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June 15, 2009

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Lebanese PM Rules Out Veto Power for Hizbullah in Next Cabinet (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Sunday that Hizbullah's right to veto legislation would not be reinstated by the new Lebanese government. Hizbullah last year obtained the right to veto thanks to a deal that allocated them 11 of 30 cabinet seats.
    "This formula was for a predetermined period which ends with the end of the mandate of the current government," Siniora said. "If a new government of national unity is formed, it will be based on partnership and not on the principle of veto."
    Hizbullah and its allies have demanded that their veto power over key decisions be maintained.

Israel "Perplexed" by EU Meeting with Hizbullah (AFP)
    Israel was "perplexed" by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana's unprecedented meeting with Hizbullah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan on Saturday in Beirut, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said on Sunday.
    "This meeting left us perplexed, and we dare hope that Mr. Solana took advantage of the occasion to press for a disarming of Hizbullah and for the end of the arms smuggling between Syria and Hizbullah," he said.

Carter: Etzion Settlement Bloc to Stay Part of Israel - Efrat Weiss (Ynet News)
    Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said Sunday following a meeting with Gush Etzion council leader Shaul Goldstein, "I never imagined that Gush Etzion would be transferred to Palestinian hands."
    Carter explained that the area is very close to the 1967 armistice line and will likely stay part of Israel forever.

Bill Clinton: U.S. Growing More Diverse - Christine Simmons (AP)
    Former President Bill Clinton told the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee Saturday that Americans should be mindful of the nation's changing demographics.
    He said the U.S. is no longer just a black-white country, nor a country that is dominated by Christians and a powerful Jewish minority, given the growing numbers of Muslims, Hindus and other religious groups.
    Clinton told an audience of 1,000 people that it's important that they push government leaders for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
    He said the U.S. can't rely on its military might in global relations. "It has to begin by people accepting the fact that they can be proud of who they are without despising who someone else is," he said.

Amman March Calls on Jordan Government to Sever Israel Ties (DPA-Peninsula-Qatar)
    Thousands of Jordanians demonstrated Saturday in a rally in Amman sponsored by the Muslim Brotherhood, urging the government to sever ties with Israel and abrogate the peace treaty that Amman concluded with the Jewish state in 1994.
    The Brotherhood's leader, Hammam Saeed, called for "breaking ties and stopping all forms of normalization with the Zionist enemy."

Poll: American Voters' Support for Both Israel and PA Declines - Haviv Rettig Gur (Jerusalem Post)
    49% of U.S. voters consider themselves supporters of Israel, down from 57% in January, according to a Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research poll conducted for The Israel Project last week.
    7% see themselves as supporters of the Palestinians, down from 8% in January.
    Support for Israel is currently higher than the seven-year low of 38% during the August 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip or the high of 69% measured in September 2008.
    Those who identified as Republicans showed the strongest support for Israel (65% to 3% for the Palestinians), followed by Independents (50% to 9%) and Democrats (38% to 9%).
    57% of American voters reject requiring Israel to withdraw from the entire West Bank, while 23% support the move. Even among Democrats alone, 47% support Israel keeping some land for security purposes while 27% reject this idea.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Prime Minister Calls for Demilitarized Palestinian State
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel could accept a peace agreement with a "demilitarized Palestinian state" as its neighbor. Netanyahu set conditions for moving forward. Among them: unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish national state with Jerusalem as its capital, and full demilitarization for a Palestinian state - no army, no rockets or missiles, no control of airspace. (CNN)
        See also Netanyahu Backs Two-State Goal - Howard Schneider
    Netanyahu's advisers said he had shown willingness to deliver a "secure peace" that allows Palestinians full self-governance - and has put the onus on the Palestinians to prove they are serious. (Washington Post)
        See also below Observations: Israel's Quest for Peace - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Obama Welcomes Netanyahu's Speech
    U.S. President Barack Obama "welcomes the important step forward in Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. "The president is committed to two states, a Jewish state of Israel and an independent Palestine, in the historic homeland of both peoples." "He believes this solution can and must ensure both Israel's security and the fulfillment of the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations for a viable state, and he welcomes Prime Minister Netanyahu's endorsement of that goal."  (Reuters)
        See also EU Presidency Welcomes Netanyahu's Speech (Reuters)
        See also Palestinian Officials Express Outrage over Netanyahu's Speech - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
  • Ahmadinejad Wins Landslide Election Victory, Protests Erupt - Robert F. Worth and Nazila Fathi
    Iran's Interior Ministry said Saturday that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won 63% of the vote in Friday's presidential elections, with Mir Hossein Mousavi, the top challenger, taking just under 34%. In response, the streets of Tehran erupted in the most intense protests in a decade by demonstrators who claimed that Ahmadinejad had stolen the election. Mousavi, a former prime minister who had promised to reverse Ahmadinejad's hard-line policies, declared himself the winner by a wide margin Friday night and charged widespread election irregularities. However, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, issued a statement congratulating Ahmadinejad and urging the other candidates to support him.
        The Iranian state news agency announced that Ahmadinejad had won by a vast margin just two hours after the polls closed. The timing provoked deep suspicion because the authorities have never before announced election results until the following morning. Ahmadinejad was said to have won by large margins even in his opponents' hometowns. (New York Times)
        See also Iranian Candidate Calls for Continued Protests - Thomas Erdbrink
    A defiant Mir Hossein Mousavi, leading an opposition movement against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called on his supporters Sunday to continue protesting the outcome of the election. (Washington Post)
        See also Hamas Welcomes Ahmadinejad Win (Al Bawaba-Jordan)
        See also Hizbullah Congratulates Iran's President on Election Victory (AP/Jerusalem Post)
  • Sen. Lieberman Praises Obama's Cairo Speech But Questions Call for Settlement Freeze - Nicholas Johnston
    Senator Joseph Lieberman said President Barack Obama's administration is off to a "very good start" and praised his address to the Muslim world while criticizing the administration's call to freeze all Israeli settlements as "risky." Obama's speech in Cairo "opened up some minds in the Muslim world," Lieberman said, even as he disagreed with the president's assertion that the construction of Israeli settlements on the West Bank is a central obstacle to peace.
        "The Israelis can freeze settlements altogether today and there wouldn't be peace between Israel and the Palestinians," Lieberman said. "Why? Because half of the Palestinians live under the rule of Hamas, which is a terrorist group that wants to destroy Israel." Lieberman said Obama's speech went too far in opposing Israel's "natural growth" in housing projects. "Within the existing major population centers" in areas that would stay in Israel in any two-state solution, "it's just wrong to expect them not to expand," he said. (Bloomberg)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Congress: Lower Profile of Israel-U.S. Rift - Yitzhak Benhorin
    Democratic senators and representatives have asked President Obama to "lower the profile" of tensions between the U.S. and Israel. Some senators and representatives, especially those in states with large Jewish populations, such as New York, New Jersey and Florida, are beginning to get some negative feedback from their constituencies, who feel uncomfortable with the media publications about a crisis in Israel-U.S. relations. In recent days, the White House has received a number of requests to curtail the "media fire" between Washington and Jerusalem. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket Strikes Israel Saturday, Air Force Bombs Smuggling Tunnels in Retaliation
    Palestinian militants in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket into Israel on Saturday. In response, Israeli planes bombed two weapons-smuggling tunnels in southern Gaza on Sunday. In addition, an explosive device detonated on Sunday near IDF troops along the Gaza border. Some 670 Kassam rockets, mortar shells and Grad missiles have been fired at Israel since the beginning of 2009. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Hits Ashkelon Beach on Sunday (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Netanyahu's Speech

  • Netanyahu Offers Obama Room to Maneuver - David Alexander
    Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave U.S. President Obama a narrow opening for pursuing Middle East peace on Sunday by offering a highly qualified endorsement for a demilitarized Palestinian state. "In terms of the concern that President Obama had about the need to promote a two-state solution, Netanyahu has said things now that...President Obama will be able to work with," said Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. He said a demilitarized Palestinian state was very similar to the nonmilitarized state put forward by President Clinton during negotiations toward the end of his administration.
        "Netanyahu took a major stride by making clear that the issue is no longer his refusal to accept a Palestinian state but rather the very shape of the state," said David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institution for Near East Policy. (Reuters)
  • The Unifier - Ari Shavit
    Benjamin Netanyahu placed the spotlight squarely on one irreplaceable phrase: a demilitarized Palestinian state next to a Jewish State of Israel. He put on the table a clear, realistic and precise diplomatic formula that reflects the worldview of the Israeli majority. The root of the conflict is the Palestinians' refusal to recognize Jewish history, Jewish sovereignty and the Jewish people's right to a state in the Land of Israel. (Ha'aretz)
        See also President Peres Praises Netanyahu's Speech (Jerusalem Post)

    The Iranian Election

  • Tehran Is Running Scared of the Uncontrollable Forces of Freedom - Martin Fletcher
    Scarcely had polling ended than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's cronies in the Interior Ministry and Elections Commission declared him the winner. They gave him nearly two-thirds of the vote and claimed that the main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, lost heavily even in his own village. The crackdown began instantly. Mobile phone and text messaging systems were taken down so the opposition could not organize. Baton-wielding security forces flooded onto the streets as the regime showed how evil it is. All protests were ruthlessly suppressed. On the surface everything will gradually revert to the status quo ante, but below the surface a lot will have changed. Millions more Iranians will now seriously question the legitimacy of the regime. (Times-UK)
        See also Iranian Election Outcome Complicates Obama's Plan for Talks - Farah Stockman
    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election victory raised fears in Washington that President Obama's attempt to hold talks with the Iranian government will now be far more difficult. "The world just got a lot more complicated for Obama," said Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who tracks and translates Persian-language news reports. Obama has said he will try to engage Iran, regardless of the election results. Now Obama will be making his outreach to a regime that a wide swath of Iranians believe stole the election. (Boston Globe)
        See also U.S. Officials to Continue to Engage Iran - Mark Landler
    The Obama administration is determined to press on with efforts to engage the Iranian government, senior officials said Saturday, despite misgivings about irregularities in the re-election of President Ahmadinejad. "This is the worst result," said Thomas R. Pickering, a former undersecretary of state. "The U.S. will have to worry about being perceived as pandering to a president whose legitimacy is in question. It clearly makes the notion of providing incentives quite unappetizing."  (New York Times)
  • Khamenei's Coup - Mehdi Khalaji
    By declaring incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei conveyed a clear message to the West: Iran is digging in on its nuclear program, its support to Lebanese Hizbullah and Palestinian Hamas, and its defiant regional policies. A reformist group called the Council of Militant Clerics, led by former president Mohammad Khatami, apologized to the people for not being able to protect their votes and asked the government to overturn this result and hold new elections. In statements Sunday, two of the presidential candidates, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, asked people to continue their "nonviolent demonstration" throughout the country and criticized the government for using violence against demonstrators.
        The U.S. should respond by condemning the election and backing the Iranian people's demand for a free and fair revote under the supervision of international observers. Iranian society is watching to see how the free world reacts. The writer is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Washington Post)
        See also Israeli Assessment: Without Western Support, Anti- Ahmadinejad Protests Will Die Out - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Quest for Peace - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)

    Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University on Sunday:

    • Peace has always been our people's most ardent desire. Our prophets gave the world the vision of peace, we greet one another with wishes of peace, and our prayers conclude with the word "peace." I share President Obama's desire to bring about a new era of reconciliation in our region. I turn to all Arab leaders and say: "Let us meet. Let us speak of peace and let us make peace. I am ready to meet with you at any time. I am willing to go to Damascus, to Riyadh, to Beirut." To our Palestinian neighbors, I say: "Let's begin negotiations immediately without preconditions."
    • In order to bring an end to the conflict, we must give an honest answer to the question: What is the root of the conflict? And the simple truth is that the root of the conflict was, and remains, the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, in their historic homeland. Palestinians must clearly and unambiguously recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
    • Many good people have told us that withdrawal from territories is the key to peace with the Palestinians. Well, we withdrew. But the fact is that every withdrawal was met with massive waves of terror, by suicide bombers and thousands of missiles. We evacuated every last inch of the Gaza Strip, we uprooted tens of settlements and evicted thousands of Israelis from their homes, and in response, we received a hail of missiles on our cities, towns and children. The claim that territorial withdrawals will bring peace with the Palestinians, or at least advance peace, has up until now not stood the test of reality.
    • The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel has lasted for more than 3,500 years. Judea and Samaria, the places where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, David and Solomon, and Isaiah and Jeremiah lived, is the land of our forefathers. The right of the Jewish people to a state in the Land of Israel does not derive from the catastrophes that have plagued our people. There are those who say that if the Holocaust had not occurred, the State of Israel would never have been established. But I say that if the State of Israel had been established earlier, the Holocaust would not have occurred.
    • Within this homeland lives a large Palestinian community. We do not want to rule over them, we do not want to govern their lives, we do not want to impose either our flag or our culture on them. In my vision of peace, in this small land of ours, two peoples live freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect.
    • The territory under Palestinian control must be demilitarized with ironclad security provisions for Israel. Without this condition, there is a real danger that an armed Palestinian state would emerge that would become another terrorist base against the Jewish state, such as the one in Gaza. We must ensure that Palestinians will not be able to import missiles into their territory, to field an army, to close their airspace to us, or to make pacts with the likes of Hizbullah and Iran. It is impossible to expect us to agree in advance to the principle of a Palestinian state without assurances that this state will be demilitarized.
    • Israel needs defensible borders, and Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel with continued religious freedom for all faiths. The Palestinian refugee problem must be solved outside Israel's borders.
    • The territorial question will be discussed as part of the final peace agreement. In the meantime, we have no intention of building new settlements or of expropriating additional land for existing settlements. But there is a need to enable the residents to live normal lives. The settlers are not the enemies of peace. Rather, they are an integral part of our people, a principled, pioneering and Zionist public.
    • With a Palestinian leadership committed to peace, with the active participation of the Arab world, and the support of the United States and the international community, there is no reason why we cannot achieve a breakthrough to peace.

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