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April 6, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Teen Confirmed by Gaza Health Ministry as "Killed by IDF" Returns Home Alive (BBC News)
    Muhammad al-Faramawi, 15, was said to have been killed in clashes on Tuesday near Rafah in Gaza, but Israel denied involvement.
    He returned home on Friday after having been arrested by Egyptian security forces for trying to sneak into Egypt via smuggler tunnels.
    Dr. Muawiya Hassanein of Gaza's health ministry announced on Tuesday that Faramawi had been killed. He said the boy had been left "bleeding for hours" before a medical team was allowed to collect his body.
    See also Gaza Teen "Killed" by IDF Recounts Egyptian Prison Ordeal - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    According to Faramawi, the Egyptian soldiers and policemen beat him and his friends with clubs and electric wires during their three days in prison. "In addition to the beatings and verbal abuse, they gave us rotten food to eat," he said.
    "After what happened to me in Egyptian prison, I won't go back there even if they offered me $1 million."

France: Fresh Israel-Syria Talks Unlikely - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    A report submitted to French President Nicolas Sarkozy by two top French diplomats who had visited the Middle East recently to investigate the possibility of French mediation between Israel and Syria concludes that there is no chance to renew negotiations in the near future.
    Patrice Paoli, director of the North Africa and Middle East desk at the French Foreign Ministry, and Nicolas Gallas, a special adviser to Sarkozy on Middle East affairs, said they believe meaningful negotiations between Israel and Syria are not possible in the near future.
    In their opinion, Israel is not ready to fully withdraw from the Golan Heights, while Syria had no intention of cutting ties with Iran and Hizbullah.

Anti-Israel TV Show Angers Palestinians - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    An anti-Israel Turkish television series that depicts IDF soldiers as cold-blooded murderers and rapists has also enraged many Palestinians.
    Palestinian women prisoners said in a statement: "We call on the producer of this Turkish drama to apologize to the Palestinian people for the scene which shows Israeli soldiers raping a Palestinian female prisoner."
    They also condemned the scene where the family of the "rape victim" kills her upon her release from Israeli jail.
    "Those who think that a Palestinian female prisoner is raped when she's arrested are living in an illusion and are mistaken....There has never been such a case. Nor have we heard of a Palestinian family that killed their daughter after her release."
    The women called on the Saudi-owned MBC network to stop broadcasting the Turkish series immediately.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Ahmadinejad Rejects Renewed U.S. Call for Engagement
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Saturday rejected a renewed call from the U.S. to engage diplomatically to overcome the nuclear standoff. Ahmadinejad said a message by President Obama to mark the Iranian new year last month contained "three or four beautiful words" but nothing new of substance. "They say that 'we have extended our hands to the people of Iran but the government of Iran and the people of Iran pushed it back.' What hand did you extend toward us?" Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech. "What changed? Your sanctions were lifted? The adverse propaganda was stopped? The pressure was alleviated? Did you change your attitude in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine?"  (Reuters)
        See also Obama: Iran Aims to Acquire Nukes
    President Barack Obama says the U.S. will continue to "ratchet up the pressure" on Iran to reveal its nuclear intentions to the rest of the world. In an interview broadcast Friday on CBS's "The Early Show," Obama said "all the evidence" indicates that Tehran is trying to get a nuclear weapons capacity. With such a capability, Obama said that Iran could "destabilize" life in the Mideast and trigger an arms race in the region. (AP)
  • Hopes of Swift Sanctions Against Iran Suffer Setback in UN - Harvey Morris
    The UN Security Council Monday failed to include Iran's nuclear program on its agenda for April, underlining the likely slow road to sanctions. President Obama, buoyed by what Washington officials perceived as a shift in China's attitude towards imposing fresh sanctions on Iran, said a week ago that he wanted to see a fourth round of UN measures in place within weeks. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Obama Reported Pressing to Slow Congressional Push for Iran Sanctions - Dan Robinson
    The Obama administration is reported to be pressing key members of the U.S. Congress to allow more time before taking final action on legislation that would impose tough, unilateral sanctions on Iran. Bruce MacDonald with the U.S. Institute of Peace says a delay would help by not tying the administration's hands when it comes to negotiating with Tehran. (VOA News)
  • Israel: Palestinians Need to Come to Negotiating Table - Martina Stewart
    Appearing Sunday on CNN, Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., explained: "Israel has a policy that goes back to 1967...that Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel. Under Israeli law, it has the same status as Tel Aviv. And our policy is that every Arab and every Jew has a right to build anywhere in the city legally as an Arab and Jew would have a right to build legally anywhere in a city in the United States, including in this city, in Washington, D.C. That's our policy. The policy is not going to change."
        "We feel that now we should proceed directly to peace negotiations without a change in policy. We understand that Jerusalem will be one of the core issues discussed in those peace negotiations, but the main issue is to get the peace negotiations started. We are waiting for the Palestinians to join us at the table. So far, they have not done so."  (CNN)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: We Won't Tolerate Rocket Fire from Gaza - Herb Keinon
    Israel will not allow a recurrence of the situation that existed before last year's Gaza operation, when constant rocket and mortar fire rained on Israel from Gaza, a senior government official said on Saturday night in response to escalating violence. "We are determined not to return to such a reality," he said. His comments followed calls for restraint from around the world, including the U.S., France and Britain.
        On Friday, Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio that if the rocket fire did not stop, Israel would have to increase the level of military activity and "step up actions against Hamas." "We won't allow frightened children to again be raised in bomb shelters, and so, in the end, it [Hamas] will force us to launch another military operation. I hope we can avoid it, but it is one of the options we have, and if we have no choice, we will use it in the near future," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • White House Seeks to Cool U.S.-Israel Tensions - Hilary Leila Krieger
    Senior White House official Dan Shapiro, the U.S. National Security Council's top Middle East adviser, called American Jewish leaders Friday to reassure them that a resolution to the U.S.-Israel dispute was close. Shapiro said the Obama administration had not chosen to put the issue of Jerusalem on the agenda, that it was a final-status issue to be resolved between the parties, and that the U.S. had no interest in raising it at this time.
        Since Netanyahu's visit with Obama in Washington last week, his office has been working to hammer out a series of gestures to restart the indirect talks per the request of Obama. Shapiro said such a package was close to being concluded and that proximity talks would start soon. He spent a considerable amount of time pushing back against media reports calling the recent tensions a crisis. He also noted that Netanyahu's meeting with Obama dealt significantly with Iran, on which he said there is close coordination between the two countries.
        "They wanted to do something to cool everything down a little bit," said one participant in the call. Yet he questioned the White House take on the recent tensions. "They created the storm. Why are they surprised?"   (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Move Quickly on Iran Sanctions - Editorial
    The Obama administration has been pushing hard for tougher UN Security Council sanctions on Iran, while Congress has been hammering out its own list of unilateral U.S. sanctions. Yet hawks and doves alike commonly presume that sanctions aren't enough to compel Iran to forgo its pursuit of nuclear weapons. In the face of Iran's defiance of the international community, sanctions feel like a squirt gun rather than a rifle.
        There have been recent signs, however, that the Iranian regime may be much more vulnerable to the deprivations that go along with economic isolation than its leaders pretend. The Obama administration and the UN should press ahead on sanctions as a prod for a negotiated deal that removes the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. (Boston Globe)
  • Why Egypt Helps Maintain the Gaza Blockade - Kristen Chick
    While Gazans have lambasted Israel for the blockade, often overlooked is the role of Egypt, which has also kept its border with Gaza largely closed. Egypt doesn't want to take the pressure off Israel, which it holds responsible for running Gaza. At the same time, Egypt has an interest in weakening Hamas, which rules the territory. Emad Gad, an analyst at Cairo's government-funded Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, notes: "Hamas is part of another coalition in the region - the Iran, Syria, Hizbullah coalition...[and] is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood." Under these circumstances, he says, Egypt has little reason to end the blockade.
        Egypt also considers Hamas' takeover of Gaza illegal, and says it cannot open the border to regular traffic without the return of Palestinian Authority (PA) officials and European monitors who operated the crossing before the Hamas takeover. By refusing to sign a reconciliation deal that would allow the PA back into Gaza - despite months of Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation talks - Hamas is also responsible for the border closure, says Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Observations:

    U.S. Allows Iran Its Nuclear Vision - Greg Sheridan (The Australian)

    • President Obama has decided to abandon any serious effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He is determined instead to live with a nuclear Iran, by containment and, if possible, negotiation. Obama and his cabinet secretaries still make speeches saying they will try to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. But if you look at the statements closely you see a steady weakening of resolve, a steady removal of any threat of any consequence for Iran.
    • The troubling realization that the Americans have given up, or are in the process of giving up, the fight to prevent Iran going nuclear is backed by the best informed security sources in Washington, London, Jerusalem and Canberra.
    • The most senior U.S. officials would agree that a nuclear-armed Iran represented an existential threat to Israel. Iran's rulers not only deny the Holocaust, but have made militant anti-Americanism, confrontation with Israel and even anti-Semitism, defining ideologies of the Iranian state. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has threatened to wipe Israel off the map.
    • By isolating Israel, by irresponsibly unleashing a global wave of anti-Israel sentiment, especially in nations which normally support Israel, Obama has made the possibility of Israel considering unilateral action against Iran much more unlikely and has made the potential cost to Israel of action against Iran much greater.
    • There is no chance Obama will produce a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace deal in his first term in office, which is how he would like to be remembered by history. There is every chance history will remember him as the American president on whose watch Iran became a nuclear-weapons state.

      The writer is foreign editor of The Australian.

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