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August 18, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Opposes U.S. Base Deal for Colombia - Carlos Valdez (AP)
    Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said last week in Bolivia that his country opposes an impending deal to expand the U.S. military's presence in Colombia.
    Tehran has cultivated closer ties with leftist-led nations in Latin America that are pushing for more distance from U.S. policy.
    "The hegemonic policies (of the United States) in Latin America and Asia have completely failed," he said.

Building Israeli Confidence - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    The Arab world doesn't seem to get it.
    Israel made confidence-building moves by letting Yasser Arafat set up a Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza following the Oslo Accords, by negotiating with that PA twice for an almost complete pullback from the West Bank, by uprooting two dozen settlements and withdrawing totally from Gaza four years ago, and by recently removing dozens of roadblocks in the West Bank.
    The Arab world simply doesn't understand that - coming off the second intifada that followed the Camp David talks in 2000, and bouncing back from the creation of Hamastan that followed Israel's pullback from Gaza - Israel now needs its confidence built.
    After years of feeling that it was giving and giving to the Palestinians, and not getting anything but terrorism in return, the Israeli public now wants something up front.

43% of PA Wages Go to Security Forces (CAMERA)
    Palestinian security forces account for 43% of all wages paid by the Palestinian Authority, according to a report by the World Bank.

Texas Governor Compares Gaza to Mexico - Abe Selig (Jerusalem Post)
    Texas and Israel have much in common, said Texas Governor Rick Perry during a visit to the country.
    "We have a connection that goes back many years," Perry said, recalling the Texas-Israel Exchange - a body that supports the trade of agricultural know-how between Texan and Israeli scientists - which he established in 1991 while serving as the Texas Agriculture Commissioner.
    "Israel has a lot that we can learn from, especially in the areas of water conservation and semi-arid land - Israeli technology has helped us a lot in dealing with drought."
    "But also...the comparison between Masada and the Alamo was not lost on me. I mean, we're talking about two groups of people who were willing to give up their lives for freedom and liberty."
    "Israel is a leader in security technology, and another reason for our visit to the Gaza border was to see some of the security measures being used there," said Perry.
    He went on to describe his support for Israel from a religious point of view, saying, "I'm a big believer that this country was given to the people of Israel a long time ago, by God, and that's ordained."
    He said he felt that, "Israel does all the giving and the other side does not reciprocate."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israeli Officials: New West Bank Projects Frozen - Matti Friedman
    Israel has quietly stopped approving new building projects in the West Bank while publicly still refusing U.S. demands for an official settlement freeze, government officials said Tuesday. Several officials said Israel has decided to temporarily stop green-lighting new projects because of international pressure. It could be an indication Israel is seeking a compromise with Washington over the issue. (AP)
  • Germany, EU Increasingly Ready to Impose Tough New Sanctions on Iran
    Berlin and Brussels are increasingly prepared to impose massive embargoes on Iran unless Tehran signals soon that it's ready to compromise in their nuclear dispute. Germany and the EU are considering stopping all exports of gasoline to Iran. Diplomats are also considering banning Iranian ships or aircraft from docking or landing in the EU. Major insurance companies that insure many freight shipments to and from Iran, such as Lloyd's, may be forced to cease such deals.
        The German government will initially try to get these additional sanctions passed by the UN Security Council, where veto powers China and Russia have been hesitant on measures against Iran. But senior German diplomats have said the EU and the US would be prepared to impose "very strict sanctions" on their own. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
        See also Iran Prepared for Nuclear Dialogue, Iranian Envoy Says - Laura Rozen
    Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh said on Iranian state television that Iran is ready to talk with Western powers about its nuclear program without preconditions. (Foreign Policy)
  • Mubarak: Peace First, Normal Ties with Israel Second
    Arab states would recognize Israel and normalize ties with the Jewish state after a comprehensive Middle East peace is achieved, but not before, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Monday. Mubarak, who is in Washington for talks with the U.S. administration, urged that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations not get hung up on the settlement issue, but concentrate instead on an overall peace deal. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Islamization Promoted by Hamas in Gaza
    Ever since it took over Gaza in June 2007, Hamas has been promoting a process of gradual Islamization, designed to further its vision of establishing a Palestinian state based on Islamic religious law. The Hamas charter (1988), whose principles are adhered to by Hamas to this day, asserts that the land of Palestine is an Islamic endowment which must be liberated from the Jews through jihad (holy war) and an Islamic Palestinian state should be established there.
        As part of a deliberate policy, the Islamization process was accelerated in the last two years, encompassing all areas of life: passing radical Islamic laws and regulations; establishing economic institutions of Islamic character (a bank, an insurance company); the enforcement of an Islamic code of conduct on daily life (wearing veils, banning mixed gender social gatherings, gender segregation on beaches, banning alcohol); the significant increase in the number of mosques; deepening of formal and informal Islamic education (in educational institutions, from kindergartens to universities, in summer camps);and the accentuation of the Islamic character of the media (mainly Al-Aqsa TV). (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Ya'alon: Eradicate the Term "Illegal Outposts" - Chaim Levinson
    Vice premier and former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon said Monday: "We need to eradicate the term 'illegal outposts.'...These are communities that were established with the state's encouragement, yet the legal definition has made them illegal." During a tour of West Bank outposts, he said: "The [state] prosecution's responses to the High Court of Justice [on petitions against the outposts] do not reflect the government's position....I hope this situation will be corrected."  (Ha'aretz)
        The outposts were approved by prime ministers and defense ministers and so were legal, Ya'alon said. "We have misled ourselves for a long time in treating these outposts as illegal," he said. "It is simply a mistake to call them that. It is a distortion."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Demilitarization of West Bank Is Not Feasible - Gabriel Siboni
    The main threat Israel had to face in the past was the possibility that the Arab countries would occupy the country or parts of it. Since they have despaired of being able to do so, they have turned their efforts to developing rockets and missiles on a wide scale, putting most of Israel's population at risk of attack.
        How could any defense umbrella be effective against the threat of rockets fired from Gaza or the West Bank once the Israel Defense Forces have withdrawn? It is not clear how it would be possible to enforce demilitarization on the Palestinian entity that will arise. Gaza is also a "demilitarized" zone, but weapons are smuggled in and Hamas is building its force for a confrontation with Israel. Today it is impossible to identify any element in the West Bank that could deal with the threat other than the presence of the IDF. The writer is director of the IDF Force Structure program at the Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University. (Ha'aretz)
  • Standing Up to Mubarak - Michele Dunne
    Since President George W. Bush's freedom agenda flamed out years ago, relations between Washington and Cairo have settled back into the comfortable pre-Sept. 11 pattern. Egypt will elect a new parliament next year and a new president in 2011. By then, Mubarak will be 83, and even if he decides to run again - after 30 years in power under a state of "emergency" that allows him to suspend laws - it is likely to be a few years at most before change comes.
        Obama should ask Mubarak how he plans to address rising demand for the rule of law and free political competition in Egypt. The U.S. administration should reconsider its disengagement from Egyptian civil society and find a way to establish partnerships with the many institutions and organizations that can play constructive roles in a transition toward a more open system. Then Obama will have shown his respect not just for our man in Cairo but for 83 million Egyptians as well. The writer is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and editor of the Arab Reform Bulletin. (Washington Post)
        See also Mr. Mubarak's Return - Editorial
    No amount of coddling by Mr. Obama is likely to change the behavior of Mr. Mubarak, who has 28 years of experience in deflecting U.S. initiatives. If Mr. Obama focuses his attention on Mr. Mubarak and his dubious diplomatic contributions - as opposed to the Egyptian people and their legitimate demands for political change - the president will ignore the lessons of history. (Washington Post)
        See also Mubarak Comes to Washington - David Schenker and J. Scott Carpenter (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The Goldstone Mission - Tainted to the Core - Irwin Cotler
    Richard Goldstone, a distinguished member of the Constitutional Court of South Africa who brings to the table a special expertise and experience in matters of the intersection between international human rights law and humanitarian law, is heading an inherently tainted UN inquiry whose formal mandate is to investigate Israel and not Hamas. The mandate that was handed to Goldstone was deeply one-sided and flawed, by his own admission, for the resolution of the UNHRC creating the mandate already served as a direct indictment of Israel. It began by "strongly condemn[ing] the ongoing Israeli military operation...which has resulted in massive violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people and systematic destruction of Palestinian infrastructure." Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the UK - among others - refused to support it.
        Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson stated that "the resolution is not balanced because it focuses on what Israel did, without calling for an investigation on the launch of the rockets by Hamas." Asked to head up the mission before Goldstone, Robinson refused. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Engaging Iran on Human Rights - Alexander Benard (Wall Street Journal)

    • The United States should propose a conversation with Iran about human rights. Since the rigged presidential election, Tehran has continued its ruthless crackdown on political dissent. The regime initiated mass trials against more than 100 people associated with the post-election protests. Other members of the opposition have already been imprisoned, tortured and forced to provide false confessions that they were acting as foreign spies.
    • In this context, negotiations about Iran's nuclear program would not only be inappropriate, they would also be counterproductive. Nuclear talks would allow Ahmadinejad to divert attention away from the serious fault lines in Iran that events have revealed in the last few months - both within the regime, as well as between the regime and the opposition.
    • While a conversation about Iran's right to nuclear power would in large part rally Iranians behind Ahmadinejad, a conversation on human rights would do just the opposite. The idea is similar in principle to Sen. Henry ("Scoop") Jackson's push for introducing human rights as a component of our negotiations with the Soviet Union in the 1970s.
    • Ahmadinejad would face a clear choice: Accept the framework and risk providing Iranians with the very freedoms that could undermine his totalitarian regime; or, more likely, reject the framework and incur the wrath of Iran's democrats. A majority of the Iranian people want greater protection for human rights and better relations with the West. Here would be an opportunity for them to have both.
    • Ironically, by declining to talk about nuclear weapons, the U.S. actually stands a better chance of resolving that very issue. The regime will never voluntarily give up its nuclear program, no matter how many carrots Mr. Obama offers.
    • The nuclear issue will go away only when this regime does. Shifting the focus to human rights is helpful in that respect, since it weakens the mullahs and accelerates real democratic change.

      The writer has worked at the Department of Defense and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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