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June 10, 2009

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Barak: U.S. Arms May Reach Hizbullah - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned on Tuesday: "We don't like the supply of American weapons to Lebanon's army over recent months, as well as the [further ones] planned; these arms are likely to reach Hizbullah's hands."

Does Gen. Petraeus Really Believe Hizbullah Exists Only Because of the Israeli-Palestinian Dispute? - Nicholas Guariglia (Pajamas Media)
    I consider Gen. David Petraeus to be among the best military leaders in American history. Yet the Arabic-language al-Hayat recently quoted him as saying, "Hizbullah's justifications for existence will become void if the Palestinian cause is resolved."
    Hizbullah is an Iranian-backed, Iranian-financed, Iranian-armed jihadist organization that was created by the Islamic Republic in the early 1980s and sent to Lebanon to kill and intimidate those who oppose theocracy and fascism.
    Hizbullah terrorists have killed more Americans than any other terrorist group in the world, save al-Qaeda. They have conducted attacks on innocents and civilian targets in the Middle East, in Latin America, in Asia; they have bases all over the world.
    To suggest Hizbullah's primary motivations are minimalist and nationalist is baloney. The rationale for Hezbollah's existence is to overtake and ransack Lebanon and make it a satrapy state for Iran, to Islamize the secular Lebanese polity, to kill Westerners wherever and whenever possible, and to strive for the end of Israel's existence.

Hamas Steals Donated Medical Equipment, Converts Ambulances to Military Vehicles - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch/IMRA)
    The Palestinian Health Ministry stated that during the Gaza war, Hamas militias raided 46 ambulances donated by Arab states, removed the medical equipment that they contained, and used them as military vehicles to arrest civilians, after painting the ambulances black, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported on May 20.

Israel Developing Battlefield Robot Snake (AP/Jerusalem Post)
    A six-foot long robotsnake with a camera and microphone in its head is the IDF's latest battlefield weapon, according to a Channel 2 TV report broadcast Monday.
    The channel showed video of the snake twisting into caves, tunnels, cracks and buildings, broadcasting pictures and sound back to a soldier controlling it with a laptop computer.

Useful Reference:

Report: Israel's Efforts in Supporting the Palestinian Economy, Security Reforms and Civil Affairs (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    This report provides an overview of Israeli measures to help develop Palestinian capacity during 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 in three main fields: economy, security, and civil cooperation.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Gates: U.S. Increasingly Concerned about Iranian Threat
    The U.S. is increasingly concerned about recent advances in Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday. "Our concern about the nature of the Iran problem has continued to rise as they continue to make further progress in enriching uranium," Gates told the Senate Appropriations Committee, "and also as they have enjoyed some success in their missile field." "Our concern with Iran, with Iran's programs - and I believe I can say also Israel's - has continued to grow, given the unwillingness of the Iranians to slow, stop or even indicate a willingness to talk about their programs," Gates said. (AFP)
  • Obama Architect on Iran Seeking Engagement with Pressure - Glenn Kessler
    As one of the main architects of the Obama administration's Iran policy, diplomatic troubleshooter Dennis Ross is crafting a way to reach out to Iran to persuade its leaders to abandon any plan to develop nuclear weapons. President Obama says this effort will have to show results by the end of the year. If engagement fails, Ross probably will have to shift course and help devise a blunt-force strategy to accomplish the same goal.
        In a new book, Ross and co-author David Makovsky lay out the elements of a strategy for approaching Iran. Myths, Illusions and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East recommends the establishment of a "direct, secret back channel" with Iran's leaders before any public talks commence, thus allowing for both sides to have a "thorough discussion and to see whether there is a common agenda that can be constructed." The book argues for a "hybrid approach," in which the U.S. seeks to talk to Iran but keeps up the pressure with aggressive enforcement of existing sanctions. (Washington Post)
  • Lebanon Leader Rules Out Independent Peace Track with Israel
    Saad Hariri, head of the "March 14" coalition which retained its control over Lebanon's government in elections this week, ruled out an independent peace track with Israel, sticking by his previous assessment that Lebanon will be the last country to sign a peace deal with the Jewish state. "We will follow after the Arab initiative," he said. "You see, the Arab initiative includes many countries for the peace process, and Lebanon will come as we see fit." (CNN)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Mitchell: U.S. Won't Yield on Demand for Settlement Freeze - Barak Ravid
    The U.S. envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, reiterated on Tuesday in Jerusalem that the Obama administration adamantly insists on a freeze of construction in all Israeli settlements in the West Bank. However, Mitchell assured Israel that Washington would remain its close ally despite differences over West Bank settlements. "We come here to talk not as adversaries and in disagreement, but as friends in discussion," he said. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Tells Mitchell It Won't Halt Natural Growth in Settlements - Herb Keinon
    U.S. envoy George Mitchell was told that Israel would not bring all settlement construction to a complete halt, even though this continues to be the U.S. position. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also U.S. Policy on Israeli Settlements - Dore Gold (ICA-JCPA)
  • Lebanon Election Results Make No Difference for Israel - Eyal Zisser
    For Israel, the Lebanese election results make no difference. Hizbullah will continue to do whatever it wishes in Lebanon, particularly in respect to building its military force. The fact that Lebanon was ruled by a pro-Western government headed by Fouad Siniora did not prevent Hizbullah from embarking on a war with Israel in July 2006, and did not stop the group from arming itself in the wake of the war with an arsenal of nearly 50,000 missiles, which cover most of Israel's territory. The challenges to be faced by Israel in the near future would therefore be to convince Western governments, headed by the U.S., not to rush to hug the Lebanese government while ignoring the "Hizbullah state." The writer heads the Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Ynet News)
        See also Frustrated Hizbullah More Dangerous in Wake of Election Defeat - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The statements made by Hizbullah leaders, who said they will accept the voters' decision, do not delude anyone. It is reasonable to assume that Hizbullah will try to prove to Lebanon's citizens that they made a mistake when they prevented it from sinking its teeth into a bigger share of the government pie. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Clarity for the Deniers - Michael Gerson
    In Obama's Cairo speech he drew one vivid line. Holocaust denial, he said, is "baseless," "ignorant" and "hateful." He talked about the "evil" of genocide, repudiated "lies about our history" and challenged Iranian President Ahmadinejad to visit Buchenwald. Obama's intensity and clarity on this issue were unexpected - and needed. Holocaust denial has long been a staple of Middle Eastern anti-Semitism. The political purpose of Middle Eastern Holocaust denial is to delegitimize the State of Israel. Since Israel, in this view, was created by the West out of Holocaust guilt, disproving the Holocaust removes the reason for Israel's existence.
        Yet this conception of Israel's history is itself a distortion. Zionism existed well before the European genocide. The ties between Jews and the Land of Israel reach back for millennia. Israel does not exist merely because of Holocaust guilt. It exists because of its own tenacity, sense of purpose and national success. (Washington Post)
  • Iran's Potemkin Election - Con Coughlin
    After suffering three decades of international isolation and unremitting Islamic revolution, millions of pro-democracy voters in Iran were supposed to have the opportunity in this Friday's presidential election to express their disenchantment with religious dictatorship. It is not to be. The guardians of Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution will remain deeply entrenched.
        For the past two elections to the Iranian parliament, the Revolutionary Guards have carefully vetted all the candidates to ensure only those with the right revolutionary credentials are allowed to stand. Now the regime has employed the same tactic ahead of the presidential election: Of the original 475 applicants, only four candidates have survived the cull. All of them have revolutionary credentials beyond reproach. The writer is the executive foreign editor of the Daily Telegraph in London and the author of Khomeini's Ghost: The Iranian Revolution and the Rise of Militant Islam (Ecco, 2009). (Wall Street Journal)
  • Iran Must Be Held Accountable - Irwin Cotler and Alan Dershowitz
    Former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler has introduced the Iran Accountability Act (IAA) in the Canadian parliament to hold Iran to account for its genocidal threats, nuclear ambitions, and domestic repressions. The IAA seeks to divest Canada from investment in Iran. It establishes a mechanism to monitor incitement to hate in Iran, and would render the most virulent inciters inadmissible to Canada. It freezes the assets of those that contribute to Iran's nuclear or military infrastructure - as well as its machinery of hate. It uses the framework of the international community to bring Iran to justice through recognized principles of international law. And, similar to a recent American legislative proposal, it targets Iran's dependence on imported petroleum - so long as the incitement continues. (National Post-Canada)
  • Observations:

    Strategic Challenges in a Changing Middle East - Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Moshe Yaalon (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    Former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon told the Washington Institute on Tuesday:

    • The media frames the Iranian issue as if a combination of a sincere dialogue and non-military sanctions will peacefully persuade the Iranians to give up their military nuclear program. This mistaken assumption is based primarily on wishful thinking. The media approaches this issue with the assumption that Iran is a rational actor, very much like Western states.
    • The alternative view suggests that the Iranians have a completely different agenda and set of motivating factors. For example, many key Iranian players, in particular the Mullahs, consider the destruction of Israel as just a step on the way to changing the entire world order. The Iranians want to bring about this change, and they have many allies who share their desire to bring down American-led global liberalization. The goal of such an alliance is not just the conquest of Israel, but the entire Western world as well. Furthermore, the Iranians view the West's reluctance to use force against them as a lack of will and proof that Iran is moving in the right direction.
    • In the reaction in the Arab world to President Obama's reconciliation speech last week, the audience was very receptive and supportive to those words they considered a move towards them, but very cold at any mention of the need to give up the use of violence or to accept Israel's right to exist. The pragmatists show no intention to adopt this advice, but expect the administration to follow up on its demands from Israel.
    • The main reason for the pragmatists' animosity has very little to do with the reality of the way they are treated by the Americans or the Israelis, and much more with their being persuaded by the radical's propaganda which portrays all shortcomings of Muslim society as the outcome of a Western plot against them. Thus, it is counterproductive for the West to make more and more concessions and to continue to express regret and contrition, since this "mea culpa" attitude just plays into the hands of the radicals and strengthens their claim about the plot. In the West, we expect that concessions and apologies will lead to reciprocal moves on their part. In the Middle East, it just strengthens their convictions of victimhood and their resolve to restore their honor.
    • The combination of the strengthening of the radicals and progress on the Iranian nuclear project are the main threat to Israeli and American security and other interests. As long as the radicals feel that they are marching towards victory, we cannot afford to show signs of weakness. That will only make our job harder.
    • The Palestinians do not accept that "the two-state solution" refers to two states for two peoples. In their view, one state should be the Palestinian state and the national identity of the other state should remain undefined, so that in the future it can become a Palestinian state as well. This means that there's an asymmetry between the Israeli recognition of the Palestinian demand for self-determination and the Palestinian recognition of the existence of Israel. A solution cannot be realized before the Palestinians accept Israel's right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state.

          See also Yaalon: U.S. Push for "Instant Peace" Will Fail - Yitzhak Benhorin
      An American plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within two years may lead to the establishment of "Hamastan in the West Bank," Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon said Tuesday. (Ynet News)

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