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May 6, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Waiting to Offer Its Own Peace Plan - Shimon Shiffer (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 6 May 2010)
    Those who were exposed to the recent talks held by Minister of Defense Ehud Barak in Washington gained the impression that with the Palestinian-Israeli proximity talks, the Obama administration doesn't intend to enter empty discussions.
    In a few months, Obama and his closest advisers intend to put a plan on the table whose basics will be an Israeli return to the '67 lines, with small border modifications, and a declaration of east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
    Each side will have to answer whether it accepts the American proposal.

Mosque Fire: Sentenced Before the Evidence Is In - David Brinn (Jerusalem Post)
    A day after a fire in a West Bank mosque in Lubban Sharkiya, the world already knows that settlers were responsible for it because that is what the Palestinians said.
    All this because of a fire that may have been caused by an electrical short-circuit. Initial findings by Israel Police investigators, working in conjunction with Palestinian authorities, rejected arson as the cause of the fire.

Israel Demonized in Britain, Ambassador Says - Lindsay McIntosh (Times-UK)
    Israel is being "delegitimized and demonized" by misinformed British public opinion, the country's ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor, told The Times.
    "Sometimes we feel people from the outside are pointing fingers at us instead of giving us a big hug, which is what we need," Prosor said.
    "We are the only democracy in this region and the challenges we have against us are enormous."

Terror Attacks Down in April - Jonathan Urich (Israel Defense Forces)
    In April the number of terror attacks on Israelis dropped to 56, compared with 125 in March, according to an Israel Security Agency report published Tuesday. Only one Israeli civilian was injured in April.
    The decrease was particularly evident in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Jordanian Activists Slam Environmental Conference for Including Israelis - Mohammad Ben Hussein (Jordan Times)
    The Jordanian Professional Associations' Anti-Normalization Committee on Monday criticized the Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) for inviting Israeli officials to take part in a conference which opened Monday in Amman on "Bringing the Jordan River Back to Life: Strategies for Rehabilitation."
    But FoEME officials hit back. FoEME President Munqeth Mehyar said, "Working for the welfare and good of the people by securing a clean, sustainable environment is the highest level of patriotism....People's right to water cannot wait and cannot be achieved by condemning, boycotting and screaming from a distance."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Big Powers Back Mideast Nuclear Arms Ban
    The U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China voiced support on Wednesday for making the Middle East a nuclear-weapons-free zone, which would ultimately force Israel to scrap any atomic arms it has. The move reflected U.S. concern to win Arab backing for sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program by offering a concession over its ally Israel. Israel has said it can only consider creating such a zone in the future once there is Middle East peace. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday the time was not yet ripe for creating the zone. (Reuters)
        See also Diplomats: U.S. Will Not Pressure Israel on Nukes
    A statement from the major powers committing to a nuclear-free Middle East will not result in pressure on Israel, according to two diplomats familiar with the issue. (JTA)
  • Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps Expands Role in Sanctions-Hit Oil Sector - Thomas Erdbrink
    Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is assuming a leading role in developing the country's lucrative petroleum sector, Western oil executives and Iranian analysts say. The Guard's engineering companies are replacing European oil firms that have largely abandoned Iran. Guard-affiliated companies now oversee the development of most oil projects, and they have taken the lead in key parts of the gigantic South Pars liquefied natural gas project in Asalouyeh, with Chinese companies increasingly acting as subcontractors.
        A senior U.S. official said it was not unusual for some government insiders to figure out how to benefit in countries under international sanctions. But the Iranian government is clearly worried about the prospect of new sanctions, he said, noting its intense diplomatic efforts to avert them. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • PA: "We're Negotiating with U.S., Not Israel" - Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh
    A PA official in Ramallah told the Jerusalem Post: "Indirect talks mean that we will negotiate with the Americans, who, for their part, will be negotiating with Israel....It's easier for us to negotiate with the Americans because they share most of our positions, especially on the issues of security and the future borders of the Palestinian state."
        The official said the Arab League's decision to support the proximity talks came after the Palestinians and the Arab countries were "assured" that the U.S. administration would exert "unprecedented pressure" on Israel to stop construction not only in the West Bank, but also in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. "The Americans have promised to be tough with Israel, and we expect them to fulfill their pledge."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • What Chance for Proximity Talks? - Ron Ben Yishai
    Israel's bitter experience after the IDF withdrew from the South Lebanon security zone and from Gaza will not allow it to give up on its strict security demands. At their center is control in the Jordan Valley in order to prevent the entry of weapons and terrorists, as well as strict Israeli security arrangements to assure the demilitarization of the West Bank, to prevent the entry of heavy weapons and rockets into a Palestinian state.
        The Palestinians reject these demands and instead suggest the implementation of U.S. National Security Advisor Gen. Jim Jones' suggestion to deploy an international force in the Palestinian territories. This suggestion is not acceptable to Jerusalem, especially in light of the growing threats from Iran-Syria-Hizbullah and the global Jihad which is active in neighboring countries. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 5 May 2010)
  • Ya'alon: For the Arabs, Tel Aviv and Haifa Are Also Settlements - Tovah Lazaroff
    The Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state - and not the settlers - is the stumbling block to peace, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Wednesday. From the Arab perspective, he said, the occupation did not start in 1967 with the Six-Day War, but in 1948 with the War of Independence - and even before that, when Jews first began immigrating to Israel to build a national homeland. For the Arabs, Tel Aviv and Haifa are also settlements or places under occupation, he said.
        Ya'alon also said that Israel was not willing to engage in a diplomatic process in which it would trade land for terror. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Does the Arab World Want to Resolve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict? - Giora Eiland
    The U.S. believes the Arab world truly wants to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and would be grateful to America should it be able to force both sides into such a deal. Yet the Arab world is uninterested in seeing an end to the conflict. In the view of the Arab street, a situation that includes recognition of the Jewish state, its sovereignty in the Holy Land, even partial control in the holy sites, and renunciation of the right of return would constitute capitulation to American pressure. The Arab street would be mad at the U.S. and at its own leaders should such an agreement be reached.
        The American assessment that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would have a powerful positive effect on America's regional status may prove to be a grave error. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland is former head of Israel's National Security Council. (Ynet News)
  • The Myth of Linkage - Lee Smith
    Having written a book that describes the Middle East in terms of a clash of Arab civilizations, I give no credence to the notion that the Arab-Israeli arena is the region's defining issue. Rather, it is one among many conflicts that plague this conflict-prone area. In the real Middle East, the Arabs' fight for power among themselves takes priority over whether or not Washington negotiators have the percentages right in proffered land swaps between Israel and the Palestinians.
        Nonetheless, I can hardly help but recognize the central role that U.S. Middle East policy has given to the belief that the Arab-Israeli issue is the key factor in determining the happiness of over 300 million Arabs and an additional 1.3 billion Muslims. Where does such an extraordinary idea come from? The answer is the Arabs - who do not always disclose the entire truth of their situation, especially when they have a stake in doing otherwise. The writer is the author of The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations. (Tablet)
  • Stop Playing with Fire - Herman Grech
    Israeli Ambassador Gideon Meir says a Maltese activist shot in Gaza last week played into the hands of Hamas.
    Q: Last week, Maltese activist Bianca Zammit was injured by Israeli soldiers during a protest on the Gaza border. What went through your mind when you heard of the incident?
        Meir: "First of all it's very sad when an innocent civilian is hurt. But we have to understand that the International Solidarity Movement is a very anti-Israel movement....They're taking part in all the violent movements of Hamas - and Hamas is very happy. Every time an activist is hurt, for Hamas it's fuel for its propaganda machinery. They are using innocent people and sending them to a combat zone. I'm sorry about what happened but she was sent by Hamas and the ISM to the border. This is a combat zone. You don't send innocent people to a combat zone. They are using them to plant bombs at the border....Our people are being attacked from there....I am telling every Maltese mother and father - don't let your children go to combat zones, it's dangerous."  (Times of Malta)
  • Observations:

    State Department: Syria a State Sponsor of International Terrorism for Thirty Years - James H. Anderson (Washington Times)

    • The U.S. has designated Syria a sponsor of state terrorism for 30 straight years, as documented by the State Department's annual Country Reports on Terrorism, released April 30. No other state shares this distinction. Syria has never shown a willingness to relinquish terrorism as a core element of its statecraft, whether it is used to suppress political dissidents at home or further its regional ambitions.
    • In addition to supplying Hizbullah with sophisticated weapons in Lebanon, Syria continues to permit Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups to maintain offices in Damascus. The regime has a lengthy track record of allowing jihadists to transit Syrian territory en route to unleashing suicide attacks against American soldiers in Iraq. In recent years, Syria also increasingly has aligned itself with Iran, itself another longtime sponsor of state terrorism.
    • The State Department's annual report serves as a useful reminder about the nature of the Syrian regime. Terrorism lies at the very core of the Assad regime. It is this harsh reality that makes well-intentioned efforts to engage Syria problematic in the absence of any compelling strategy to induce constructive behavioral changes.

      The writer, a professor at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, was director of Middle East policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense during the George W. Bush administration.

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