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March 25, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

CNN Poll: Israel a Friend and Ally - Rich Barbieri (CNN)
    According to the CNN poll conducted on March 19-21 and released Tuesday, 39% of Americans characterize Israel as an ally, while another 41% consider Israel friendly to the U.S. but not an ally.
    12% said they consider Israel unfriendly and 5% said Israel is an enemy.

UN Rights Council Condemns Israel, U.S. Opposes (Reuters)
    The 47-member UN Human Rights Council passed three resolutions on Wednesday condemning Israel, but the U.S. voted against them all.
    One resolution on "grave human rights violations" by Israeli forces in the Palestinian territories passed by 31 to 9, with 7 abstentions. The U.S. and seven members of the EU opposed the resolution, saying it was unbalanced.
    Another resolution calling on Israel to stop building in the territories and withdraw those now there was passed by 45 votes, with the EU supporting it and only the U.S. opposing.
    The third condemned Israel for what it called violation of the rights of the people of the formerly Syrian Golan Heights. The U.S. voted no, while 15 countries, including EU members, abstained.
    See also U.S. Backs Israel at UN Human Rights Council - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
    "We are deeply troubled to be presented once again with a slate of resolutions so replete with controversial elements and one-sided references that they shed no light and offer no redress for the real challenges in the region," said U.S. Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe.
    "The council is too often exploited as a platform from which to single out Israel, which undermines its credibility....The U.S. strongly encourages the council to seek an alternative to highly politicized resolutions and a permanent agenda item focused on one country," she said.
    Israel's ambassador to the UN in Geneva Aharon Leshno Yaar said he appreciated the support of the U.S. at the council.

Saudis Arrest Al-Qaeda Terrorists Targeting Oil Sector - Souhail Karam (Reuters)
    Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it had arrested 113 al-Qaeda terrorists including suicide bombers who had been planning attacks on Saudi energy facilities. The Interior Ministry said its sweep netted 58 Saudis and 52 from Yemen.
    Henry Wilkinson, a counter-terrorism expert in London, said the arrests showed the Saudi oil sector remained a priority target for al-Qaeda.

Hamas to Proceed with Execution of "Collaborators" - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The Hamas government has decided to execute a number of Palestinians who were found guilty of "collaboration" with Israel despite protests by human rights and legal organizations, Hamas' Minister of Interior, Fathi Hammad, announced Wednesday.
    Hammad also denied reports that Hamas has been arresting Palestinians who fire rockets at Israel. "Hamas in Gaza protects the resistance," he said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Pushes Israel for Outreach to Palestinians - Glenn Kessler
    U.S. and Israeli officials struggled Wednesday to resolve a dispute over U.S. demands that Israel make goodwill gestures to lure Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who held two hours of talks with President Obama on Tuesday, cleared his schedule Wednesday to undertake additional negotiations with senior U.S. officials, including special peace envoy George Mitchell and White House adviser Dennis Ross. U.S. and Israeli officials are working on a document dubbed "the blueprint," which covers all issues, including Jerusalem, that need to be resolved to let talks go forward. (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Presses Israel on Jerusalem Housing - Helene Cooper and Isabel Kershner
    President Obama pressed Prime Minister Netanyahu on Wednesday to give a written commitment to rein in any further building in East Jerusalem. Netanyahu continued to balk at American demands that he reverse the housing plan for the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood. (New York Times)
  • Petraeus Sets the Record Straight on Israel - Philip Klein
    Gen. David Petraeus on Wednesday denied saying that U.S. support for Israel hinders America's national security interests. At a press briefing at St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH, Petraeus explained that the quote that bloggers attributed to his Senate testimony was actually plucked out of context from a report that Central Command had sent to the Armed Services Committee.
        "There's a 56-page document that we submitted that has a statement in it that describes various factors that influence the strategic context in which we operate and among those we listed the Mideast peace process," he said. "We noted in there that there was a perception at times that America sides with Israel and so forth. And I mean, that is a perception. It is there. I don't think that's disputable. But I think people inferred from what that said and then repeated it a couple of times and bloggers picked it up and spun it. And I think that has been unhelpful, frankly."
        He also noted that there were plenty of other important factors that were mentioned in the report, including "a whole bunch of extremist organizations, some of which by the way deny Israel's right to exist. There's a country that has a nuclear program who denies that the Holocaust took place....So we have all the factors in there, but this is just one, and it was pulled out of this 56-page document, which was not what I read to the Senate at all."
        Petraeus said he sent Gabi Ashkenazi, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, a blog post written by Max Boot in Commentary, which he said "astutely" picked apart the erroneous information. (American Spectator)
        See also Video: Petraeus Says Reports about His Stance on Israel Were "Flat Wrong" (YouTube)
        See also A Lie: David Petraeus, Anti-Israel - Max Boot (Commentary)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: Progress Made in Talks with U.S. - Barak Ravid and Natasha Mozgovaya
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that progress had been made toward resolving the diplomatic crisis with the U.S. over building in east Jerusalem. "We are trying to find the golden path between our will to advance the peace process along with the United States, and maintaining the standard policy of all Israeli governments," he said. Netanyahu had delayed his departure from Washington in an effort to seek consensus in talks with U.S. officials. (Ha'aretz)
  • Netanyahu Orders Freeze in Jerusalem Construction Planning - Yaakov Lappin
    Yair Gabai, a member of the Jerusalem district planning and building committee, said Wednesday that Prime Minister Netanyahu has ordered the committee to freeze deliberations over all proposals for future construction projects in the capital. "We have received an order from the prime minister telling us to stop approving any new plan," Gabai said. The Interior Ministry said Netanyahu ordered the freeze to continue until a new board was set up, tasked with coordinating building plans in Jerusalem with the government.
        "All plans have been stopped for the whole of the city," Gabai said, warning that the decision would inflate housing prices in the capital. "Every delay in housing plans will raise prices for young couples seeking to own their own homes. Contractors who purchased properties will be forced to pay interest to banks as they wait for approval, and they in turn will charge higher prices for housing developments." "We have taken two steps backwards on affordable housing in Jerusalem. This will also have a negative effect in demographic terms, since certain elements do not respect planning laws and construct homes illegally," Gabai said, referring to Arab construction in east Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Kerry to Netanyahu: Let's Drop the Whole Settlements Thing - Josh Rogin
    John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Tuesday just before his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that both the U.S. and Israel should set the settlements issue aside for now. "What's important now is not to get stuck on the issue of the settlement freeze....What's important is to get to the table and discuss the final-status talks as rapidly as possible." House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) issued a statement saying that "building in the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem is not an impediment to the peace process."  (Foreign Policy)
  • Throwing Israel Under the Bus - Melanie Phillips
    By a remarkable coincidence, the UK government has now upped the ante too against its sole "friend" and "ally" in the Middle East, expelling an Israeli diplomat - said to be a Mossad operative - to mark Britain's deep displeasure at the alleged theft by Mossad of the passport identities of a number of British/Israeli citizens in order to kill the Hamas terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai last January. The word "disproportionate" comes to mind.
        You might think that the killing of such a vile enemy of humanity would be a cause of some grim satisfaction in the desperate struggle underway to defend life, liberty and justice against those who would destroy them. But no, Britain punishes those who are in the front line of such a defense, while allowing a free pass to those who work for the destruction of Britain, Israel and the free world.
        To throw out a diplomat, after a series of consistently hostile acts against Israel by the British government - taking the side of Hamas over Israel's self-defense in Gaza, enforcing an embargo on spare parts to Israel, inciting a boycott of Israeli goods from the disputed territories, refusing to vote against the grotesque Goldstone report - suggests a consistent strategy of throwing Israel under the bus.
        The systematic delegitimization of Israel has done its infernal work all too well in softening up the public for the final annihilation of those who only want to be allowed to live in peace in their historic homeland. As the lynching of Israel proceeds, who in the American and British political establishments will have the integrity and courage to stand up and say, "Not in my name"? (Spectator-UK)
  • Palestinian Demands on Jerusalem Are a Ruse to End Negotiations - Stephen Pollard
    Far from Israel's behavior over east Jerusalem being the cause of the breakdown in talks, it's the Palestinians who have come up with east Jerusalem as a figleaf for their rejection of talks. The Palestinians' refusal to countenance real talks unless Israel freezes building in east Jerusalem is simply a ruse. For 16 years after the Oslo accords, such building was never an issue. The real reason why the Palestinians have landed on an east Jerusalem freeze as a prerequisite is because they no longer want negotiations with Israel, or the U.S. The writer is editor of the London Jewish Chronicle. (Guardian-UK)
  • Observations:

    U.S.-Engineered Deadlock Stalls Peace Process - Jackson Diehl (Washington Post)

    • It's now been two weeks since President Obama chose to launch another public confrontation with the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Meanwhile, Mahmoud Abbas has adopted Obama's demand of a freeze on all new construction in Jerusalem as his own: He's saying he won't begin even the indirect, "proximity" talks he previously agreed to. Which means that, for the second time in a year, the Middle East peace process has been stalled by a U.S.-engineered deadlock. U.S. and Israeli negotiators worked until 3 a.m. Wednesday in an attempt to come up with a formula that would allow the talks to go forward. So far, no luck.
    • Finally, Obama added more poison to the U.S.-Israeli relationship when he refused to allow non-official photographers to record his meeting with Netanyahu, and no statement was issued afterward. Netanyahu is being treated as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator, needed for strategic reasons but conspicuously held at arms length. That is something the rest of the world will be quick to notice.
    • European governments cannot be more friendly to an Israeli leader than the U.S. Would Britain have expelled a senior Israeli diplomat Tuesday because of a flap over forged passports if there were no daylight between Obama and Netanyahu?
    • Obama chose to challenge Netanyahu on a point that is not material to the creation of a Palestinian state. As the Israeli leader has pointed out, previous U.S. administrations and the Palestinians themselves have already accepted that Jewish neighborhoods in and around Jerusalem will be annexed to Israel.
    • Obama picked a fight over something that virtually all Israelis agree on, and before serious discussions have even begun. A new administration can be excused for making such a mistake. That's why Obama was given a pass by many when he made exactly the same mistake last year. The second time around, the president doesn't look naive. He appears ideological - and vindictive.

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