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March 24, 2009

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Israel Switching to U.S. Pistachios - Michael Doyle (Modesto Bee)
    While Israel maintains a trade embargo on Iran, there is evidence that low-cost Iranian pistachios were finding their way into Israel via Turkey.
    After repeated complaints by U.S. officials, earlier this year Israel raised its tariff on non-U.S. pistachios to 23%, effectively rendering tariff-free U.S. pistachios a better buy in Israel, a country that leads the world in per-capita pistachio consumption.

Yemen Court Hands Down Death Sentence in Israel Spy Case (Reuters)
    A Yemeni court sentenced an Islamist to death and handed down jail sentences against two others on Monday after convicting them of seeking to work for Israeli intelligence services.
    Bassam al-Haidari and two others were charged with emailing the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and offering to work for the intelligence service of the Jewish state.

Canada Bars British Lawmaker over Hamas Support (AFP)
    British lawmaker George Galloway has been blocked from visiting Canada because of his support of Hamas, which is banned there, the Canadian immigration minister's office said.
    "We're going to uphold the law, not give special treatment to a street-corner Cromwell who brags about giving 'financial support' to Hamas, a terrorist organization banned in Canada," said Alykhan Velshi, spokesman for Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

Land of Opportunity (Economist-UK)
    Israel is home to 4,000 high-tech companies and more than 100 venture-capital funds. Innovations developed in the country include the Pentium chip (Intel), voicemail (Comverse), instant messaging (Mirabilis, Ubique), firewalls (Checkpoint) and the "video pill," which allows doctors to study your insides without the need for invasive surgery.
    Almost 70 Israeli companies are traded on NASDAQ. Israel has the world's highest ratio of PhDs per capita, the highest ratio of engineers and scientists and some of the world's best research universities.
    Israel's main qualification for entrepreneurialism is its status as an embattled Jewish state in a sea of Arab hostility.
    The Israeli army not only works hard to keep the country at the cutting edge of technology, it also trains young Israelis in the virtues of teamwork and improvisation.
    It is strikingly common for young Israelis to start businesses with friends that they met in the army. Add to that a high tolerance of risk, born of a long history and an ever-present danger of attack, and you have the makings of an entrepreneurial firecracker.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • PA Government Urges Europe to Shun Hamas
    Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki warned European leaders during talks in Brussels on Monday against easing a boycott of Hamas Islamists. Malki said European overtures could undermine Palestinian unity talks by giving Hamas the impression that "the international community, and especially the European Union, is ready to change its position towards Hamas," whether the group agrees to abide by interim peace agreements signed with Israel or not. (Reuters)
  • U.S.: UN Expert "Biased" on Israel's Gaza Offensive
    The U.S. Monday said UN expert Richard Falk was "biased" in calling for an investigation of Israel's January offensive in Gaza on grounds it could be construed as a war crime. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said, "We've expressed our concern many times about the special rapporteur's views on dealing with that question....We've found the rapporteur's views to be anything but fair. We find them to be biased. We've made that very clear." (AFP)
        See also Israel Slams UN Rights Report on Gaza
    Israel on Tuesday slammed a report by a UN human rights investigator which said its three-week war in Gaza was possibly a war crime. "Unfortunately this is a further example of the very one-sided, unbalanced and unfair attitude of the (UN) Human Rights Council," government spokesman Mark Regev said. "This sort of report does the service of human rights no good whatsoever," he said. "It's a politicization of human rights." (AFP)
  • Hizbullah Spends Millions to Rebuild Stronghold - Rita Daou
    In Beirut's southern suburbs, a Hizbullah stronghold, a mammoth reconstruction drive is underway to rebuild 241 of the 282 buildings destroyed in the 2006 war. Project director Hassan Jechi said $400 million has been allocated to the effort. Jechi and Hizbullah are evasive when it comes to revealing where they are getting the funds to carry out this massive project, amid wide speculation that Iran is Hizbullah's main financial backer. (AFP)
  • PLO Official Killed in Lebanon Bomb Attack - Borzou Daragahi and Raed Rafei
    Kamal Medhat, the no. 2 leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon, and three of his associates were killed near Sidon on Monday in a roadside bomb blast. (Los Angeles Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Chief of Staff Discusses Claims Against IDF - Dikla Schneider and Arnon Ben-Dror
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi spoke Monday about the publication of allegations regarding hitting civilians during the Gaza operation. "The IDF is one of the world's most moral armies, and if there are isolated incidents, they will be investigated and dealt with," he said. "We operated in a very complex atmosphere that is also inhabited by civilians, and we took every possible measure to minimize harm to civilians. We scattered leaflets over the Gaza Strip, warned civilians to stay clear of areas that were to be attacked by making use of the Arabic press, and called hundreds of thousands of households. But in an environment like this, some harm to civilians is unavoidable."  (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Protesters Block Visits to Hamas Prisoners - Roee Mandel
    After a special ministerial committee proposed sanctions against Hamas security prisoners held in Israel, in hopes of advancing a deal for the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit, dozens of people protested outside the Sharon Prison on Monday and blocked the entrance of visitors. Yoel Marshak of the Kibbutz Movement said, "We are here to...block visitation to their prisoners, as long as they are not allowing anyone to see Gilad Shalit."
        The joint protest of the World Likud, Beitar Movement and Kibbutz Movement displayed a unified front in the demand to have the conditions of security prisoners changed to match those under which Shalit is held. "With Gilad Shalit held for 1,000 days now without anyone knowing where he is, we cannot have Palestinian prisoners enjoying visitation, watching television, and reading the newspapers," said Marshak. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Obama Message to Iran Shows U.S. Strategy Shift - Gerald F. Seib
    President Barack Obama's video message to Iran marking the Persian New Year last week spoke volumes about the strategy that lies behind his pledge to reach out to Tehran. When the Bush administration reached out to Iran, it sought consciously to go around its leaders and speak directly to the Iranian people, hoping to drive a wedge between the two. Obama's message began: "I would like to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran." Because the president was talking to Iran's leaders, he was effectively saying the U.S. recognizes their legitimacy and isn't overtly seeking a regime change.
        The long search for Iranian "moderates" has proved so futile that the administration is prepared to deal with what it gets, not what it wishes it had. The message was designed to give the Iranians what they always complain they don't get: respect. Twice Obama referred to Iran by the title its leaders use, the Islamic Republic of Iran. The deeper question is whether outreach has any real chance to make a difference. Privately, senior administration officials harbor real doubts. (Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S. Can't Ignore Iran's Genocidal Incitement - Irwin Cotler
    The enduring lesson of the Holocaust and that of the genocides that followed is that they occurred not simply because of the machinery of death, but because of state-sanctioned incitement to hatred. As international tribunals have recognized, the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers; it began with words. Ahmadinejad's Iran is increasingly resorting to incendiary and demonizing language, including metaphors reminiscent of Nazi and Rwandan provocation. As minister of justice in Canada and involved in the prosecution of Rwandan incitement, I believe the precursors of provocation in Iran are more threatening than were those in Rwanda.
        President Barack Obama has made the important connection between Iran as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, Iran as an inciter of hate and genocide against Israel, and Iran as an illegally developing nuclear power. As a state party to the Genocide Convention, the U.S. has not only the option but the obligation to take action to prevent genocide. A careful review of the evidence recently led a group of over 40 eminent international jurists, including former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, to conclude that Iran should be held to account for its hateful incitement to genocide, as prohibited under international law.
        Diplomacy targeted solely at Iran's nuclear threat mistakenly ignores the terrifying and vilifying context in which that threat operates and, inadvertently, sanitizes the provocation to genocide. When Obama engages Iran directly, it is crucial that the illegal incitement to genocide so pervasive in Ahmadinejad's Iran not be swept under the rug. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
  • Observations:

    The Arab Peace Initiative: A Primer and Future Prospects - Joshua Teitelbaum (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • In the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Saudi Arabia was under intense scrutiny since fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers had proved to be Saudis. In February 2002, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia gave an interview to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in which he proposed to Israel "full withdrawal from all the occupied territories" for "full normalization of relations."
    • In a flash, Abdullah had transformed the discourse: Instead of focusing on Saudi involvement in terrorism, the Western press was now talking about Saudi peacemaking. However, by the time the Abdullah trial balloon reached the Arab summit in Beirut in March 2002, the initiative had been modified and its terms hardened.
    • "Full normalization" became "normal relations" (which still marks significant progress over the Arab League formulation in Khartoum of 1967: "no peace, no recognition, no negotiations"). It called for an Israeli withdrawal from all the territories to the lines of June 4, 1967, in contradiction of UN Resolution 242, and which would bring Syria to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It also enshrined a Palestinian "right of return" to Israel.
    • Several aspects of the Arab Peace Initiative represent significant and positive developments in the official, collective Arab view of the future of Israel in the Middle East. However, Israel should refrain from accepting the initiative as a basis for peace negotiations because it contains seriously objectionable elements. Israel should also reject the "all or nothing" approach of the Saudis and the Arab League. Peacemaking is the process of negotiation, not diktat.
    • Peace would be best served by Israel going on the diplomatic offensive and presenting an initiative of its own, emphasizing the positive aspects of the initiative, and including an invitation to Arab leaders to a meeting in Israel to discuss the initiative in its entirety.

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