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April 6, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

New Israel Government Conducting Policy Review - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    The Netanyahu government is conducting a thorough policy review in which all diplomatic components - from the Roadmap peace plan to the Annapolis process - are being reevaluated.

Khamenei Hails Venezuela's Anti-Israel Stance (AFP)
    Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei on Saturday hailed the Venezuelan government's decision to cut ties with Tehran's archfoe Israel as a "courageous" step, in a meeting with visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
    Venezuela expelled the Israeli ambassador from Caracas in January.

Pirates Attack Israeli Ship Off Somalia - Steve Weizman (AP/Forbes)
    Somali pirates opened fire on an Israeli-owned cargo ship in the Indian Ocean but failed in their attempts to board the vessel, Rafi Danieli, managing director of the Zim shipping line, said Sunday.
    "We had installed coils of barbed wire around the ship's hull, which it appears prevented them from getting on board," he said.
    Zim notified the Israeli navy and the Foreign Ministry, which in turn urgently contacted an international anti-piracy task force patrolling the nearby Gulf of Aden.
    "A British plane took off, which arrived in the area to patrol and helped to chase off the pirates," Danieli said.

Top Terrorist Bomb Maker Hiding in Syria (AP/New York Times)
    In the 1980s, more than two dozen terrorist attacks that killed and injuring scores were the responsibility of Abu Ibrahim, who controlled a web of dangerous operatives while living in Baghdad under the protection of Saddam Hussein.
    ''He was the most capable and the most dangerous bomb maker in the world barring none during my time as a CIA officer," said Bob Baer, a former top CIA agent who worked clandestinely in the Middle East.
    Long forgotten, Ibrahim, whose real name is Husayn al-Umari, is very much alive. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Ibrahim had managed to elude coalition forces before he recently crossed into Syria, federal law enforcement and former CIA officials believe.

Jewish City Turns 100 - Aron Heller (AP)
    Tel Aviv was founded a century ago on April 11, 1909, on deserted Mediterranean sand dunes. In 1934 it was declared a city - the first modern Jewish city.
    Today, Tel Aviv is a world-class, high-tech metropolis and financial capital of 400,000 people. With its suburban sprawl, the population swells to 3 million, more than half the Jews in Israel.
    See also Tel Aviv Marks Centennial (JTA)
    As Tel Aviv kicked off its 100th birthday celebrations, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the city's Rabin Square Saturday night for a free concert and dance party.
    Under the backdrop of elaborate fireworks, the crowd listened to the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, followed by contemporary Israeli and international singers and bands.

Key Links 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. May Cede to Iran's Nuclear Ambition - Daniel Dombey
    U.S. officials are considering whether to accept Iran's pursuit of uranium enrichment, which has been outlawed by the UN and remains at the heart of fears that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons capability. As part of a policy review commissioned by President Obama, diplomats are discussing whether the U.S. will eventually have to accept Iran's insistence on carrying out the process, which can produce both nuclear fuel and weapons-grade material. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Obama: Al-Qaeda Not Motivated by Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
    President Obama said in Strasbourg on Friday: "We have a mutual interest in ensuring that organizations like al-Qaeda cannot operate. And I think that it is important for Europe to understand is still a threat, and that we cannot pretend somehow that because Barack Hussein Obama got elected president, suddenly, everything is going to be OK."
        "Al-Qaeda is still bent on carrying out terrorist activity. It is, you know, don't fool yourselves because some people say, well, you know, if we changed our policies with respect to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict or if we were more respectful towards the Muslim world, suddenly, these organizations would stop threatening us. That's just not the case. It is true that we have to change our behavior in showing the Muslim world greater respect and changing our language and changing our tone. It is true that we have to work very hard for Israeli/Palestinian peace. But what is also true is that these organizations are willing to kill innocent people because of a twisted distorted ideology and we, as democracies and as people who value human life, can't allow those organizations to operate." (CNN)
  • Britain Says U.S. Doesn't Object to Efforts to Engage Hizbullah - Ziad Haidar and Borzou Daragahi
    The Obama administration is "comfortable" with the British government's attempts to engage Hizbullah, Bill Rammell, Britain's minister of state for foreign and Commonwealth affairs, said last week in Damascus. "The feedback we had on Lebanon is that the Americans are comfortable with us doing things differently than they are," he said. Senior U.S. officials have publicly rejected the British decision. "Our position on Hizbullah remains unchanged," Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, told lawmakers last month. "We see no distinction between the leadership and funding of the group's terrorist, military, political and social wings."
        In a meeting last week with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, Rammell also said London was ready to engage with Hamas if it renounced violence. "I would like to talk to Hamas, but we need change before engaging in that position," he said. He added that Hizbullah must also reject violence before any dialogue could broaden. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Hizbullah Doesn't Have Wings - Michael J. Totten
    A few weeks ago Britain decided to unfreeze "diplomatic relations" with Hizbullah, and the nonsensical phrases "political wing" and "military wing" have been used to describe the Iranian-backed militia ever since. But these "wings" don't exist in any meaningful sense. That's not how Hizbullah is structured. (Commentary)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Expected to Boycott UN Gaza Mission - Mark Weiss
    Israel is not expected to cooperate with the UN mission appointed to investigate alleged war crimes committed by Israel during the recent Gaza operation. The investigation was ordered by the Human Rights Council in January. But Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor says the council doesn't deal with human rights, but rather acts according to a political agenda dictated by non-democratic states. "The aim of the committee is not to seek out the truth but to single out Israel for its alleged crimes that the council has already determined Israel is guilty of," Palmor said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Fatah Has Resumed Terrorist Activities Against Israel - Amos Harel
    Defense officials said over the weekend they are concerned about the increased involvement of Fatah-affiliated terrorists in attacks against Jews in the West Bank over the past two months. Fatah members stopped attacks against Israel around two years ago, but the involvement of Fatah members in the recent deadly attack in Bat Ayin and the murder of two policemen in the Jordan Valley are being investigated.
        Foreign elements are cooperating with Fatah, defense officials say. In 2003 and 2004, when Fatah was responsible for a considerable part of terrorist attacks in the West Bank and inside Israel, most cells were handled by Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad operatives based in Beirut and Damascus, who supplied funds and leadership. However, intelligence reports suggest that several Fatah militants have resumed planning and implementing attacks against Israel, including some who signed pledges to cease terrorist activity. (Ha'aretz)
  • Bedouin Girl Shoots at Border Guard Post - Ilana Curiel
    A teenage Bedouin girl opened fire Saturday at a Border Guard post in southern Israel. Basma Awad al-Nabari, 16, arrived at the entrance to the base and began to fire a handgun. "We tried to persuade her to stop firing," said an officer at the scene, "but she didn't respond," and was then shot and killed. Police said the attack was nationalistically-motivated.
        Earlier Saturday, IDF soldiers patrolling along the Gaza security fence near kibbutz Kfar Aza exchanged fire with Palestinian gunmen carrying an explosive device, killing two. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Nuclear Threat from Iran - Editorial
    Benjamin Netanyahu formally became Israel's prime minister last week, and he could not have been blunter about the strategic challenge ahead: "It is a mark of disgrace for humanity that several decades after the Holocaust the world's response to the calls by Iran's leader to destroy the State of Israel is weak....We cannot afford to take lightly megalomaniac tyrants who threaten to annihilate us."
        Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted Thursday, "there is a leadership in Israel that is not going to tolerate" a nuclear Iran. Tehran's atomic designs, he said, were a matter of "life or death" for the Jewish state. "The operative word is 'existential'," he said. When we asked Mullen whether Israel was capable of inflicting meaningful damage to Iran's nuclear installations, his answer was a simple "Yes." "I think the Iranians are on a path to building nuclear weapons," he said, adding, "we don't have a lot of time."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Palestinians' Obligations - U.S. Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY)
    The Washington Post's March 31 editorial "Israel's New Government" talked a lot about what the Israelis must do to continue to have support from the U.S. What I found lacking was a discussion of what the Palestinians must do to have acceptance by Israel and the U.S. for a two-state solution. Pressure should not be put just on Israel alone, as the editorial attempted to do. For a two-state solution to become a reality, Palestinians in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip must recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. They must also renounce terrorism and understand that they cannot use terrorism as a negotiating tool to achieve their state. The Palestinians must also agree to abide by all previous agreements signed by their leadership.
        These are prerequisites for Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank to accept for there to be a peaceful, two-state solution. Since the war in Gaza has ended, Palestinians continue to bombard Israel with missiles threatening Israeli civilians. This must stop if the conflict is going to be resolved. Peace will come to that region of the world when both sides recognize each other's right to exist in peace and security. It will not come from pressuring Israel to make unilateral concessions in return for worthless promises or worthless pieces of paper. The writer is a member of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. (Washington Post)
  • What to Speak with Hamas About - Shlomo Avineri
    Recently, more and more voices have been heard saying that the only way to reach an Israeli-Palestinian accord is by talking to Hamas. The question is what to talk to Hamas about. I believe we must talk to Hamas about what is written in their founding covenant. The prologue to the covenant states that Hamas' aim is a war - not against Israel or Zionism but against the Jewish people, since the Jews, and not merely Israel and Zionism, are the enemies of Islam. Compared with what is written in the Hamas covenant, Austria's Joerg Haider and Jean-Marie Le Pen in France are moderates. If a movement like this were to come out of Europe, no one would even imagine proposing that negotiations be held with it. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    The European Union Report on Jerusalem: Distortions and Omissions - Nadav Shragai (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • An imbalanced EU position paper on Jerusalem written in December 2008, and recently leaked to the media, completely ignores Israel's historical and legal rights to its capital.
    • The EU attack refers primarily to the City of David, located just beyond Jerusalem's Old City walls, an area identified by archaeologists and historians as the location of King David's capital some 3,000 years ago. Archaeological excavations took place there during Ottoman rule, as well as under the ensuing British Mandatory rule, and they have continued under Israeli rule as well.
    • About 20 years ago a wave of new, illegal construction by Palestinians began on the site, causing significant and sometimes irreversible damage to the antiquities there. The Jerusalem municipality intends to offer the delinquent residents generous compensation and alternative land in the city.
    • Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority for the last 150 years - at least since 1864. Israel's position in Jerusalem under international law derives from the Palestine Mandate, where the League of Nations recognized "the historical tie between the Jewish people and Palestine," and called "for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine."
    • The 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan did not fix the final boundaries between the parties, but only the lines of military separation at the close of the 1948 war. At the demand of the Arab side, the Armistice Agreement stipulated that it did not serve to predetermine the rights of any party in the final resolution of conflict. In other words, upon the outbreak of the Six-Day War, the 1967 lines enjoyed no diplomatic status.
    • In 1967, Israel agreed to allow the Muslim Waqf to manage the Temple Mount area, with a view toward preventing inter-religious conflict at one of the world's most sensitive sites. This was a huge concession on Israel's part that has never been properly recognized. By doing so, Israel has underscored its intention to assure freedom of access to members of all faiths at all of the holy sites in Jerusalem.

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