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July 16, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

German Intelligence: "Iran Can Set Off a Bomb within Six Months" (Stern-Germany)
    Iran will soon be able to produce atomic bombs and perform underground nuclear testing, just as North Korea has done, experts in the German Foreign Intelligence Service (BND) have told Stern.
    "If they want to, they will be able to set off a uranium bomb within six months," a BND expert said.
    Iran is focusing on building missiles capable of transporting nuclear bombs to targets as far as Europe. According to a senior BND official, these efforts are pursued "with massive intensity."
    The German Foreign Intelligence Service has "no doubt" that the missile program in Iran is "exclusively" aimed at the production of atomic warheads.
    The necessary missile components are being obtained through a massive network of dummy companies headed by the Iranian Said Mohammad Hosseinian. Several German companies are also involved.
    While Reuters on Wednesday reported falsely that the BND had denied the Stern report, the BND did not deny the report.

IDF Commander: Soldier Who Made Accusations "Was Not in the Field at the Time" - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Golani Brigade commander Col. Avi Peled on Wednesday denied a report by the Breaking the Silence group that the IDF had used Palestinians as human shields, and that the soldier who reported this "was not in the field at the time."
    Peled added, "I can say that at no point was there any civilian who was used as a human shield. We never sent anybody in ahead of us to any place."

What Gazans Really Think about Obama - Norman H. Olsen (Christian Science Monitor)
    Palestinians in Gaza have little grasp of the realities facing an American president seeking to take up their cause.
    Two senior officials cite the current postwar cease-fire and the offer of a 10- to 20-year cease-fire with Israel as Hamas concessions.
    They are both amazed to hear that, to many Americans, the current cease-fire appears more a tactic to avoid obliteration by the Israeli army, and that it looks like a way to remove Israeli pressure while Hamas rearms and trains a new generation of fighters.
    The writer, a former senior U.S. Foreign Service officer, served at the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv from 1991 to 1995 and from 2002 to 2007.

Palestinian Rights Group Slams Hamas for Storming Gaza Wedding (AFP)
    The Palestinian Center for Human Rights on Wednesday condemned Hamas police for storming a wedding party in Gaza after guests raised a portrait of slain Fatah activist Sameeh al-Madhun, who was killed by Hamas in June 2007.
    "The police attacked the party, opened fire and violently beat participants" from the al-Madhun clan in Beit Lahiya on Tuesday, wounding four people, including two women.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Clinton: Arabs Must "Act Against Cultures of Hate, Intolerance and Disrespect"
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington on Wednesday: "We know that progress toward peace cannot be the responsibility of the United States - or Israel - alone. Ending the conflict requires action on all sides. The Palestinians have the responsibility to improve and extend the positive actions already taken on security; to act forcefully against incitement; and to refrain from any action that would make meaningful negotiations less likely. And Arab states have a responsibility to support the Palestinian Authority with words and deeds, to take steps to improve relations with Israel, and to prepare their publics to embrace peace and accept Israel's place in the region."
        "The Saudi peace proposal, supported by more than twenty nations, was a positive step. But we believe that more is needed. So we are asking those who embrace the proposal to take meaningful steps now....Sending messages of peace is not enough. You must also act against the cultures of hate, intolerance and disrespect that perpetuate conflict."  (State Department)
        See also Clinton: U.S. Offer to Iran "Not Indefinite"
    Secretary of State Clinton has warned Iran the U.S. will not extend its offer of engagement indefinitely. Mrs. Clinton said Iran must respond to President Obama's overtures now. If not, Iran could face more isolation over its nuclear program. (BBC News)
  • Ex-U.S. Diplomat Talks with Hamas as Washington Says Nothing's Changed - Howard Schneider and Glenn Kessler
    Hamas officials Bassem Naim and Mahmoud al-Zahar met in Switzerland in June with Thomas R. Pickering, a former undersecretary of state and U.S. ambassador to the UN. However, U.S. officials said Pickering had not been asked to approach Hamas and had no official standing. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday in Washington that before Hamas can participate in peace talks, "we have made it clear, both publicly and privately, through all kinds of pronouncements, that we would expect Hamas to recognize Israel and renounce violence and agree to abide by prior agreements."  (Washington Post)
  • Israel Anti-Missile System Passes Live Fire Test - Steve Weizman
    In its first live trial, an Israeli-made missile defense system brought down a short-range rocket similar to those used by Palestinian and Lebanese militants. Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror said Wednesday that a missile from the "Iron Dome" system intercepted and destroyed a Grad rocket. The system is scheduled to be fully operational by the end of next year. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Developing Plan to Renew Peace Process - Barak Ravid
    A senior Western diplomat said the U.S. is currently developing a diplomatic plan for renewal of the Middle East peace process but is only interested in pursuing it after the settlement issue and the matter of pro-Israel gestures from Arab states are resolved. The plan will not provide parameters for the resolution of core issues. Rather it will provide a framework and a timetable for negotiations. The diplomat noted that the Americans have understood that Israel cannot agree to an absolute freeze in construction in the settlements. The shift in the American position is also the product of the refusal on the part of the moderate Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, to make significant normalization gestures toward Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF: Hizbullah Hiding Rockets Throughout Southern Lebanon - Yaakov Katz
    A day after an explosion uncovered a hidden Hizbullah arms cache in southern Lebanon, the IDF's Northern Command estimated that the group had turned hundreds of homes in the area into warehouses to store short- and medium-range Katyusha rockets. The IDF released video footage showing a home that had exploded on Tuesday in the Lebanese village of Hirbet Selm. The roof is seen with dozens of holes, which IDF ballistic experts said were the size of 122-mm. Katyusha rockets.
        IDF sources said they had been aware prior to the explosion that the home was being used as a storehouse for weapons. "This house was connected to an entire underground network that was built right under the noses of UNIFIL and the Lebanese army," one IDF officer said. UNIFIL called the missiles a "serious violation" of the UN-brokered ceasefire. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: Hizbullah Resumes Terror Activities in Southern Lebanon
    Hizbullah militants enter and exit an underground facility used for terror activity in southern Lebanon. (IDF/YouTube)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • And if Iran Doesn't Want to Talk? - Michael Singh
    Given the persistence of American efforts to engage the Iranian regime in dialogue over the last 30 years, and the resilience of the Obama administration's own commitment to engagement, the one constant in American policy toward Iran seems to be that we do indeed want talks. When it comes to Iran, the question isn't so much whether to engage, but how to get Iran's leaders to want to engage earnestly with us.
        The Iranian regime has demonstrated that it is in no mood for compromise, and not particularly eager to win the world's regard. While engagement need not be abandoned, it should be pursued in parallel with pressure. The regime must come to see the president's outreach not merely as an invitation, but as an off-ramp from a road that leads to escalating penalties. The writer, former senior director for Middle East affairs on the U.S. National Security Council, is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (New York Times)
  • Hitting Tehran Where It Hurts - Mark Dubowitz
    While longer-term hope still exists for a free Iran, Europe and the U.S. must prepare for a more dangerous Iranian regime over the short- or even medium term. Their legitimacy wounded and their paranoia increased, Iran's leaders now may be more repressive at home and intransigent abroad. What can be done to stop the regime's march to a nuclear bomb?
        For negotiations to succeed, supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei and his coterie must be made to pay a higher cost for their nuclear weapons pursuit. Europe and her allies must be willing to peacefully exploit Iran's economic Achilles heel: the regime's heavy dependence on gasoline imports. Due to limited refining capabilities, Iran imports approximately 40% of its domestic gasoline consumption - the second-largest importer of gasoline in the world. That gasoline is supplied primarily by five companies: Swiss-Dutch Vitol and Trafigura, India's Reliance Industries, Swiss Glencore and French Total. During the presidential election, Mr. Obama endorsed the idea of squeezing Iran's gasoline supplies to dissuade Tehran from proceeding with its nuclear program. The writer is executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
  • A Semblance of Normalcy in the West Bank - Mohammed Daraghmeh
    Life in the West Bank - in sharp contrast to Hamas-ruled Gaza - has taken on a semblance of normalcy with massive foreign aid and training for security forces loyal to U.S.-backed Mahmoud Abbas. Middle-class matrons shop for imported furniture in a marble-and-glass emporium in Ramallah. A festival at the city's Palace of Culture featuring dance and music groups from Turkey, Germany and France is drawing sellout crowds. The Danish hip hop group Outlandish recently performed for 2,000 fans, including teenage girls in jeans and tank tops, with black-clad Palestinian riot police watching from the sidelines.
        After the second Palestinian uprising against Israel broke out in 2000, vigilante gunmen ruled and security forces were largely powerless. Now police are visible in the streets, the vigilantes have handed over their weapons, and Hamas militants have gone underground. In Nablus, cinemas were shut down by uprising activists in the late 1980s. Now the $2 million Cinema City is showing four films a day, mainly Egyptian dramas and comedies but also Hollywood fare. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also IMF: West Bank Economy on the Mend - Yana Dlugy (AFP)
  • Observations:

    Why No Progress in the Peace Process for the Past Eight Years? - Rick Richman (Commentary)

    • At his meeting Monday with Jewish leaders, President Obama noted that for the past eight years there was "no daylight and no progress" between Israel and the Palestinians. The following would be my summary of the progress over the past eight years:
      • After the Palestinians rejected an offer of a state at Camp David in 2000, rejected the Clinton Parameters in 2001, and conducted a terror war against Israeli civilians from September 2000-2002, Israel nevertheless agreed in 2003 to the "Performance-Based Roadmap" for the creation of a Palestinian state, despite reservations about the manner in which that plan would actually be implemented.
      • In 2003 and thereafter, Israel ceased all settlement activity - as it understood that Phase I Roadmap obligation (no new settlements; no building outside settlement boundaries; no financial incentives for Israelis to move to settlements) - and believed American officials agreed with its interpretation of that obligation.
      • In 2004, after the Palestinian Authority failed to meet its own Phase I Roadmap obligation (sustained efforts to dismantle terrorist groups and infrastructure), Israel nevertheless proposed to dismantle every existing settlement in Gaza, remove every Israeli soldier, and turn over the entire area to the PA - in exchange for a written American commitment to defensible borders and retention of the major settlement blocs necessary to insure them.
      • In 2005, after receiving the American commitment, Israel proceeded to carry out the Gaza disengagement, and - at State Department insistence - further dismantled four settlements in the West Bank as well.
      • In 2006, the Palestinians elected their premier terrorist group to control their government. Hamas from Gaza and Hizbullah from Lebanon caused two wars and finally convinced Israelis further withdrawals were insane.
      • In 2007, despite the Palestinian failure to carry out its Phase I dismantlement obligation, and its categorical rejection of Phase II (a state with provisional sovereignty before Phase III final status negotiations), Israel agreed to proceed immediately to final status negotiations once again under the "Annapolis Process" and in 2008 offered 100% of the West Bank (after land swaps) for a state, with concessions on other major issues, all of which were rejected.
    • During this eight-year period, the Palestinian concessions (aka reciprocal "progress") can be enumerated more briefly: zero.

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