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June 18, 2009

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Iran Treads Lightly in a Culture of Martyrs - Borzou Daragahi and Ramin Mostaghim (Los Angeles Times)
    As new protests were planned for Thursday in Tehran, unsuccessful presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi has asked backers to go to local mosques to pay tribute to those killed in the protests.
    Within a culture steeped in the Shiite Muslim mystique of martyrdom, each death may motivate rather than discourage activists.
    Perhaps more perilous for the authorities is the possibility that some soldiers, security officials and Revolutionary Guardsmen might refuse orders to fire on protesters.
    "I would never do it," said Hossein, 23, a member of the security forces who said he and many of his friends at the military base where he serves support the marchers.

Iran's Latest Protests Are Seen as the Toughest to Stop - Neil MacFarquhar (New York Times)
    This time, analysts say, the government will have trouble bringing about a swift end to the demonstrations in the same way it had shut down previous eruptions.
    First, there is the sheer size of these demonstrations, with protests that are not limited to students, but cut across generations and economic classes.
    Second, there is a more pronounced leadership centered around the leading opposition candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has adopted an openly hard-edged attitude toward the government.
    Finally, there has been a critical shift in alliances. In the earlier uprisings, it was basically the reformists calling for change, opposed by both the religious hard-liners and the more pragmatic conservatives.
    This time, the pragmatists and the reformists have joined forces against the hard-liners, analysts said.

Islamist Leader in Israel: "Netanyahu Wants to Rebuild Temple" - Ahiya Raved (Ynet News)
    Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, claimed Wednesday in Haifa that Prime Minister Netanyahu was planning "to dig additional tunnels under the Al-Aqsa Mosque and rebuild the Temple on the Temple Mount."

Israel Launches Naval Center to Combat Pirate Attacks - Zohar Blumenkrantz (Ha'aretz)
    Israel on Sunday opened a naval center for the search and rescue of ships attacked by pirates and other hostile groups at sea.
    The Rescue Coordination Center "will give an initial response and aid to maritime incidents, including search and rescue activities for ships that have encountered difficulties at sea, as well as incidents related to protecting the environment against pollution," said Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz.
    The center will deal with emergencies that occur up to a distance of 40 km. off the coast of Israel in the Mediterranean, and 20 km. in the Red Sea.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iranian Protests Continue - Nazila Fathi
    Iranians angry at the results of last week's election pushed their protest forward on Wednesday, from tens of thousands who again flooded the streets of Tehran to six soccer players on the national team who wore opposition green wristbands at a World Cup qualifying game. But there were signs of an intensified crackdown as the government worked to shield the outside world's view of the unrest. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Secretary of State Meets Israeli Foreign Minister in Washington
    After meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "The United States has no greater ally in the Middle East and no greater friend than Israel....Israel's right to exist in peace and security is undeniable and non-negotiable. Both Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in peace and security in two states that will entail both parties fulfilling their obligations under the Roadmap. Building on the Arab Peace Initiative, Arab states must do their part to support the Palestinian people as they develop the institutions that will sustain their state. And they must recognize Israel's legitimacy." (State Department)
        See also Clinton, Israel Disagree on Settlement Freeze - Daniel Dombey
    Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state, repeated her call on Wednesday for a "stop to the settlements." Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, disagreed, saying, "We cannot accept this vision about absolutely, completely freezing all settlements." "We must keep the natural growth," he added. While Lieberman suggested that Israel had reached "some understandings with the previous [Bush] administration" allowing natural growth, Clinton rejected such a claim, saying, "there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements."  (Financial Times-UK)
  • Mitchell Defines Natural Growth in Settlements
    The U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, George Mitchell, answered questions at a press briefing on Tuesday:
    Q: Can you give us a definition of what the United States considers natural growth?
    Mitchell: "One of the issues is that there is no universally used and accepted definition. The most common definition is by the number of births, but there are many variations of that. I've had numerous discussions with many Israeli and other officials, and there are almost as many definitions as there are people speaking. But I think the most commonly used measure is the number of births."  (State Department)
  • Hamas Rejects Carter Plea to Recognize Israel - Ben Hubbard
    After meeting former President Jimmy Carter in Gaza on Tuesday, Ahmed Youssef, the deputy Hamas foreign minister, said Wednesday that "Recognizing Israel is completely unacceptable." Youssef said the other two international conditions - renouncing violence and accepting past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians - are irrelevant. According to Hamas ideology, there is no room for a Jewish state in an Islamic Middle East. The militant group has sent dozens of suicide bombers into Israel, killing hundreds. Carter's meeting was itself unusual since the U.S., EU and Israel consider Hamas a terror group and refuse to deal with it directly. (AP/Washington Post)
  • IDF Removes Jericho Checkpoint in "Goodwill" Gesture to Abbas - Ali Sawafta
    The Israeli army has removed a major checkpoint on the road into the West Bank town of Jericho as a "goodwill" gesture to give greater freedom of movement to Palestinians. The Israel Defense Forces said it had removed more than 140 roadblocks in the past year. (Reuters-Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Dissatisfied with Israel Linking Release of Abducted Soldier with Opening of Gaza Border Crossings - Barak Ravid
    Three weeks ago, the U.S. sent Jerusalem a diplomatic note officially demanding a more liberal opening of the Gaza border crossings to facilitate reconstruction. U.S. and Israeli sources say the Obama administration thinks Israel's linkage of the case of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit and the opening of the crossings was not constructive. America's demands on Israel's Gaza policy were also raised Wednesday during talks between Clinton and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Israel has insisted that unless there is progress in the negotiations for Shalit's release and a new sign of life is received, there will be no concessions on the crossings. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Opens Gaza Crossings, Hundreds of Truckloads of Goods Delivered This Week
    Israel will open three entry points into Gaza on Thursday and allow 115 truckloads of aid and commercial goods into the strip, including cooking gas and industrial diesel fuel. On Monday, 132 truckloads entered Gaza; on Tuesday, 132 truckloads were delivered; on Wednesday, 120 truckloads were delivered. (Maan News-PA)
  • Four Palestinians Arrested for West Bank Murder - Hanan Greenberg
    Four Palestinians from the Kalkilya area have been arrested for the murder of Dr. Daniel Yaakobi, 59, the Israel Security Agency announced Wednesday. Yaakobi's body was found burned in the trunk of a car near Kalkilya on July 27, 2006. One of the suspects, Tayun Tayun, a Fatah operative, said Yaakobi had brought his car to his brother Ahmad's garage. He said he attacked and beat him with a wrench and a stick until he died. Sharon Tovi, Yaakobi's son-in-law, noted that "Danny was a doctor who helped everyone, both Jewish and Arab neighbors."  (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • 1979 State Dept. Legal Opinion Raises New Questions About Israeli Settlements - Glenn Kessler
    Thirty years ago, during the Carter administration, the State Department legal adviser issued an opinion in response to an inquiry from Congress: The establishment of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories "is inconsistent with international law." Israel has insisted that the Geneva Convention does not apply to settlers and broadly contests assertions of the settlements' illegality. Later, President Ronald Reagan said he disagreed with the opinion - he called the settlements "not illegal." State Department spokesmen have declined to say whether the 1979 legal opinion is still the policy of the U.S. government. (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Policy on Israeli Settlements - Dore Gold
    Eugene Rostow, a former dean of Yale Law School who was Undersecretary of State in the Johnson years, wrote: "Israel has an unassailable legal right to establish settlements in the West Bank." On July 29, 1977, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance stated that "it is an open question as to who has legal right to the West Bank." The U.S. ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Morris Abram, who had been on the U.S. staff during the Nuremberg trials and was hence familiar with the "legislative intent" behind the Fourth Geneva Convention, stated on February 1, 1990, that it referred to forcible deportations that were practiced by the Nazis and not to Israeli settlement activity. (ICA-Jerusalem Center)
  • Double Standard for Israel's Peace Efforts - Editorial
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week accepted the idea of a Palestinian state as part of a Mideast peace settlement. His good deed did not go unpunished. In return for envisioning "two people...side by side in amity and mutual respect," Netanyahu was branded, in far too many corners, as an obstacle to peace for placing what were called "conditions" on his offer. Chief among them was a call for Palestinian demilitarization and "public, binding and unequivocal" Palestinian recognition that Israel is "the state of the Jewish people." How dare he insist on the very survival of his country!
        Former President Jimmy Carter visited Gaza Tuesday, territory that the Palestinians had turned into a rocket-launching pad after the Israelis ceded it for self-rule. He proclaimed that Palestinians there are being "treated more like animals than human beings." There was a reason Israel staged strikes against Gaza last year. In fact, 7,000 reasons: missiles Hamas lobbed before Israel had to defend itself. And there's an excellent reason Israel imposes tight security on Gaza: suicide bombings sponsored by the Hamas terrorists who run the place. Carter didn't mention those. (New York Daily News)
  • Observations:

    A Palestinian Choice - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)

    • On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu delivered a detailed speech in which he hailed President Obama's "desire to bring about a new era of reconciliation in our region." He said he was "willing to meet" with Arab leaders "at any time, at any place, in Damascus, in Riyadh, in Beirut and in Jerusalem as well" to make peace. He invited Arab entrepreneurs to "assist the Palestinians and us to give the economy a jump-start." He committed his government to all of Israel's international agreements. He said "we have no intention to build new settlements or set aside land for new settlements." "In my vision of peace," he said, "there are two free peoples living side by side in this small land, with good neighborly relations and mutual respect, each with its flag, anthem and government, with neither one threatening its neighbor's security and existence."
    • To this, the Palestinian reaction was to say the speech was "worthless," "nothing but a hoax," that it had "destroyed all peace initiatives and [chances for] a solution," and that Mr. Netanyahu was "a liar and a crook." And that was the reaction among the Palestinian moderates.
    • The transformation of the Gaza Strip into an armed and hostile Hamas enclave is evidence enough of why any future Palestinian state would have to be demilitarized. Nor should the thought of Israel as a Jewish state be controversial: That's how it was conceived by the UN resolution that helped bring it into existence, and that's how it was recognized by Harry Truman minutes after it declared independence.
    • For too long the Palestinians have practiced a kind of fantasy politics, in which all right was on their side, concession was dishonor, and mistakes never had consequences. Mr. Netanyahu's speech now offers them the choice between fantasy and statehood. Judging from early reactions, they're choosing wrongly again.

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