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May 26, 2009

In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Will Not Recognize Any Agreement Signed by Abbas - Saed Bannoura (IMEMC-PA)
    Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said Monday that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas' term in office had already expired; therefore he cannot sign an agreement with any country, including understandings with the U.S. and Israel.
    "He no longer represents the Palestinian people," Barhoum said.

    See also Hamas Seeks to Carry Out Executions without Abbas' Approval (Xinhua-China)
    Hamas is seeking a legal opinion allowing it to carry out the death penalty in Gaza without the need of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas' approval, Hamas spokesman Taher al-Noono said Monday.
    "A number of death verdicts have accumulated against some collaborators with the Zionist occupation," al-Noono said. "If the committee [studying the question] approved the executions, we would implement its decision," he added.

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Hamas Denies Preventing Rocket Attacks Against Israel (Xinhua-China)
    The Palestinian Islamic Hamas movement on Monday denied reports that it had decided to prevent Palestinian groups from firing rockets into Israel from Gaza.
    Ihab al-Ghussein, spokesman for the Interior Ministry of the Hamas government, said, "The factions have the right to respond to any Zionist crime using any sort of resistance and there is no lull with (Israel)."

Egyptian Police Bribed by Gaza Smugglers (Maan News-PA)
    Four Egyptian police officers stationed in northern Sinai were arrested on suspicion of receiving bribes from Gazan smugglers, an Egyptian security source said on Tuesday.
    The four received a sum exceeding 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($17,800) each, according to the source.

India's First AWACS Arrives from Israel (Times of India)
    The first of three Indian Air Force "eye-in-the-sky" airborne warning and control systems (AWACS) flew in from Israel to the Jamnagar airbase in Gujarat on Monday.
    With its ability to detect aircraft, cruise missiles and other flying objects at ranges far greater than is possible through existing systems, the AWACS can also "listen-in" to highly confidential communications between the enemy's front-line units.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran's Ahmadinejad Rejects Western Nuclear Proposal - Parisa Hafezi and Zahra Hosseinian
    Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday rejected a Western proposal for it to "freeze" its nuclear work in return for no new sanctions and ruled out any talks with major powers on the issue. His comments are likely to further disappoint the U.S. administration which is seeking to engage Iran diplomatically. Ahmadinejad proposed a debate with Obama at the UN "regarding the roots of world problems," but he made clear that "Our talks will only be in the framework of cooperation for managing global issues and nothing else....The nuclear issue is a finished issue for us."  (Reuters-Washington Post)
  • Venezuela, Bolivia Supplying Iran with Uranium - Mark Lavie
    Venezuela and Bolivia are supplying Iran with uranium for its nuclear program, according to a secret Israeli government report. Both regimes have a history of opposing U.S. foreign policy. Bolivia has uranium deposits, while Venezuela has an estimated 50,000 tons of untapped uranium reserves. The report also charges that Iran-backed Hizbullah has set up cells in Latin America and that Venezuela has issued permits that allow Iranian residents to travel freely in South America. The report says Venezuela and Bolivia are violating UN economic sanctions with their aid to Iran. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Iran Sends Six Warships to International Waters in "Saber Rattling" Move
    Iran has sent six warships into international waters and the Gulf of Aden in a move security experts are calling a "muscle flexing" show of defiance following missile tests last week. Foreign policy experts are calling it an aggressive move targeted at a Western audience and regional powers like rival Saudi Arabia. Jim Phillips, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Heritage Institute, said Ahmadinejad was using the opportunity to thumb his nose at the U.S. and UN to advance his own popularity in Iran ahead of the country's June 12 election. (FOX News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Seeks Discussions with PA Without Preconditions
    In an interview with David Frost for Al-Jazeera English television on May 23, Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said: "Mr. Netanyahu really came forward with a good faith approach of immediate negotiations with the Palestinians, with Mahmoud Abbas. By the way, we have requested a meeting with Abbas, but to no avail so far. But we have said we are ready to start without any preconditions....We are willing to start on a very intensive, multi-track approach, whereby there will be a security track, an economic track and also a political track."
        "We are very willing to work and help the Palestinians to build capacity so far as the security situation permits. Our policy is to open up everything, to really have a free flow and really bring the economic level and all other aspects of life in the West Bank up to par to Israelis."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Report: Most Hamas "Police Officers" Killed in Gaza Were Terrorists - Roee Nahmias
    During the IDF offensive in Gaza in January, Hamas has claimed that 343 of those killed were innocent police officers. However, a study by the independent Orient Research Group, commissioned by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to investigate the identities of those killed, says 286 of the 343 "police officers" killed were members of terror organizations, the vast majority of them belonging to Hamas' military wings.
        Referring to the claim that an Israel Air Force strike hit members of a Hamas traffic police training course, the report said 88% of those present were terror operatives, many belonging to the al-Qassam Brigades. The report explained that "The enlistment of al-Qassam Brigades operatives in official [police] security positions allowed the Hamas government to pay their wages with government funds."  (Ynet News)
  • Abbas' Office Honors Palestinian Terrorists - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
    The Palestinian Authority is once again using Western aid money to proclaim that killing Israeli woman and children is heroic. The PA chose to name its latest computer center "after the martyr Dalal Mughrabi," who led the 1978 bus hijacking that killed 37 civilians, 12 of them children, including American photographer Gail Rubin. The new center is funded by Mahmoud Abbas' office, Al-Ayyam newspaper reported on May 5. U.S. law prohibits the funding of Palestinian structures that use any portion of their budget to promote terror or honor terrorists. Last summer the PA sponsored "the Dalal Mughrabi football championship" for kids, and a "summer camp named for martyr Dalal Mughrabi," Al-Hayat al-Jadida reported. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel's Forgotten Rights in Jerusalem - Dore Gold
    When the actual talks with the Palestinians are launched, Israel will have to avoid making the basic diplomatic mistake that previous governments have made in defining Israel's primary interests - especially when it comes to Jerusalem. For most of the past two decades, an asymmetry could be observed in how the two parties handled their struggle in the diplomatic sphere. While the Palestinians maintained that their goal was to achieve a Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem, most Israeli declarations sufficed with general statements that the goal is peace, or peace and security.
        Whereas Israel presented an abstract goal, the Palestinians spoke about a clear and well-defined purpose. As a rule, the side that presents clear objectives is the triumphant one in any political conflict. Little wonder, then, that the contemporary diplomatic discourse is focusing on the Palestinian narrative, and Israel's arguments have been swept aside. This process comes despite the fact that Israel's claims rest on a broad base, and have in the past received solid international recognition, especially when it comes to Jerusalem.
        Two Israeli governments that proposed to divide Jerusalem never reached a final agreement. Israel need not be bound to the protocols of a failed negotiation. To protect Jerusalem, Israeli diplomacy must reestablish the unification of the city as a clear national goal, and not abandon the subject of Jerusalem exclusively to Palestinian spokespeople. The writer heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and was the Israeli ambassador to the UN. (Ha'aretz)
  • Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Building in the E-1 Area Next to Jerusalem - Razi Barkai
    Q: What is your position regarding building in the E-1 area?
    Barak: I believe that Jerusalem is beyond discussion. In Jerusalem, no one intends to build in Arab neighborhoods, but building inside Jewish neighborhoods is something that is recognized and undisputed, part of the national consensus. There is no construction currently about to begin in E-1. Prime Minister Rabin was the one who envisioned Maale Adumim as a part of the State of Israel and saw the need to build there. I continued this, as has every Israeli government. There is a corridor that connects Har Hatzofim to E-1 and actually it is the Palestinians from A-Zaim on one side and from Anata on the other side that are building there illegally. (Israel Army Radio, 25May09)
        See also Protecting the Contiguity of Israel: The E-1 Area and the Link Between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim - Nadav Shragai (ICA-JCPA)
  • Why Is the Human Rights Community Silent over Kidnapped Israeli Soldier? - Elena Bonner
    I have a question for my human rights colleagues. Why doesn't the fate of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit trouble you in the same way as does the fate of the Guantanamo prisoners? During the three years Shalit has been held by terrorists, the world human rights community has done nothing for his release. He is a wounded soldier, and fully falls under the protection of the Geneva Conventions. The conventions say clearly that hostage-taking is prohibited and that representatives of the Red Cross must be allowed to see prisoners of war. The fact that representatives of the Quartet conduct negotiations with the people who are holding Shalit vividly demonstrates their scorn of international rights documents and their total legal nihilism. The writer is a renowned human rights activist and the widow of the late Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Andrei Sakharov. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Seven Mistaken American Assumptions - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland (Ynet News)

    1. Assumption: "Establishing a Palestinian state in line with the 1967 borders is the essence of the Palestinians' national aspiration."
          The Palestinians could have secured such a state many times in the past, including at the Camp David talks in 2000. What is the basis for assuming that the Palestinian ethos, which is premised on a "desire for justice," "need for revenge," recognition of their "victimhood," and mostly the "right of return," has changed all of a sudden?

    2. Assumption: "The gap between the Israeli and Palestinian positions is bridgeable."
          Reality is different. The maximum any Israeli government can offer the Palestinians is far from the minimum that any Palestinian government would be able to accept.

    3. Assumption: "Egypt and Jordan want to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolved."
          Reality is different. As long as the conflict exists, Egypt has the ultimate excuse for all domestic troubles. For the Jordanians, a neighboring Palestinian state - likely under Hamas' rule - would mark the end of the Hashemite Kingdom.

    4. Assumption: "A final-status agreement would bring stability and security to the region."
          The exact opposite is true. There is no chance that the small and divided Palestinian state would be viable. The frustration created by such a situation, and with Israel being stripped of "defensible borders," is an obvious foundation for instability.

    5. Assumption: "We have an opportunity that must not be missed."
          The chance of securing an agreement back in 2000 was much greater than it is currently, yet it didn't happen. Is it more possible now to reach an agreement when Hamas is the dominant Palestinian movement?

    6. Assumption: "Progress on the Palestinian front is vital in order to enlist the support of Arab states against Iran."
          Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia have a supreme interest in curbing Iran, irrespective of the Palestinian issue.

    7. Assumption: "There's only one solution to the conflict - the two-state formula."
          There are alternate solutions whereby the Palestinian are no longer under Israel's control.

      The writer chaired Israel's National Security Council from 2004 to 2006.

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