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November 26, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Cites Israel to Seek China Backing on Iran - John Pomfret and Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
    Two weeks before President Obama visited China, senior White House officials Dennis Ross and Jeffrey Bader traveled to Beijing to try to persuade China to pressure Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program.
    The Chinese were told that Israel regards Iran's nuclear program as an "existential issue and that countries that have an existential issue don't listen to other countries."
    The implication was clear: a crisis in the Persian Gulf region could lead to problems over the supply of oil to China.
    Earlier this week, China informed the U.S. that it would support a toughly worded statement criticizing Iran for constructing a secret uranium-enrichment plant - the first such declaration since 2006 to be backed by both China and Russia.

Investment Scandal Damages Hizbullah - Alia Ibrahim (Washington Post)
    Thousands of Lebanese have lost their savings after putting their faith in Salah Ezzedine, a billionaire financier with close ties to Hizbullah.
    The Lebanese version of the Bernie Madoff scandal threatens to tarnish the Shiite group's carefully cultivated image as a pious defender of the masses.

Hamas Militants Killed in Gaza "Work Accident" (Xinhua-China)
    Mohammed al-Nawati and Ahmad Abu Ghanima, two members of Hamas' military wing, the Ezz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, were killed in an explosion in Gaza City, sources said on Tuesday. The powerful blast also wounded five people.
    Sources said the two produced weapons for Hamas and could have been killed in a work accident.

UK Envoys Called Back to Calm British Muslims - Marie Woolf (Times-UK)
    British ambassadors to Muslim countries are traveling back to Britain to help counter the propaganda of radical Islamic clerics.
    So far 25 senior diplomats have met Muslims in radical hotspots such as Luton, where, earlier this year, troops returning from Iraq were jeered on the streets by extremists.
    The meetings are part of the Prevent initiative, which was set up after the London suicide bombings in July 2005 to stop people becoming terrorists or coming under the influence of "anti-British" ideas.
    The Foreign Office is also paying for senior British Muslims to travel to Pakistan and other Muslim countries to counter stories about the maltreatment of Muslims in the UK.

Female Soldiers Command Missile Batteries in the IDF - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Last week the IDF Air Defense Division appointed its fourth female battery commander.
    "In the beginning we laughed about it, but ultimately there is no difference if the battery commanders are male or female," said Capt. Revital Uzon, 23, commander of a Hawk missile battery.
    "It is a lot of responsibility, but we are ready and train for what we do every day," she said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Praises Israeli Moratorium on West Bank Construction - Glenn Kessler
    The Obama administration hailed the Israeli government's announcement Wednesday that it intends to temporarily halt new residential construction in the West Bank. "We believe the steps announced by the prime minister are significant and could have substantial impact on the ground," said George J. Mitchell, the special U.S. envoy for Middle East peace.
        The Obama administration appeared eager to put a painful and lengthy dispute with Israel over settlement expansion behind it. The Israeli announcement came about as a result of extensive bilateral discussions, with sources saying a private understanding was reached that the Israeli government would be expected to maintain the moratorium if peace talks appeared to be making progress. (Washington Post)
        View Video of Mitchell Statement (Washington Post)
        See also Clinton Sees Move Forward in Israeli Announcement
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday: "Today's announcement by the Government of Israel helps move forward toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements."  (State Department)
        See also Palestinians Reject Temporary Israeli Settlement Ease - Ron Bousso (AFP)
  • Iranian President Ahmadinejad Gets Hero's Welcome in Venezuela - Hannah Strange
    Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, received a hero's welcome in Caracas Wednesday as he visited his key Latin American ally on a regional tour designed to shore up support for Tehran in its confrontation with Western powers. Shouting "Viva Ahmadinejad!" Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pledged his full backing for Iran. Iran is trying to deepen its strategic inroads on the Latin American continent, where it has found new allies in a host of anti-American leftist leaders led by Chavez. Tehran has opened five new diplomatic missions and signed hundreds of cooperation deals in the region, including some 200 with Venezuela in the areas of trade, energy and defense. (Times-UK)
        See also Venezuela's Chavez Calls Israel "Murderous" U.S. Arm - Frank Jack Daniel
    Venezuela's President Chavez used a visit by Iranian President Ahmadinejad on Wednesday to brand Israel as a murderous agent of Washington. "We know what the State of Israel stands for - a murderous arm of the Yankee empire," Chavez said. His fierce speeches against Israel are taken by some supporters as a green light for anti-Semitism and walls in Caracas are often daubed with anti-Jewish slogans. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Announces Ten-Month Suspension of New Construction in West Bank - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    On Wednesday, "my cabinet authorized a policy of restraint regarding settlements which will include a suspension of new permits and new construction in Judea and Samaria for a period of ten months....We hope that this decision will help launch meaningful peace negotiations to reach a historic peace agreement that will finally end the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel....We have been told by many friends that once Israel takes the first step towards peace, the Palestinians and the Arab world would respond positively with steps of their own to create a virtuous cycle of goodwill."
        "I have already said that we will not build new settlements and that we would not expropriate additional land for existing settlements....I promised to enable normal life to continue for the three hundred thousand Israeli citizens, our brothers and sisters, who live in Judea and Samaria. That is why this suspension will not affect construction currently underway....Regarding Jerusalem, our sovereign capital...we do not put any restrictions on building in our sovereign capital."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        View Video of Netanyahu Statement (CNN)
  • Moratorium Proves Settlements Have Never Been Obstacle to Peace - Tovah Lazaroff
    Israel's settlement moratorium proves that the settlements have never been an obstacle to peace, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on Thursday. "This is only a limited window of opportunity. It will be sufficient to demonstrate whether the Palestinians are serious about peace or just serial excuse-givers. The gaze of the international community will now turn to the Palestinians and to the Arab world, something that the Palestinians in particular have fought hard to prevent for the last eight months."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel: We Hope Settlement Freeze Can Kick-Start Peace Talks
    Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told BBC on Wednesday: "We want to negotiate. We have made an unprecedented move today. We hope this can kick-start the peace talks forward. If you are looking for excuses not to talk, you can always find them, but it is a mistake. Israelis and Palestinians have to sit together."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran Punishes Its People - Editorial
    Iran's fraudulently elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will clearly stop at nothing to stifle legitimate dissent and hold on to his illegitimate power. The most recent horror is the sharp rise in executions since the June presidential elections. Human rights groups and Iranian political experts believe that the rising numbers are meant to frighten anyone who might criticize or openly oppose the government. The viciousness of the current repression is another sign of the government's desperation.
        We believe that the Obama administration was right to reach out to Iran in an effort to curb its nuclear ambitions. But we also believe that there have to be limits to that forthcomingness, and time is running out. Obama has set a deadline of the end of this year for diplomatic progress on the nuclear issue. He should keep to that. If Iran continues to repudiate the exchange deal, the U.S. must line up other members of the UN Security Council, including Russia and China, for much tougher sanctions. Iran's repressive leaders cannot be allowed to threaten the rest of the world with a nuclear weapon. (New York Times)
  • Hizbullah Still Holds Power in Lebanon Despite Losing the Election - Peter Berkowitz
    Since the 1980s, Lebanon has served as a battleground in Iran's quest for hegemony in a region critical to vital American national security interests. The country is about 28% Sunni, 28% Shia, and 39% Christian.
        Several of the liberal Shia to whom we spoke persuasively argued that for Hizbullah, "resistance" does not refer merely to armed struggle against Israel's occupation of this or that piece of land, or even the battle against Israel's very existence, but a fight to the death against the claims of liberty and democracy in Lebanon and throughout the region in the name of Islamic law as dictated by the Iranian mullahs. Regional stability depends most of all on crafting strategies to thwart Tehran's export of Islamic revolution. The writer is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. (Weekly Standard)
        See also Lebanon Agrees on Hizbullah's Right to Use Arms Against Israel
    Lebanon's new cabinet has agreed on a policy statement that acknowledges Hizbullah's right to use its weapons against Israel. (AFP)
  • Observations:

    Will U.S. Twist Arab Arms as Firmly as It Twisted Israel's? - David Horovitz (Jerusalem Post)

    • Prime Minister Netanyahu has always evinced an ideological commitment to the growth of the settlement enterprise as a prime national interest. But he also fully appreciated the irreplaceable strategic value of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
    • President Obama was emphatically of the opinion that Israel needed to call a settlement freeze in order to generate goodwill for Arab states to bolster international leverage against Tehran, and goodwill for some of those same Arab states to begin the process of normalizing their ties with Israel.
    • Netanyahu may not believe for a moment that a settlement freeze will have any impact on Arab states' attitudes to Iran. He may be skeptical that a settlement freeze will prompt significant progress on Arab normalization with Israel.
    • But in order to prevent a crisis in ties with Washington, while placing the negotiating ball firmly in the Palestinian and Arab court, Netanyahu made his choice. Presumably, the U.S. is now trying to twist Arab arms as firmly as it twisted his.

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