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June 4, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Bin Laden Threatens U.S. in New Audiotape (AP/Dallas Morning News)
    Osama bin Laden threatened Americans in a new audio recording aired Wednesday and said President Barack Obama inflamed hatred toward the U.S. by ordering Pakistan to crack down on militants.
    See also Al-Qaeda No. 2 Zawahri Urges Egyptians to Reject "Criminal" Obama - Inal Ersan (Reuters)
    Al-Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri urged Egyptians not to be seduced by the "polished words" of what he called the "criminal" Barack Obama.
    See also Bin Laden's Obama Criticism a Sign He Is Worried - Sebastian Abbot (AP)
    Tom Sanderson, a terrorism expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Obama's "election undermined a key part of the [Muslim radicals'] argument that the U.S. was anti-Islamic, that the U.S. was racist."
    Sanderson said Obama's approach could make it harder for al-Qaeda to recruit supporters and raise money.

Al-Qaeda Eyes Bio Attack on U.S. from Mexico - Sara A. Carter (Washington Times)
    U.S. counterterrorism officials have authenticated a video by an al-Qaeda recruiter threatening to smuggle a biological weapon into the U.S. via tunnels under the Mexico border, the latest sign of the terrorist group's determination to stage another mass-casualty attack on the U.S. homeland.
    "Four pounds of anthrax - in a suitcase this big - carried by a fighter through tunnels from Mexico into the U.S. are guaranteed to kill 330,000 Americans within a single hour if it is properly spread in population centers there," the recruiter said. "9/11 will be small change in comparison."
    The officials stressed that there is no credible information that al-Qaeda has acquired the capabilities to carry out a mass biological attack, although its members have clearly sought the expertise.

World Bank: Massive Aid Won't Spark Palestinian Growth - Karin Laub (AP/Washington Post)
    Massive aid to the Palestinians can at best slow economic decline, but won't revive the private sector or spur long-term development, the World Bank said Thursday, challenging assumptions that have long guided donor countries.
    Palestinians are becoming more, not less, dependent on foreign aid, the report said.

PA Wants Saudis to Axe Rail Deal with French Firm over Israel Link - Abbas Al Lawati (Gulf News-UAE)
    Palestinian officials are trying to persuade Saudi authorities to withdraw from a contract with the French company Alstom Transport to link Mecca and Medina by train, because Alstom is part of a consortium that is building a light rail network in Jerusalem.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama Calls for "New Beginning" with Muslim World
    President Obama called for a "new beginning" between the West and the Muslim world Thursday in Cairo, saying there is more to unite than divide two civilizations that have been in fierce conflict for decades. (FOX News)
        See also below Observations: Obama Addresses the Muslim World (New York Times)
  • Israelis Say Bush Officials Agreed to Limited Settlement Growth - Ethan Bronner
    Senior Israeli officials said they had clear understandings with the Bush administration that allowed Israel to build West Bank settlement housing within certain guidelines. The Israeli officials said that repeated discussions with Bush officials starting in late 2002 resulted in agreement that housing could be built within the boundaries of certain settlement blocs as long as no new land was expropriated, no special economic incentives were offered to move to settlements and no new settlements were built. When Israel signed on to the Roadmap for a two-state solution in 2003, the officials said, it did so after a detailed discussion with Bush administration officials that laid out those explicit exceptions. One of the officials said Israel agreed to move ahead with the removal of settlements and soldiers from Gaza in 2005 on the understanding that settlement growth could continue.
        A former senior official in the Bush administration said Tuesday, "There was never an agreement to accept natural growth....There was an effort to explore what natural growth would mean, but we weren't able to reach agreement on that." However, another former Bush administration official, Elliott Abrams, who was on the National Security Council staff, wrote an opinion article in the Washington Post in April that seemed to endorse the Israeli argument. Dov Weissglas, a senior aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, wrote Tuesday in Yediot Ahronot that in May 2003 he and Sharon met with Abrams and Stephen J. Hadley of the National Security Council and came up with the definition of a settlement freeze (described above), and that Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser at the time, signed off on that definition later that month. (New York Times)
        See also The Settlement Freeze Fallacy - Elliott Abrams
    Will Israel's new government face American demands for a settlement freeze? If so, we are headed for a needless confrontation with the Netanyahu cabinet. For the past five years, Israel's government has largely adhered to guidelines that were discussed with the U.S. but never formally allow for settlement growth in ways that minimized the impact on Palestinians. (Washington Post)
  • Obama Reassures Jewish Groups about Israel - Kenneth R. Bazinet
    The White House tried to ease Israeli concerns over President Obama's fence-mending speech Thursday to the Muslim world, insisting he remains loyal to the strong U.S. relationship with the Jewish state. In an e-mail to Jewish groups and a conference call with Jewish leaders Wednesday, the White House insisted Obama's outreach to the mainstream Muslim majority is no threat to relations with its key Mideast ally. The White House e-mail said, "While we may have some differences of view with Israel at the moment over settlements, we are trying to work through them quietly, professionally, and without rancor or ultimatums, as befits a strong relationship with an important ally. We are confident we can do that." (New York Daily News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Defense Minister Barak: Disagreements with U.S. Are Exaggerated - Natasha Mozgovaya
    Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak addressed recent tensions between Israel and the U.S. at a press conference in Washington on Wednesday. "There is total agreement [between Israel and the U.S.] on matters of general security," Barak explained. "There is a deeper agreement on the situation in Iran than it may appear, and we have similar understandings on Hamas, and what is happening in Lebanon and on a long list of issues pertaining to the diplomatic process." Barak admitted, however, that disagreements do arise, saying, "We must allow the internal discourse to moderate or dissipate a large portion of the disagreements, and that is what we will try to do in the coming weeks." (Ha'aretz)
        Barak said any public debate between the U.S. and Israel "should take place in a mutual and respectful fashion." He said the U.S. government should "tone down the volume" on the public debate so that it could focus on the core of the issues at stake. (Ynet News)
  • Iranian Revolutionary Guards Advising Hamas - Avi Issacharoff
    Hamas leader Khaled Meshal recently relieved two brigade commanders in Gaza following the recommendation of Iranian Revolutionary Guard officials who participated in the investigation of Hamas' military failure during the Gaza fighting in January. Palestinian sources said Meshal consulted Hassan Mahdawi, commander of the "Jerusalem Column" in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, a unit stationed in Lebanon. (Ha'aretz)
  • PA-Hamas Clashes Continue in West Bank
    A Palestinian security officer was killed Thursday in clashes with Hamas gunmen in the West Bank city of Kalkilya after police sought to arrest a Hamas fugitive. On Sunday, six people were killed in Kalkilya after police stormed a Hamas hideout. (AP/Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket at Israel on Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Time Is Ripe to End the Arab-Israeli Conflict - Israeli President Shimon Peres
    Well-formulated peace plans are not enough on their own. Something else is often required. What brought about the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, signed in 1979, was a journey of less than an hour - the time it took Anwar Sadat to fly from Cairo to Jerusalem. It captured people's imaginations and created a turning point far more powerful than outside pressure. This journey put an end to the history of suspicion.
        King Abdullah of Jordan's father did something similar in 1997 after seven Israeli girls were murdered by a Jordanian soldier. King Hussein, disregarding protocol, drove to Beit Shemesh, a town close to Jerusalem, where he visited each and every one of the bereaved families. The impact of this unexpected gesture on the Israeli public was spectacular.
        Many Arab leaders perceive hegemony-seeking Iran as a threat to their existence and identity. For them, the primary challenge is not Israel but the Iranian ayatollahs who seek domination over the Middle East, using terror and threats of unconventional weapons. Israel is increasingly viewed as a part of the new path for a regional solution.
        The positive spirit of the Arab peace initiative, together with the Roadmap, provides a clear opportunity. Israel did not take part in the wording of the Arab peace initiative and, therefore, should not be expected to accept its every word. But Israel is ready to negotiate common ground. Regional negotiations should start without preconditions. (Times-UK)
  • Two-State Solution? How about Three? - Uri Dromi
    Just think about Israel and Palestine, two sovereign states living in peace side by side with open borders, prospering from friendly economic cooperation. What a great future for our children and grandchildren, all children of Abraham. Yet before I get carried away, I'm reminded of the present realities here, and then I have to agree with Netanyahu that a two-state solution is not a viable option, at least not for the moment.
        Who would rule that Palestinian state: Fatah, the weak organization that hardly handles the West Bank; or Hamas, the radical movement that holds Gaza in its iron fists, ready to take over the West Bank if given the chance? In either case, such a Palestinian state will not be able to live in peace with Israel - Fatah, because it can't; Hamas, because it won't. Eventually, things will fall into place. However, American pressure for two states right away will not help this to happen. (Miami Herald)
  • Observations:

    Obama Addresses the Muslim World (New York Times)

    U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday in Cairo:

    • So long as [the] relationship [between the West and Islam] is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end. I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition.
    • America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied. Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed - more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful.
    • On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead....The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.
    • The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security....That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Roadmap are clear.
    • Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed....It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.
    • Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.
    • At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.
    • Finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel's legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

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