them and whisking away equipment - shortly after the IAEA asked to check them out. (Reuters)
        See also below Observations: Syria's Cooperation with the West Remains a Challenge - Michael B. Oren (Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S. Says Hamas Must Recognize Israel - Jill Dougherty
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday ruled out working with any Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas if Hamas does not agree to recognize Israel. Clinton said Hamas must comply with the principles set out by the Quartet and adopted by the Arab League: Renounce violence, recognize Israel and agree to abide by prior PLO commitments. "In the absence of Hamas agreeing to the principles that have been adopted by such a broad range of international actors, I don't see that we or they - or anyone-- could deal with Hamas," Clinton said. Asked whether that means a public announcement by Hamas, she said, "Well, the PLO did that, and I think no less can be expected of Hamas which is, obviously, not only a terrorist group but is increasingly a client of Iran." (CNN)
        See also Clinton to Iran: "Stop Interfering in Palestinian Affairs"
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday accused Iran's supreme leader of interfering in Palestinian affairs, after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for "resistance" against Israel. Khamenei also called the Jewish state a "cancerous tumor" and accused President Barack Obama of following what he called the same mistaken path as George W. Bush in supporting Israel. (VOA News)
  • Clinton Criticizes Israeli Plans for Eastern Jerusalem - Glenn Kessler
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the Israeli government on Wednesday for plans to demolish Palestinian-built structures in eastern Jerusalem, calling the actions "unhelpful" and a violation of international obligations. Clinton made the complaint about Israeli actions in response to a question at a news conference with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Washington Post)
        See also Disinformation Regarding Eastern Jerusalem - Stephan H. Miller
    A disinformation campaign took place during the visit of Secretary of State Clinton regarding illegal construction in eastern Jerusalem. No new demolition orders have been issued in the Emek HaMelech area. The area is one of the most important with regard to the history of Jerusalem. It is a tourist destination with holy sites important to Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike and is not intended for residential development. This was the situation in the area during the British Mandate and going back to Ottoman control.
        The most recent illegal building that was demolished was not in this area but rather in Jabel Mukaber, following the Supreme Court's rejection of an appeal. Enforcement of the law is equal in both eastern and western Jerusalem. Since January 1, 28 demolition orders have been carried out - 11 at structures in western Jerusalem and 17 at structures in eastern Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Municipality-IMRA)
        See also Illegal Palestinian Construction in David's Garden - Nadav Shragai (Ha'aretz)
        See also Illegal Construction in Jerusalem - Justus Reid Weiner (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • UK to Engage with Hizbullah - James Blitz
    Bill Rammell, Foreign Office minister for the Middle East, announced on Wednesday that Britain would engage in direct contacts with the political wing of Hizbullah in Lebanon in light of "the national unity government in which Hizbullah is participating." He made clear, however, that the UK would not be having contacts with Hizbullah's military wing. Asked whether this move might mean that the UK would start talking to parts of the Hamas movement, he said: "No, I don't think there is an analogy. There are clear Quartet principles that we have urged Hamas to sign up to." (Financial Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Tractor Driver Attacks Police Car in Jerusalem
    A Palestinian tractor driver used his shovel to attack a police car in Jerusalem on Thursday, wounding two policemen before he was shot. The driver also attacked a bus. In July 2008, a Palestinian went on a rampage in a bulldozer in Jerusalem, killing three people and wounding dozens more. Two weeks later, a similar attack wounded at least 24 people. (Ha'aretz/Maariv)
  • Israel to Let More Aid into Gaza in Gesture to Clinton - Nir Hasson, Barak Ravid, and Avi Issacharoff
    Israel will increase the range of goods permitted into Gaza as a gesture to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who concluded her visit to the region Wednesday. "We want humanitarian aid to get into Gaza in sufficient amounts to alleviate the suffering of the people," Clinton said, but stopped short of calling for a full opening of the crossings. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Aircraft Target Gaza Terror Cell - Ali Waked
    An Israeli air strike on a terror cell that fired an anti-tank missile at soldiers patrolling the security fence near the Kissufim crossing killed three gunmen, Palestinian sources in Gaza reported Thursday. Palestinians in Gaza fired five rockets at Israel on Thursday. On Wednesday evening, an Israeli airstrike killed senior Islamic Jihad operative Khaled Khareb Khaled Sha'alan, who was involved in firing rockets towards Israel including the recent attacks against Ashkelon. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Talking to Hamas Undermines Palestinian Moderates - Michael Young
    You can say many disparaging things about Yasser Arafat, but he did manage to preserve the independence of Palestinian decision-making and avoid falling under the sway of any Arab state. Hamas has pawned much of its political liberty to Syria and Iran. It is counter-intuitive that legitimizing Hamas, a movement that opposes a settlement, will make a settlement more likely. Furthermore, opening a dialogue with Hamas would signal the political end of Fatah and of the PLO as we know it. Once states begin normalizing their relations with the Islamist movement, the nature of the PA will change and Mahmoud Abbas' de facto marginalization will be formalized.
        Do those who want to see the Palestinians gain their rights really feel that their cause will gain once it is represented by a militant Islamist movement? You also have to question why the engagers, many of them Western or Arab liberals who tend to be secular and nonviolent, see so many possibilities in a movement that is deeply illiberal, religiously intolerant, and violent. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Preventing a Cascade of Instability: U.S. Engagement to Check Iranian Nuclear Progress
    A bipartisan task force of diplomats, legislators, and scholars recommends that the Obama administration act urgently to prevent Iran's nuclear progress from triggering a cascade of instability throughout the Middle East. Without strong U.S. leadership, countries in the Middle East may accommodate Iran, attack it, or try to match its new capabilities. The way forward is for Washington to engage Tehran while at the same time increasing diplomatic leverage on the Iranian leadership. Assertive action now to build U.S. leverage is more likely to prevent Iran's emergence as a military nuclear power. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Observations:

    Syria's Cooperation with the West Remains a Challenge - Michael B. Oren (Wall Street Journal)

    • What are the real chances for moderating Syrian behavior and what price is the U.S. willing to pay for that change? And what risks does Mr. Obama take in reaching out to Syria?
    • Syria was willing to maintain ties with Washington and engage in lengthy talks, but not to disavow those policies deemed vital to the regime's survival. Syrians had never made peace with the partitioning of Lebanon. The Syrians saw control over Lebanon's lucrative resorts, its robust free markets and unlimited access to the West as the cure-all for their moribund socialist economy. The need to preserve their primacy in Lebanon led the Syrians to support a then little-known Shiite militia, Hizbullah, which represented a practical means for maintaining Syria's Lebanese lifeline.
    • Damascus became a perennial destination for U.S. Secretaries of State - Warren Christopher stopped there more than 20 times - who braved marathon discussions with Hafez al-Assad. But many hundreds of hours of deliberations could not move Assad to make genuine peace with Israel - even in exchange for most of the Golan - or to alter significantly any of his noxious policies.
    • Bashar al-Assad backed the Hizbullah ambush that ignited the Lebanon War of July 2006. He supported Hamas' bloody overthrow of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza the following June and the firing of thousands of Kassam rockets into Israel that culminated in the most recent Gaza crisis. In addition, no Syrian action was more destabilizing - and potentially cataclysmic - than its attempt, aided by North Korea but ultimately foiled by Israel, to secretly attain nuclear capabilities. Throughout, Syria has remained a stalwart Iranian ally, resisting inter-Arab efforts to formulate united platforms on regional issues.
    • This is the legacy of radicalism, subversion and ruthlessness with which President Obama must grapple as he sets out to place America's relations with Syria on fresh footing.
    • Based on Syria's past and its recent behavior, there seem scant grounds for optimism regarding a breakthrough. Clearly, reconciliation with Syria is incompatible with a free and independent Lebanon and with a Damascus that still hosts Hamas' headquarters. Such obstacles should not deter the Obama administration from negotiating with Damascus and seeking to achieve a workable partnership, if for no other reason than to exhaust all possible diplomatic options. Yet the same hand that America extends in friendship should be ready to recoil, parry a blow or return one.

      The writer, a professor at Georgetown University and a distinguished fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is the author of Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present.

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