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July 21, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Will Iran's Political Turmoil Shake Hizbullah? - Nicholas Blanford (Christian Science Monitor)
    The political turmoil that has shaken Iran is being keenly observed by Lebanon's militant Shiite Hizbullah, which takes many of its cues from the Islamic Republic.
    Hizbullah, the only organization outside Iran that subscribes to that nation's ideology of theocratic leadership, was founded with Iranian help, still receives Iranian funding, and has at times turned to Iran's supreme leader for guidance on major political issues.
    Sheikh Naim Qassem, Hizbullah's deputy secretary-general, says, "The [supreme leader] is the leader as far as we are concerned."
    "He gives us these rules and [sets the guidelines for] our general political performance," says the white-turbaned cleric, sitting in a room with two pictures of Khamenei and his predecessor Ayatollah Khomeini hanging on the wall.
    Hizbullah receives substantial funding from Iranian religious endowments, known as Bonyads, which are controlled by Khamenei, according to Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a Lebanese expert on Hizbullah.
    "No one admits that Hizbullah gets funding from the Bonyads as they are supposed to be for developing Iran," says Saad-Ghorayeb.
    See also Iran Turmoil May Cost Hizbullah, Hamas - Ben Holland and Massoud A. Derhally (Bloomberg)
    The power struggle in Iran sparked by the disputed re-election of President Ahmadinejad is weakening the country's ability to back Islamist groups Hamas and Hizbullah, as well as Iraqi militants.
    Iran's leaders will "have to focus more on the economy and internal issues" than on supporting regional surrogates, said Radwan Ziadeh, a fellow at Harvard University's Carr Center of Human Rights in Cambridge, Mass.

Mitchell Denies Claim He Plans to Retire (Foreign Policy)
    U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell is calling an "utter fabrication" a claim by former Bush administration official Elliott Abrams that he plans to retire by the end of the year.

Walter Cronkite's Interview with Anwar Sadat - Philip Stone (
    Broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite died Friday at age 92.
    It was Cronkite who interviewed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat live on his newscast and he seemed as shocked as anyone when Sadat said he would travel anywhere in pursuit of Middle East peace, even to Israel.
    Cronkite, immediately smelling an exclusive, asked Sadat directly whether he would go to Israel if he was invited and he again said "yes."
    Within weeks there were live shots of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin welcoming Sadat to Ben-Gurion Airport, followed by Sadat's address to the Israeli Parliament. An Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty followed.

Israel's Enemies Are a Strong Match in Cyber Realm - Mohammed J. Herzallah (Newsweek)
    In recent years, cyber-attacks by Iran and its allies have become a major risk to Israeli computer systems.
    During Israel's military incursion into Gaza earlier this year, Israeli government sites received 15 million junk-mail deliveries per second from at least half a million computers.
    Technolytics Institute, a U.S.-based think tank specializing in cybersecurity, ranks Iran as one of the top five cyber-threats in the world, with capabilities comparable to those of China and Russia.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel's West Bank Plan Bears Fruit, More Is Needed
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he wants to make ''economic peace'' with the Palestinians, and the first fruits are already being seen in eased Israeli restrictions that are stoking a retail and entertainment boom in the West Bank. Netanyahu's policies - along with improved Palestinian security performance - have begun to make a dent, prompting the International Monetary Fund to predict last week that the economy could grow by 7% this year, its first optimistic forecast in three years. ''There is undoubtedly progress happening,'' said international Mideast envoy Tony Blair. Privately, some Palestinian officials acknowledge that Netanyahu has done more in four months than his recent predecessors. (AP/New York Times)
  • Revolutionary Guards Extend Grip Over Iran - Michael Slackman
    Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has emerged as a driving force behind efforts to crush a still-defiant opposition movement. The corps has assumed an increasingly assertive role in virtually every aspect of Iranian society and its aggressive drive to silence dissenting views has led many political analysts to describe the events surrounding the June 12 presidential election as a military coup. "It is not a theocracy anymore," said Rasool Nafisi, an expert in Iranian affairs. "It is a regular military security government with a facade of a Shiite clerical system." The corps has become a vast military-based conglomerate, with control of Iran's missile batteries, oversight of its nuclear program, and a multibillion-dollar business empire reaching into nearly every sector of the economy. (New York Times)
  • In South America, Israeli Foreign Minister Seeks to Block Iran - Matti Friedman
    Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is on a 10-day visit to Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Colombia on a mission partly aimed at stemming rising Iranian influence in Latin America, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Monday. "Israel, along with many others, is concerned about Iran's infiltration into Latin America, primarily through Hizbullah," Ayalon said. In May, an Israeli Foreign Ministry report accused Venezuela and Bolivia of supplying Iran with uranium. (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Dan Meridor: U.S. Must Honor Its Deal with Israel on Settlements
    Intelligence Affairs Minister Dan Meridor insisted on Tuesday that Israel and the U.S. had a clear agreement dating back six years permitting Israel to build within the construction lines of existing settlements. He said Israel had honored its Roadmap commitment to a settlement freeze within the parameters agreed with the U.S., and that the U.S. administration's refusal to acknowledge and abide by those understandings was deeply problematic.
        "It is of great importance to us that what the [previous] U.S. administration agreed to is not overlooked," Meridor said at a briefing in Jerusalem organized by The Israel Project, adding that the credibility of future agreements and understandings was at stake. He stressed that what he called the "oral understandings" regarding what construction would and would not be permitted under the terms of the freeze were reached "by America and Israel," and did not lapse because of the change of administration. "The agreement is binding on us and them."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas, Fatah Reject Land Swaps, Abandonment of Right of Return
    Senior Hamas and Fatah officials stated their objections on Sunday to U.S. suggestions that Palestinians accept a land swap with Israel and give up the right of return. The officials said the U.S. is pushing for a final status agreement with Israel that does not include the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel, and maintains Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank. Senior Fatah official Hatem Abdul Qader said, "the U.S. is trying to deceive the Palestinians through these proposals, which they think are creative, but [exist] only in their imaginations." He also said that Palestinian refugees cannot give up the right to return to their homes in what is now Israel.
        Senior Hamas official Salah Bardawil said that "the issue of a land swap has been proposed since the Camp David negotiations....Yasser Arafat rejected this at the time." He also stated Hamas' "categorical rejection" of the American proposals. "It's a waste of time for the U.S. administration headed by Obama to begin its political maneuvers with a rejected argument."  (Maan News-PA)
  • Israel to UN: UNIFIL Cooperated with Lebanese Infiltrators - Shlomo Shamir
    UN peacekeeping troops in Lebanon did nothing to stop a group of Lebanese citizens from crossing the border into Israel near Mount Dov on Saturday near Shaba Farms, raising a Lebanese flag. The Israel Defense Forces did not respond because the civilians were unarmed and not dangerous. In a letter of complaint to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Israeli UN envoy Gabriela Shalev said witnesses reported seeing the troops cooperating with the infiltrators. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • State Department Doesn't See Both Sides of Middle East Conflict - Editorial
    The latest threat to Middle East peace is not a rocket from Gaza or a terrorist bombing. It is a Jerusalem apartment project - at least that's the view in the State Department. The State Department's fit over 20 new units on the site of the Shepherd Hotel, which stands on the edge of an Arab neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem, contrasts with the official silence of the U.S. on the vast number of Palestinian dwellings being constructed illegally in Jerusalem. According to the 2003 book, Illegal Construction in Jerusalem, by Justus Reid Weiner, a senior Palestinian official boasted that they built 6,000 homes without permits in four years. Some of these homes have been funded by foreign sources with little interest in promoting peace. (Washington Times)
        See also Illegal Construction in Jerusalem - Justus Reid Weiner (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Gazan Fantasies - Editorial
    There is no denying that the Israeli invasion of Gaza last winter was a harsh campaign. Palestinian terrorists had for years hidden themselves among hospital patients, school children and seniors while they fired rockets, mortars and sniper rifles into civilian communities inside Israel. But the accusation that large numbers of Israel soldiers have come forward to confess they were ordered to target civilians is a fantasy of anti-Israel aid groups. Israel's obsessive critics want it to be true, so they make up the "proof."
        The IDF's Military Advocate General and the independent criminal investigation unit of the military police have delved into more than a dozen allegations, but no solid evidence or eyewitness testimony can be found. It's part of a stubborn pattern, unfortunately: Israel's critics - both within the country and without - are so desperate to discredit the Jewish state that they refuse to let mere facts stand in their way. (National Post-Canada)
  • Israel's New National Consensus - Barry Rubin
    Israel has entered a new era of thinking in which old categories of Left or Right are irrelevant under a national unity government bringing together the two main ruling parties. This new posture is not one of desperately asserting Israel's yearning for peace, but rather saying: We're serious, we're ready, we're not suckers but we're not unreasonable either. We want peace on real terms, not just more unilateral concessions and higher risk without reward. Not experimenting with our survival to please others. Not some illusory celebration of a two-state solution for a week and then watching it produce another century of violence.
        Is it really such a brilliant idea to rush into giving a state without serious conditions to a Palestinian regime which has failed to govern competently what it already has, daily broadcasts incitement to murder Israelis, is profoundly corrupt, and has already lost half its patrimony to a rival whose goal is a new genocide? (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Why Should Israel Have Jerusalem? - David Hazony (Commentary)

    • In the interest of fostering a constructive dialogue with an American diplomatic universe that seems to have no interest whatever in Israel's position on Jerusalem, I'd like to toss out a few brief reminders.
    • Israel should have Jerusalem, first of all, because it already does. Jews have been a majority of the city consecutively since the middle of the 19th century. There is no issue here of occupation, of a Jewish minority displacing Palestinians in their land. Over the past century and a half, the city was divided for 19 years by an accident of war, split between Israel and Jordan, whose occupation failed to earn international recognition; and then it was reunited.
    • The Jordanians cleansed the eastern city of its Jews and burned down its synagogues. Then the Jews came back in 1967 and gave the city a greater degree of not only economic success but also religious, cultural, and political freedom than it has ever enjoyed.
    • Israel should have Jerusalem because it is more important to Jews than it is to Muslims (or Christians, or anyone else). The fact is that there is a difference between the "most important" holy city and the "third most important" city that is far more than quantitative. This is the geographical heart of biblical Israel, the focus of its golden age of David and Solomon, the focus of three millennia of Jewish prayer. This is the heart of everything, and that heart beats in eastern Jerusalem, at the site where the First and Second Temples stood for about a thousand years.
    • Israel should have Jerusalem because there is no practical way to divide the city that would satisfy both sides. Separation - a full border, with strict crossings and a fundamental divorce of economic life - is anathema to the Palestinians themselves, who rely heavily on Israeli jobs for their living.
    • Jerusalem is not just a consensus issue in Israel but also a deeply personal one. There is no erasing the thousands of years of yearning for Jerusalem in Jewish texts, nor the national catharsis of its reunification in the Six-Day War, nor over four decades of astonishing development and construction and tourism and flourishing of religious life for all faiths since then.
    • The idea that now, suddenly, a new American president, speaking of "settlements," will change this reality is not simply offensive and alienating to Israelis only, but also to Jews the world over. Israelis do not like to be bullied, and this is far more likely to steel the Israeli public's resolve against American pressure than weaken it.

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