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March 25, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel's Labor Party Votes to Join Netanyahu Coalition - Howard Schneider and Samuel Sockol (Washington Post)
    Israel's Labor Party, led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a former prime minister, voted 680 to 507 at a party convention on Tuesday to join the coalition government of incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, bringing a sense of ideological diversity to the coalition.

Egypt's Al-Ahram: "No" to Dialogue with Iran (MEMRI)
    On March 7, the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram published an editorial harshly criticizing Iran and opposing a dialogue with it.
    "It would be logical for the Arab countries to reject the call for a dialogue with Iran."
    "Iran seeks to become part of every Arab and regional enterprise through every available means, in order to impose its hegemony and destroy the foundations of the religion followed by the overwhelming majority of the Arabs."
    "However, its attempts are doomed to failure, since it does not understand that the Arabs will never join a plan aimed at destroying their identity."

Hizbullah's Narcotics Ties Problematic (UPI)
    Countering the narcotics trafficking supported by Hizbullah should remain a top law-enforcement priority despite recent political overtures, said analyst Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
    Levitt pointed to a 2008 investigation by U.S. and Colombian officials that uncovered a cocaine-smuggling ring that channeled funds from the Colombian drug cartel to members of the Lebanese Hizbullah.
    See also Hizbullah: Narco-Islamism - Matthew Levitt (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)

UK Faces Greater Threat from Unconventional Weapons - Ben Russell (Independent-UK)
    Britain faces an increased threat of a chemical, biological or nuclear attack, ministers warned Tuesday as they published the most detailed account to date of the country's strategy for countering terrorism.
    The document drawn up by the Home Office said: "Contemporary terrorist organizations aspire to use chemical, biological, radiological and even nuclear weapons. Changing technology and the theft and smuggling of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive materials make this aspiration more realistic than it may have been in the recent past."

Saudi Clerics Want Women Banned from TV, Media (AFP)
    Hardline Saudi clerics have called on the government to ban women from appearing on television and to prohibit their images in print media, which they called a sign of growing "deviant thought."
    In a letter to new Information Minister Abdul Aziz al-Khoja that appeared on websites this week, the 35 Islamic clerics also condemned the increase of music and dancing on television, as well as images of women in popular newspapers and magazines.
    Both Saudi television and print media increasingly feature women, while Arabic-language magazines showing women in Western garb and makeup are also widely sold in the country.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Netanyahu Will Push for Israel-Palestinian Peace - Amy Teibel
    Israel's incoming prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Wednesday promised to resume peace talks with the Palestinians after he takes office, saying his government will be a "partner for peace." Netanyahu said that peace is a "common and enduring goal for all Israelis and Israeli governments, mine included. This means I will negotiate with the Palestinian Authority for peace." "I think that the Palestinians should understand that they have in our government a partner for peace, for security, for the rapid development of the Palestinian economy," he said. Netanyahu said his economic development plan for the Palestinians is not a substitute for political negotiations. "It's a complement to them," he said, calling a strong economy a "strong foundation for peace." (AP)
  • Obama Pushes for Two-State Solution
    At a press conference on Tuesday, President Obama was asked about peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He replied: "We don't yet know what the Israeli government is going to look like, and we don't yet know what the future shape of Palestinian leadership is going to be comprised of. What we do know is this: that the status quo is unsustainable, that it is critical for us to advance a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in their own states with peace and security....If you stick to it, if you are persistent, then these problems can be dealt with."
        "When it comes to Iran, you know, we did a video, sending a message to the Iranian people and the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And some people said, 'Well, they did not immediately say that we're eliminating nuclear weapons and stop funding terrorism.' Well, we didn't expect that. We expect that we're going to make steady progress on this front." (Washington Post)
  • Charges of IDF "Wanton Killing" Crumble - Alex Safian
    The brigade commander of the unit linked to alleged killings of civilians in Gaza launched his own investigation after hearing of the charges, speaking with actual eyewitnesses, all of whom said that the alleged killings had not taken place. On March 22, Maariv reported the results of his investigation in "IDF Investigation Refutes the Testimonies about Gaza Killings" by Amir Buhbut. In the incident claiming that a sniper fired at a Palestinian woman and her two daughters, the sniper related: "I saw the woman and her daughters....I did not shoot at them but I fired warning shots." In the other alleged incident, the killing by a sniper of an elderly woman, the investigation found that there was no such incident. Yet both Ha'aretz and the New York Times gave these stories great play despite a clear lack of evidence. (CAMERA)
  • Syria Appoints First Ambassador to Lebanon
    Syria has appointed its first ambassador to Beirut. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman accepted the diplomatic credentials of Ali Abdul Karim Ali on Tuesday. Syria has faced international pressure to establish formal diplomatic ties with Lebanon, the smaller neighbor it dominated for decades until the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri led to a Syrian troop pullout. Syria had always resisted establishing formal ties with Lebanon, citing the countries' shared history and close ties. Syria and Lebanon were carved out of the Ottoman Empire by imperial powers France and Britain in the 20th century. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF: 600 Hamas Men Died in Gaza Offensive - Amos Harel
    More than 600 of the Palestinians killed during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza have been identified as militants, while 309 were civilians, according to an updated list of Palestinian losses issued by the Israel Defense Forces. Another 320 are described as "unaffiliated," which means the IDF has not yet determined whether they have any affiliation with a militant group. Finally, 14 fatalities were members of Fatah whom Hamas executed during the fighting.
        The fatality list presented by the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza has numerous inaccuracies and contradictions, the IDF says. For example, Tawfiq Ja'abari, the commander of the Hamas police, and Mohammed Shakshak, a personal assistant to the head of Hamas' military wing, Ahmed Ja'abari, are both described as dead children on the Palestinian list. (Ha'aretz)
  • Police Discover Palestinian Armored Vehicle in West Bank - Jonathan Lis
    Police discovered a makeshift armored vehicle and a weapons cache in Yata south of Hebron on Monday. The armored Isuzu van was discovered inside a container. Steel planks two inches thick had been welded to the vehicle and small slits had been cut to allow a weapon to be fired from within the vehicle. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Lands Near Ashkelon
    A Kassam rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza hit the Ashkelon area on Tuesday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Pain Iran Can Believe In - Editorial
    Despite being a leading oil exporter, Iran imports roughly 40% of its gasoline because it lacks adequate domestic refining capacity. Any cut-off in supply would do immediate damage to the fragile Iranian economy. Iran is supplied with gasoline by a handful of foreign companies, all of which do substantial business in the U.S.  Diplomacy will have no chance without the threat of sticks, so Congress could help by passing pending legislation affecting Iran's energy supply. The goal of the sanctions is to sharply raise the costs to Iran for pursuing its nuclear programs. The only way Iran's regime is going to stop its nuclear program is if it feels some pain it can believe in. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The World Cannot Live with the Threat of a Nuclear Iran - Mortimer Zuckerman
    Iran is making fools of everyone. Even as it lies about how close it is to acquiring nuclear missiles, it continues to menace the political order throughout the Middle East, pressing on with rocketry and rearming Hamas and Hizbullah. And that mischief is nothing to what it will do if it is allowed to become a nuclear power. A nuclear Iran will be a threat to U.S. national security, worldwide energy security, the efficacy of multilateralism, and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
        It will be emboldened to use terrorism to threaten or subvert others in the area - especially those who might be inclined to pursue peace with Israel. If Iran succeeds in going nuclear, pro-Western Arab regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Gulf states may decide to join Iran rather than fight it. "Death to America!" has provoked the Iranian street for over a quarter of a century and is the venom upon which an entire generation of Iranians has been raised. The inescapable fact is that the U.S. just cannot take the risk of nuclear missiles in the hands of a clerical regime that preaches genocide. It is pathetic that appeasement continues to beguile. (U.S. News)
  • Observations:

    On Campus: The Pro-Palestinians' Real Agenda - Khaled Abu Toameh (Hudson Institute-New York)

    • During a recent visit to several university campuses in the U.S., I was told that Israel's Gaza operation was launched only because Hamas was beginning to show signs that it was interested in making peace and not because of the rockets that the Islamic movement was launching at Israeli communities.
    • I was also told that top Fatah operative Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in prison for masterminding terror attacks against Israeli civilians, was thrown behind bars simply because he was trying to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
    • Many people I met supported Hamas and believed that it had the right to "resist the occupation," even if that meant blowing up children and women on a bus in Jerusalem.
    • The pro-Palestinian "junta" on the campuses has nothing to offer other than hatred and delegitimization of Israel. If these folks really cared about the Palestinians, they would be campaigning for good government and for the promotion of values of democracy and freedom in the West Bank and Gaza.
    • What is happening on the U.S. campuses is not really about supporting the Palestinians and ending the "occupation" as much as it is about ending the existence of Israel. What is happening on these campuses is not about freedom of speech but the freedom to disseminate hatred and violence.
    • We should not be surprised if the next generation of jihadists comes not from Gaza or Afghanistan but from university campuses across the U.S.

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