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May 27, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Link Holding Up Turkey Landmine Clean-Up - Burak Akinci (AFP)
    Turkey's plan to rid its border area with Syria of landmines faces stiff political opposition over fears that an Israeli company stands to lease the land for four decades after clearing it of mines.
    After ratifying the Ottawa Treaty ban on anti-personnel landmines in 2003, Turkey has until 2014 to clear its border territories of mines.
    The government plan would allow the chosen mine-clearing company to rent the territory, turning it into agricultural land, for up to 44 years.
    Two unnamed Israeli companies are said to be strong contenders to win the contract.

Why Syria Fuels the Iraqi Insurgency - Raymond Tanter (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    Al-Qaeda foreign fighters have been transiting through Syria into Iraq since the 2003 American invasion of Iraq and their number has increased during the first months of 2009.
    In the same way that Saudi Arabia disposed of its most fervent jihadists by sending them to Afghanistan during the 1980s to fight and die against the Soviet Union, Iraq was a fortuitous outlet for Syria's own Islamist opposition.
    Syria also had a strategic interest in tying down U.S. forces in Iraq and preventing the rise of a stable Iraqi government allied with the U.S.
    Just as Saudi Arabia suffered the blowback effects of jihadists returning from Afghanistan, a new generation of foreign fighters driven out of Iraq may yet challenge the Syrian regime.
    The writer is a former senior staff member of the U.S. National Security Council.

French Military Base Opens in Persian Gulf - Edward Cody (Washington Post)
    France inaugurated its first military base in the Persian Gulf on Tuesday, underlining an ambition to help meet the strategic challenge from Iran and capture a share of the region's rich arms market for the French defense industry.
    President Nicolas Sarkozy formally opened a 900-foot quay allocated to the French navy in Abu Dhabi's Zayed Port, a French air force installation at the Dhafra Air Base just outside the city, and a military barracks for several hundred French soldiers.

Al-Qaeda-Linked Terrorists Arrested for Cairo Bomb Attack - Cynthia Johnston (Reuters)
    Egypt has detained seven people suspected of involvement in a bomb attack in February near the 14th-century Khan el-Khalili market, a popular Cairo tourist area, that killed a French teenager, the Egyptian Interior Ministry said on Saturday.
    "State security investigators were able to identify a group of Egyptian and foreign elements connected to the al-Qaeda organization who go by the name Palestinian Army of Islam," a statement said.
    Those detained had explosives and ammunition in their possession and had been recruited to carry out attacks in Egypt and abroad.

Vandals Desecrate Christian Graves in West Bank - Ali Sawafta (Reuters)
    Vandals desecrated some 70 graves in two Palestinian Christian cemeteries on Sunday in the village of Jiffna near Ramallah in the West Bank.
    Officials say there are 50,000 Christians living in the West Bank and that many have emigrated in recent decades.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S.-Backed Palestinian Leader Has Credibility Problem - Howard Schneider
    PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, 74, heads a fractured government and a fractured political party. His four-year term expired four months ago. Polls show that he lags in popularity behind the leader of the Islamist Hamas movement, Ismail Haniyeh. His handpicked prime minister, Salam Fayyad, trusted to manage billions of dollars in foreign aid, is reviled by some Palestinians as a U.S. proxy. Whatever peace initiative President Obama envisions for the region, it involves a gamble that Abbas can overcome a long list of liabilities, put Palestinian politics back into one piece and hold up his side of any bargain. Abbas is to meet Obama at the White House on Thursday. (Washington Post)
  • Muslim Nations Link Better Israel Ties to Peace - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
    Muslim foreign ministers meeting in Damascus on Monday issued a statement saying: "We must not reward Israel for its crimes." The statement issued by the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) said: "Any progress on ties must be linked to how much the Israeli position represents a commitment to a just and comprehensive peace that guarantees the restoration of rights and occupied land." The OIC said the concept of "resistance" was distinct from terrorism. "Terrorism is a dangerous global phenomenon, but this does not mean that we should allow it to be used to confuse issues and describe resistance as terrorism," the statement said. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Chief of Staff: "Hizbullah Has More Rockets than Before Lebanon War" - Yuval Azoulay
    Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday that Hizbullah has more rockets than before the Second Lebanon War. "Hizbullah is secretly bolstering its power south of the Litani River, but UNIFIL's presence is making that task more difficult," he noted.
        On the Iranian nuclear threat, Ashkenazi said, "The option of dialogue, alongside imposing sanctions, is preferable in our view, but as chief of staff, my obligation is to prepare for every alternative for dealing with this matter, and that is what I'm doing." He added that Israel and moderate Arab states in the region have a common interest in stopping Tehran's nuclear ambitions. "Iran is very vulnerable from an economic standpoint, and firm pressure and sanctions can influence the Iranian regime to reconsider its nuclear policy."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Dennis Ross: No Link between Iran, Mideast Peace - Yossi Melman
    Dennis Ross, the U.S. Secretary of State's special adviser on Iran, opposes the Obama administration's concept of linkage in a new book, Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East, written with David Makovsky. Ross writes that efforts to advance dialogue with Iran should not be connected to the renewal of talks between Israel and the Palestinians. In the second chapter, entitled "Linkage: The Mother of All Myths," Ross writes: "Of all the policy myths that have kept us from making real progress in the Middle East, one stands out for its impact and longevity: the idea that if only the Palestinian conflict were solved, all other Middle East conflicts would melt away. This is the argument of 'linkage.'" (Ha'aretz)
  • Problem Seen in Economic Viability of Palestinian Entity - Gil Hoffman
    Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Ya'alon told a conference at the Knesset on Tuesday, "I do not see any chance of establishing a viable Palestinian entity in Judea and Samaria and/or the Gaza Strip that could sustain itself economically....The gap between Israel as a First-World country and a Palestinian Third-World country is a recipe for instability." Ya'alon suggested educational, economic, political, police and military reforms for the PA, while cooperating with Arab countries on issues like the humanitarian plight of Palestinians who consider themselves refugees. But he said even this could not take place without a responsible Palestinian leadership that would recognize Israel as a Jewish state. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • No Common Ground - Jeffrey Goldberg
    In March, Muhammad Dahlan, a former chief of the PA's secret police organizations and once a tacit ally of the CIA, defended Fatah from the charge, made by Hamas, that it had previously recognized Israel's right to exist. Dahlan said: "For the 1,000th time, I want to reaffirm that we are not asking Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist. Rather we are asking Hamas not to do so, because Fatah never recognized Israel's right to exist." Dahlan's comment helps buttress the main argument of Benny Morris's new book, One State, Two States, which says that Arab rejectionism is so profound a force that only the terminally obtuse could believe that Palestinians will ever acquiesce to a state comprised solely of the West Bank and Gaza.
        Morris sees the culprit as the implacable fanaticism of Arab Islamists, who are unwilling to accept a Jewish national presence in what is thought of as Arab land, a position that hasn't changed since 1920. Subsequent events that seemingly contradict this - most notably the PLO's ostensible recognition of Israel in 1988 - have been staged for the benefit of gullible Westerners, Morris writes. (New York Times)
        See also Excerpt: One State, Two States - Benny Morris (New York Times)
  • A Disarmed Palestinian State? - Amitai Etzioni
    A strong case for a two-state solution has been made, but it better be based on the Palestinians developing their own effective peacekeeping troops and, arguably, on an Israeli presence on the Jordan River. Neither can rely on the U.S., beleaguered as it is, or on the conflicted and casualty-averse NATO to show a staying power for peacekeeping that neither has mustered in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Haiti. The Palestinians are surely entitled to govern themselves. However, if the West Bank is not to be turned into one giant terrorist base, part of the solution will have to be a credible way to ensure that the two states will live in "security and peace" with each other. The writer is a professor of international relations at George Washington University. (TPM Cafe)
  • Settlements, Palestinian Rocket Fire, and the Search for Peace - Editorial
    Opinions about the status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank under international law are more varied than the pro-Palestinian segment of the press would lead you to believe. There has, of course, been no final settlement of borders between Israel and the future Palestinian state; the Palestinian parties have always found a way to sabotage any such deal. The essential precondition for firming up a set of mutually tenable borders is for Palestinians to settle their civil war and choose a government that is permanently committed to renouncing terror. They have, essentially, been paid hundreds of millions of dollars by the West to help this part of the process along; so far, the money has accomplished little.
        In 2005, Israel demonstrated in the Gaza Strip, to what ought to be anyone's satisfaction, that it is willing to dismantle Jewish settlements in disputed territories to achieve peace. In Gush Katif, it evacuated a particularly successful community in a place that has had Jewish demographic representation since antiquity, and turned a cutting-edge economic infrastructure over to Palestinian authority - only to see that infrastructure demolished in triumphalist rioting, and to be rewarded with rocket fire on nearby Israeli towns.
        Why, when every step Israel takes toward peace is met with increasing pressure from Palestinian elements who hope to annihilate it, should it be stricter about suppressing overly adventurous Jewish settlers than Palestine has ever been about respecting Israeli sovereignty over Israel? When rocket attacks and cross-border raids are answered by the quiet, stubborn construction of houses and farms, it won't do for third parties to forget the rockets and denounce the farms as "illegal." (National Post-Canada)
  • Observations:

    The Jewish Nakba: Expulsions, Massacres and Forced Conversions - Ben-Dror Yemini (Ma'ariv-Hebrew, 16May09-Tom Gross Media)

    • In the 1940s, population exchanges and deportations for the purpose of creating national states were the accepted norm. Tens of millions of people experienced it, but only the Palestinians have been inflating the myth of the Nakba.
    • However, there is another Nakba: the Jewish Nakba. During those same years, there was a long line of slaughters, pogroms, property confiscation and deportations - against Jews in Islamic countries. The Jewish Nakba was worse than the Palestinian Nakba. The number of Jews murdered was greater, their dispossession was greater, and their suffering greater. The only difference is that the Jews did not turn that Nakba into their founding ethos. To the contrary. Like tens of millions of other refugees around the world, they preferred to heal the wound.
    • A stunning testimonial from those years actually comes from the Arab side. In 1936, Alawite notables sent a letter to the French Foreign Minister which said: "The Jews brought civilization and peace to the Arab Muslims, and they dispersed gold and prosperity over Palestine without damage to anyone or taking anything by force. Despite this, the Muslims declared holy war against them and didn't hesitate to massacre their children and women." One of the letter's signers was the great grandfather of Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria.
    • Nakba Day is the date of the declaration of Israel's independence, May 15. A few hours after that declaration, the Secretary of the Arab League, Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzamaha, announced a declaration of war against Israel: "This war will be a war of annihilation and the story of the slaughter will be told like the campaigns of the Mongols and the Crusaders." The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini, who was close to Hitler during the Second World War, added: "I am declaring a holy war. My brother Muslims! Slaughter the Jews! Kill them all!"
    • There were periods in which Jews enjoyed relative peace under Muslim rule, but those periods were the exception. History records a long series of massacres in Muslim countries long before the Zionist endeavor. Tens of thousands were murdered simply because they were Jewish. The fairytale of coexistence and blaming Zionism for undermining that coexistence is yet another completely baseless myth.
    • [Many countries where tens of thousands of Jews lived are now totally "Judenrein." Apart from Morocco and Tunisia, where about 4,000 Jews remain, no Arab state now has more than 100 Jews. In just a few years, Jewish communities stretching back up to 3,000 years, well before the birth of Islam, have been "ethnically cleansed" from Arab countries. This contrasts sharply with Israel where the Arab population continues to increase greatly and is now much larger than it was in the British Mandate period. - Tom Gross]

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