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May 28, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Concerned about UNIFIL's Fate after Lebanon Elections - Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel is concerned that if Hizbullah wins the upcoming elections in Lebanon, some European members of UNIFIL will consider downsizing their participation in the force or completely withdrawing their personnel.
    Defense officials have also expressed concern with American plans to supply advanced military platforms to the Lebanese armed forces.
    Senior defense officials warned that if Hizbullah formed the next government, the weapons would fall into the group's hands.
    See also Hizbullah Builds Up Its Might - Amir Mizroch (Jerusalem Post)
    The assessment in Israel is that Hizbullah will win the June 7 election, but even if it doesn't, it will continue to control Lebanon.
    Hizbullah has received hundreds of millions of dollars every year from Iran for its military program, and also obtains military hardware from other countries through Iranian and Syrian financing and logistics.
    Israel in 2009 is facing threats on five fronts: Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas and Global Jihad.

Arab Public Opinion Poll: Chavez Most Admired World Leader - Shibley Telhami (Brookings Institution)
    According to the 2009 Annual Arab Public Opinion Survey, the most admired non-Arab world leader is Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

National Geographic Blames Israel for Christianity's Decline in Middle East - Dexter Van Zile (CAMERA)
    In its June 2009 issue, National Geographic portrays the departure of Christians from the Holy Land as largely a consequence of Israeli (and American) policies in the region.
    The article offers no honest description of the well-documented mistreatment of Christians at the hands of Muslim majority populations in the Middle East.
    It also obscures the fact that Israel's Christian population grew by 25% from 1995 to 2007.

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Who's Who: Iran's Top 20 (Newsweek)
    Power and public discourse in Iran are dominated by fewer than two dozen heavyweights, ranging from ayatollahs to entertainers (and one TV network).

NY Arrest Puts Focus on Missile Defense for Airliners - Glenn Pew (AVWeb)
    The arrest in New York last week of four people who planned (among other things) to fire shoulder-launched missiles at aircraft highlights a continuing danger.
    There have been more than 35 attempts to shoot down civilian aircraft in the past 10 years, resulting in at least 24 crashes and the deaths of some 500 people.

Holocaust Toll Will Rise Even Higher - Roger Boyes (Times-UK)
    After a five-year investigation, French priest Father Patrick Desbois, who has been digging up the mass graves of Eastern Europe, is convinced that the figure for the number of Jewish dead in the Holocaust will have to be revised upwards.
    "Surely at the end of it all the numbers will be larger," Father Desbois said, "but we are still inspecting sites in Belarus and there is the vastness of Russia ahead of us."

Life Expectancy in Israel Higher than in U.S. (AP/Ha'aretz)
    Life expectancy in Israel is among the highest in the Western world - 82 years for women and 79 for men, according to a World Health Organization study.
    In the U.S., life expectancy is 81 for women and 76 for men.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Clinton: No More Jewish Settlement Growth - Paul Richter
    Rebuffing Israel, Secretary of State Clinton said Wednesday that President Obama "wants to see a stop to settlements - not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions." "We intend to press that point," Clinton said in an appearance at the State Department with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
        Israeli officials maintain that existing settlements should be allowed to expand to accommodate the natural growth of Jewish families. Israeli officials are willing to limit growth in outlying settlements, but contend that expansion should be allowed in larger settlements, closer to Israeli territory, that probably would be annexed to Israel in any final settlement. Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated Sunday that there must be an allowance for "natural growth."  (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Israeli Defense Minister Barak: Agreement with Palestinians Does Not Depend on Limiting "Natural Growth" - Mark Landler and Isabel Kershner
    On Monday, Ehud Barak, the defense minister and leader of the Labor party, gave a hypothetical example of a family of four that originally moved into a two-room home in a settlement. "Now there are six children," he said. "Should they be allowed to build another room or not?...Ninety-five percent of people will tell you it cannot be that someone in the world honestly thinks an agreement with the Palestinians will stand or fall over this."  (New York Times)
        See also Israel Shrugs Off U.S. Demand on Settlements - Jean-Luc Renaudie
    Israel shrugged off Thursday a blunt U.S. call for a halt to all Jewish settlement building. Government spokesman Mark Regev said the fate of settlements "will be determined in final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and in the interim, normal life must be allowed to continue in those communities."  (AFP)
        On Wednesday, an Israeli official said the demand of Israel to completely freeze settlement construction was out of order, as the Palestinians have failed to fulfill their part in the first phase of the Roadmap, in particular in combating terrorism. (Ha'aretz)
  • Clinton Promises New U.S. Proposals for Mideast Peace - David Gollust
    Secretary of State Clinton said Wednesday the Obama administration will soon present "very specific proposals" to Israel and the Palestinians on how to advance toward a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict. (VOA News)
  • Islamic Charity Leaders Get 65-Year Jail Terms
    U.S. District Judge Jorge Solis on Wednesday handed down 65-year prison sentences to two founders of the Dallas-based Holy Land Foundation, a U.S. Islamic charity convicted of illegally funneling $12.4 million to the Palestinian militant group Hamas. A grand jury convicted five of its leaders for conspiracy to support a foreign terrorist organization, money laundering, tax fraud and other charges. "These sentences should serve as a strong warning to anyone who knowingly provides financial support to terrorists under the guise of humanitarian relief," said David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. (Reuters)
  • Egyptian Candidate for UNESCO Chief Apologizes for Anti-Israel Rhetoric - Sophie Hardach
    Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, a candidate for the top job at the UN culture agency UNESCO, apologized on Wednesday for calling for Israeli books to be burned. "Nothing is more distant to me than racism, the negation of others or the desire to hurt Jewish culture or any other culture," he wrote in the French newspaper Le Monde. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: Arab States Should Normalize Israel Ties Now
    Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday urged Arab countries to make immediate moves toward normalizing ties with Israel. Speaking in the Knesset, he also said, "We are prepared to make, and we will make, concrete steps for peace with the Palestinians," but that "we will insist on reciprocity in talks with Palestinians....We expect the Palestinians to make such concrete steps as well. And it would be good if Arab countries joined the peace effort and made concrete and symbolic steps toward normalization with Israel, not later, but now." "Bringing Arab states into the circle of peace will strengthen Israel and bring security to the Palestinians as well," Netanyahu said. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Netanyahu Convenes Ministerial Committee on Improving Situation of the Palestinians
    Prime Minister Netanyahu convened the Ministerial Committee on Improving the Situation of the Palestinian Residents of Judea and Samaria on Wednesday. He said that advancing economic projects would improve the Palestinians' quality of life, with emphasis given to those projects which could be financed with international capital. Defense Minister Barak presented economic projects in the PA, including the establishment of industrial zones in the Jenin, Jericho, Hebron, and Bethlehem areas, waste disposal and sewage treatment sites, and the establishment of a Palestinian city near Ramallah. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Israeli, U.S. Officials Discuss Outposts - Herb Keinon
    An Israeli team headed by Intelligence Services Minister Dan Meridor, National Security Adviser Uzi Arad, and Netanyahu aide Yitzhak Molcho met in London on Tuesday with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell to discuss Iran and settlement construction. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Tuesday, "We must...find a way to make it clear to the Americans that there is not a direct connection between the outposts and Iran....It is not as if the minute that the last outpost is removed...the Iranians will abandon their nuclear aspirations. These things do not have to be directly linked to one another."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Is Obama Looking for a Fight over "Natural Growth"? - Herb Keinon
    "A 'settlement freeze' would not help Palestinians face today's problems or prepare for tomorrow's challenges," Elliott Abrams, the deputy national security adviser under former President George Bush, wrote in April in the Washington Post. "The demand for a freeze would have only one quick effect: to create immediate tension between the United States and Israel's new government," he wrote. The question is why the U.S. is looking for this fight.
        As Netanyahu told a visiting Congressional delegation on Wednesday, there is a need to find a way with the U.S. administration to enable "normal life" in the settlements to continue. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Warns Gazans to Keep Away from Border Fence - Ali Waked
    Israel Air Force helicopters on Monday dropped thousands of leaflets in Arabic warning Gaza residents to keep a 300-meter distance from the border fence with Israel. The leaflets featured maps of the areas, and residents were urged to stay away "lest they be harmed." (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Two-State Solution Illusion
    While Ottawa's political leaders were meeting on Tuesday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, a group of businessmen in Calgary met with Khaled Abu Toameh, the Arab-born West Bank and Gaza correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. And while politicians condemned Israel's settlements as an obstacle to a peaceful "two-state solution," Toameh couldn't help but chuckle. "I laugh when they talk about a two-state solution," he said. "It's unreal. It's not going to work." He dismisses it because, as those living in the territories well know, the Palestinians cannot even co-exist with themselves, let alone with Israel. "Abbas doesn't even have power in downtown Ramallah, where he works and lives," he says.
        Were Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to endorse the two-state plan tomorrow, it would be utterly meaningless. "There is no partner on the Palestinian side," Toameh says. Israel's West Bank settlements are no obstacle, he adds; they are a red herring: a minor issue that Jerusalem will easily handle - based on its readiness to dismantle its settlements in the past - when the moment is right. (National Post-Vancouver Sun-Canada)
  • North Korea Tests - Editorial
    Loudly castigating and threatening North Korea and then failing to implement sanctions is worse than doing nothing at all. It will only embolden Pyongyang and send a dangerous message to others - Iran is surely watching - about the fecklessness of the major powers. (New York Times)
  • Israel Fears a Nuclear Iran - Victor Davis Hanson
    Why would the Iranian government spend billions of dollars trying to develop a few first-generation nuclear bombs (as nearly everyone believes is the case) when the country is so poor that it has to ration gasoline? Most likely, Iran wishes to break Israel's will - not necessarily by a nuclear strike. Instead, periodic threats from a nuclear theocracy, it may recognize, would do well enough. Once armed with the bomb, Iran will likely increase the frequency of its now-familiar denial of the Holocaust. The net effect would be for half the world's Jews to hear constantly two messages - there was no Holocaust, but there might well be one soon. It would be analogous to the American public reliving the threats of the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 - every day. The writer is a historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Arabs vs. Iranians - Reuel Marc Gerecht
    "For Israel to get the kind of strong support it's looking for vis-a-vis Iran," warned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "it can't stay on the sidelines with respect to the Palestinians and the peace efforts." The two "go hand in hand." Unstated in Clinton's warning is the assumption that an Arab bloc could be assembled to oppose Iran, and that this would benefit Israel and the U.S. But for all practical purposes we've seen an Arab bloc of Sunni dictators, kings, and sheikhs opposed to Iran since 1979. And the results have been mixed. (Weekly Standard)
  • The Truth Is a Precondition for Peace - Max Singer
    The Palestinians teach their people that no Jewish kingdom ever existed in the land they call Palestine, and that there was never a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. For most Palestinians, these are "facts" learned in school and taken for granted. This is not merely an "alternative narrative." This false story helps explain the Palestinian refusal to make peace, because so long as Palestinians think the Jews were never here before, they will see Jews as a foreign colonial implant with no claim to the land. Modern Israel's claim depends on the Jews' historic connection to the territory. Without this history, the Jews would indeed be foreign invaders, not a people returning home.
        Denial of the Jews' connection to the land is much more important than Holocaust denial. Israel's claim to the land has nothing to do with the Holocaust. The international decision that Palestine should be a Jewish homeland was made by the League of Nations a generation before the Holocaust. Israeli diplomats should call on the U.S. to end the Palestinians' denial of history. There are plenty of Muslim sources that can be used to teach the facts. (Jerusalem Post)

    Weekend Features

  • Jewish Woman Wins Arab Poetry Prize - Toby Axelrod
    Tuvit Shlomi, 28, who works at the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel in The Hague, won the El Hizjra Prize, a poetry award designed to promote the culture of Arab immigrants to Holland. Shlomi submitted her poems using the pseudonym Wallada bint al-Mustaqfi, who was an 11th-century Andalusian poet and feminist. (JTA)
  • In Israel, History with a Whiff of Adventure - Nancy M. Better
    We wanted our children's holiday in Israel to have a whiff of adventure. If the caves of Maresha reminded them of Indiana Jones, we were on the right track. Teenagers thrive on action and intrigue, and Israel fits the bill. The entire country is kid-friendly - lively and colorful, laid back and casual. You can go caving and then show up at a nice cafe for lunch without changing clothes, and nobody cares. We crisscrossed the country, which is about the size of New Jersey. Few destinations offer such a vast array of experiences in such a small space - or so many educational opportunities that feel like plain fun. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Peace Has Never Been Up to Israel; It's Always Been Up to the Arabs - Daniel Gordis (Jerusalem Post)

    • Many people believe that to achieve peace in the Middle East, Israel just needs to be subdued. Break Israel's intransigence, and we'll finally see progress.
    • To these people, and to President Obama, I'd like to propose the following thought experiment: Imagine that Israel decides to take down the security fence, remove the checkpoints, open all the roads and Gaza's sea and air routes. It agrees publicly to return to the pre-1967 borders and accede to demands that parts of Jerusalem be put under Palestinian control. Does this end the conflict? Of course it doesn't.
    • The noose would tighten. The rockets would be fired from a shorter distance and the demand for the return of refugees would persist. As was the case when Israel left Lebanon in May 2000 or Gaza in the summer of 2005, Israel's enemies would smell a weakened, bloodied state and would prepare for the next stage of their war. But peace would not have come.
    • Now try the opposite side of the thought experiment. Imagine that the Palestinians decide that they have tired of the conflict and insist on a settlement. They recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, agree to an immediate and permanent cessation of hostilities and violence, and insist that any other outstanding issues be negotiated and resolved. Would an Israeli plebiscite overwhelmingly approve the offer? Without question.
    • This, of course, is not going to happen because there's always been one party that's sought peace, and another that's rejected it. It's never been up to us, and it's always been up to them.

      The writer is senior vice president and a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, and the author of Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War that May Never End.

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