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April 1, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Egyptians Seize 100 Antiaircraft Missiles Bound for Gaza - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    Egyptian security forces on Wednesday uncovered a large cache of missiles and mortar shells in northern Sinai believed bound for Gaza, the Egyptian newspaper al-Youm al-Sabe' reported Thursday.
    The cache was seized near Nahal, on the smuggling route to Gaza, and contained 100 antiaircraft missiles, 45 rocket-propelled grenades, and 40 explosive devices.

An Unusual Alignment of Interests in the Middle East - Michael J. Totten (Commentary)
    More than any other Arab head of state in the world, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has mastered the art of telling listeners what they want to hear. He knows those in the West find it refreshing that he can talk like a liberal while Iran's Ali Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threaten apocalypse.
    Syria, though, is the most aggressive state sponsor of terrorism in the world after Iran.
    Meanwhile, Iraqis gave Ayad Allawi and his slate of staunchly anti-Iranian candidates a plurality of votes in the recent election. The moderate Nouri al-Maliki came in second while the pro-Iranian Iraqi National Alliance came in dead last.
    Iran tried to Lebanonize Iraq with its Sadrist militias but seems to have failed.
    What we have, for the most part, is an Arab Middle East that wants to put the Israeli conflict on ice and resist the Iranian-led "resistance" instead - which is more or less what the Israelis want to see happen. It's an unusual alignment of interests, but it is authentic.
    President Barack Obama clearly wants to tilt U.S. foreign policy more toward the Arabs, but he doesn't have to do it at the expense of our alliance with Israel.
    Just start with what Washington, Jerusalem, and most of the Arab states have in common and build outward from there.

Iran Jams Satellite Signals Carrying Foreign Media - Christoph Seidler (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    The regime in Tehran has been blocking foreign media broadcasts, including those of the BBC and Voice of America, from Europe's largest television satellite, Hot Bird 8, in an effort to prevent critical foreign media coverage from reaching domestic viewers.
    When the Iranian regime decides to block its signals and targets the satellite, the Farsi services of the BBC and Voice of America instantly disappear from television screens not just in Iran but throughout the satellite's coverage area.
    The UN has condemned it as an act of sabotage.

How Hamas Survives in Gaza (Economist-UK)
    The tunnels that snake under Gaza's border with Egypt have multiplied so fast that supply sometimes exceeds demand. So stiff is commercial competition that tunnel-diggers complain that their work is no longer profitable.
    Cement, which cost 300 Israeli shekels ($80) a sack two years ago, has dropped almost tenfold in price, precipitating a spate of building. Eyewitnesses say that flashy 4x4 vehicles can actually drive through tunnels.
    Some economists say Gaza is growing faster than the West Bank run by the rival Palestinian Authority, albeit from a far lower base. The petrol pumped into Gaza by underground pipes from Egypt costs a third of what it does in Ramallah, the Palestinians' West Bank capital.
    As well as lower prices, Gazans benefit from civil-service payrolls. The UN employs 10,000 Gazans, and Salam Fayyad's West Bank government is the largest employer of all.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • China Agrees to Consider Steps on Iran - Neil MacFarquhar
    The Chinese government agreed on Wednesday to enter negotiations over the language of a new resolution to intensify international pressure on Iran. "They have agreed to start," said Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, in an interview. "There was substantive discussion of the elements of a resolution, for the first time," said a senior American official. But aside from the Chinese now agreeing to discuss the substance of a sanctions resolution, there is no more specific timetable in place, Kouchner noted. "There is no date, there is nothing precise, but we are speeding up," he said. "It will be done; I don't know when." In previous rounds of sanctions, it took two to four months for all sides to agree on the text of new sanctions. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Military Says New Weapons from Iran Sent to Afghanistan - Peter Graff and Adam Entous
    Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said on Wednesday during a visit to Kabul, "I was advised last night about a significant shipment of weapons from Iran into Kandahar....I have seen them [the Iranians] over the last several years - the last couple of years anyway, certainly be more than just interested, provide some capabilities," Mullen added. "I am also concerned that that desire to be influential is increasing."  (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Seeks Four-Month East Jerusalem Building Freeze - Barak Ravid
    The U.S. is demanding that Israel accept a four-month construction freeze in all parts of east Jerusalem. In exchange, the U.S. would pressure Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to hold direct talks instead of indirect talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. An official in Jerusalem said the U.S. administration is demanding that the construction freeze include Jewish neighborhoods such as Ramot, Neve Yaakov, Pisgat Ze'ev, French Hill and Ramat Shlomo. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Analyst Says Plan Won't Fly - Ilene Prusher
    "My own sense is that it's a non-starter. I'm not sure if it's a trial balloon, but if so, I don't see it flying," says Dr. Jonathan Spyer, a senior research fellow at Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA), part of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. "Everything we're hearing from Netanyahu's cabinet indicates that they're not interested in a freeze in Jerusalem. This kind of pressure on the coalition isn't sustainable and if Netanyahu were to make a move like that, it will collapse," he says. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Fatah to Intensify "Popular Struggle" Against Israel - Ali Waked
    Senior Fatah officials have called to intensify the "popular struggle" against Israel. "All options are on the table," senior PA official Jibril Rajoub said Tuesday. Fatah Central Committee member Mahmoud al-Alul said Fatah, which is headed by Mahmoud Abbas, plans to escalate its activity against Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the West Bank barrier, as well as against what he called Israel's attempt to "Judaize" Jerusalem, this in accordance with the decisions reached at Fatah's sixth annual congress last year. The threat is apparently linked to Sunday's arrest of Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki during a demonstration near Bethlehem. Nabil Shaath, another Fatah Committee member, said Fatah has decided that it must be at the forefront of the Palestinian struggle. "You've seen Fatah's leaders in Bilin and Bethlehem; their presence will be felt everywhere."  (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinians Riot Near West Bank Prison - Ali Waked
    Three Israeli Border Guard officers were injured and two Palestinian rioters were arrested during clashes Wednesday between 200 Palestinians and Israeli security forces near Ofer Prison west of Ramallah in the West Bank. The Palestinians were protesting the arrest of ten senior Palestinian officials during a demonstration on Sunday in Bethlehem. The Palestinians announced that they would turn their trial into a large-scale protest against Israel as part of the escalation of the popular struggle declared by Fatah. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Missing the Point on Middle East Peace - Dick Morris and Eileen McGann
    When Hillary Clinton and Obama explode in indignation against Israel for building apartments in east Jerusalem, they deliberately miss the point: There is no reason for Israel to catalyze peace negotiations when there is no single entity that is both committed to peace and speaks for the entire Palestinian people. Without a peace partner, negotiations are either a trip to nowhere or a slippery slope to more Gaza-like concessions that do nothing but strengthen the enemies of Israel without providing any advancement to the cause of peace. The merits of building in east Jerusalem or the need for a moratorium on all settlement construction are quite irrelevant as long as a substantial body of Palestinian opinion wants a war with Israel and the prevailing political authority in Gaza insists on the Jewish state's eradication.
        When Clinton characterized the American commitment to Israel as "rock solid" while, at the same time, warning that Israel faced destruction unless it concluded a peace deal with the Arabs, it illustrates how conditional U.S. support really is. Unless Israel toes the U.S. line - to the satisfaction of the Arab world - American support won't really be there. By raising the profile of the housing issue and by lending legitimacy to the idea that it is Israeli construction that is frustrating the peace process, Obama and Clinton both redirect pressure that should be aimed at Hamas' refusal to honor or participate in any peace talks. (Orange County Register)
  • U.S.-Israel Crisis: When Ben-Gurion Said No to JFK - Gerald Steinberg
    History shows that some issues are so critical that even the President of the United States cannot force Israel's hand. The sharpest example took place almost fifty years ago, when in 1961 President Kennedy demanded that Ben-Gurion end Israel's nuclear deterrent program. But for the Israeli leader, the overriding objective was to gain the tools necessary to insure Jewish survival in a very hostile world. Before 1967, Israel was far more isolated and vulnerable than is the case today.
        Ben-Gurion did not refuse Kennedy's requests - he avoided saying no by dancing around them for two years. Finally, Kennedy warned in a letter dated May 18, 1963, that unless American inspectors were allowed into Israel's Dimona facility, Israel would find itself totally isolated. Rather than answering, Ben-Gurion abruptly resigned. In 1969, Nixon and Kissinger made one more effort to force Israel to relinquish the deterrent option, and when Golda Meir refused, the U.S. and Israel agreed to the "don't ask, don't tell" compromise that has served both countries well for over forty years.
        While Dimona was a bilateral issue, in the peace process, the Palestinians are a crucial third party. There is no sense in pressuring Israel if Palestinians continue terror and incitement, and reject the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty. The writer is professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University. (Jerusalem Post)
  • UK's Move Against Israel Fits Trend of Appeasing Islam - Zvi Mazel
    Like the U.S., England sends its secret service people to search out and kill terrorists wherever they are - from Ireland to Gibraltar to Afghanistan. Of course, they have their pick of Commonwealth passports. But let a master terrorist, a man who has killed, a man who has been masterminding the steady flow of arms into Gaza, die in suspicious circumstances and all fingers are pointed at Israel. By expelling an Israeli diplomat, the UK would show the world that it would not let an alleged misuse of its passports go unpunished - a move against Israel that fits perfectly in the current European trend of appeasing Islam.
        Far more innocent civilians have been killed by allied troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere than in Gaza, but no one is suggesting another Goldstone Report. While Israeli officers and officials are threatened with arrest if they set foot on British soil, no allied soldier or official faces a similar fate. Would someone explain why? As an Italian politician told me recently: "Europe has it too good. It has no wish to really fight terror and halt the Islamic wave threatening to engulf it. You are on your own, my friend." The writer is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden and a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Why Obama Is Picking the Wrong Fight - Gary Rosenblatt (New York Jewish Week)

    • I can't help thinking that President Barack Obama, in his desperate search for a way out of the Israeli-Palestinian standoff, is looking deliberately in the wrong places, picking on Israel - not because it makes sense - but because he can. And because it's more expedient than pressuring the Palestinians and upsetting the oil-rich Arab nations.
    • I believe the president wants to broker a peace deal in the Mideast. But based on his actions in attempting to jumpstart negotiations since taking office, he has shown a disturbing lack of appreciation of the complexities of the issue. And in his haste he has weakened his most vital democratic ally in the region and strengthened those most resistant to Western values, compromise, stability and peace. Obama is also guilty of chutzpah in thinking his very public pressure on Netanyahu can force a change of government in Israel that would be more accommodating of the Palestinians.
    • Obama has picked on the wrong party in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Where is the condemnation - or even mention - of the Palestinian Authority for failure to endorse a two-state solution or acknowledge the right of a Jewish state to exist in the region, and for its praise of suicide bombers as "martyrs?" Why should the Palestinian Authority engage in serious talks with Israel, leading to compromise, when Washington is applying all of the pressure on Jerusalem?
    • The rhetoric we hear from Secretary of State Clinton and from the president is painstakingly symmetrical in its praise or criticism of Israel and the Palestinians. But there is little symmetry. Israel is a democratic ally and vital strategic partner that has consistently been willing to make painful sacrifices for peace, and has made peace with Egypt and Jordan. The PA remains a group founded on and still connected to armed struggle, one that has carried out murderous attacks on innocent civilians, demonizes Israelis and Zionists and has refused every peace-making effort over the years.
    • What's needed now is for Washington to step back and heed its own advice: for decades we heard, and agreed with, the message that peace will only come through direct negotiations between the parties themselves, when they are ready. That's how peace was brokered between Israel and Egypt, and Israel and Jordan. But for now, Obama has managed to give the Palestinians every reason and excuse not to negotiate directly, leaving the impression that Israel is intransigent and the Palestinians willing to compromise, when the very opposite is true.

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