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May 12, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Why Syria Will Keep Saying "No" to Washington - Bilal Y. Saab (Christian Science Monitor)
    Washington's strategy of selective engagement with Syria has not produced any tangible results. Washington still lacks real leverage in its talks with Damascus, and Syria is not interested in what Washington is currently selling.
    The chief U.S. goal of selective engagement is to try to take away from Syria a number of cards it holds in the region, be it Hamas, Hizbullah, or its link to militants in Iraq.
    But Syria's aggregate power and influence in the Middle East is defined by these very cards. Syria will not let go of any of these, primarily because these are what keep its regime going.
    Syria will not lift a finger on any of the issues that touch U.S. interests unless Washington recognizes first Syria's hegemonic position in Lebanon and possibly its military return.
    The writer is a senior Middle East consultant with Oxford Analytica and Centra Technology Inc.

Test Yourself: How Much Do You Know about Jerusalem?
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    May 12 marks the 43rd anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem in the Six-Day War.
    Test your knowledge of Jerusalem's current events and history with a short, interactive quiz.

That Pill You Took May Be Israeli - Natasha Singer (New York Times)
    William S. Marth is chief executive of the largest prescription drug supplier in the U.S. He runs Teva North America, one of the most important divisions of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, an Israeli enterprise that is the biggest generic drug maker in the world.
    Teva has secured its rise through aggressive acquisitions, strategic discipline, quality control, low prices and an infectious devotion to corporate frugality.
    "We're kibbutzniks," says Marth, 55, an Irish Catholic who grew up in Chicago. "Frugality doesn't mean doing less. It means doing as much or more with less."
    Last year, the company's medicines filled nearly 630 million prescriptions in the U.S., making it a larger domestic supplier than such pharmaceutical heavyweights as Pfizer, Novartis and Merck - combined.
    Teva is likely to capture even greater market share, analysts say, because it has cultivated a reputation for producing high-quality, low-cost drugs.
    "When you are producing 60 billion tablets a year in 38 different locations in the world," says Shlomo Yanai, a former major general in the Israeli army who is Teva's chief executive, "you have to be very aware that quality is the No. 1 priority."
    Like a typical generic maker, Teva doesn't advertise or brand its no-name products. It does, however, supply medications for one out of every six prescriptions dispensed in the U.S.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Russia May Build Nuclear Power Plant in Syria, Additional Reactors in Iran
    Russia may help build a nuclear power plant in Syria, Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said on Tuesday, a step that could upset the West due to unresolved allegations Damascus tried to construct a secret nuclear weapons facility. In 2007, Israel bombed to rubble what Washington said was a nascent, plutonium-producing nuclear reactor in Syria's desert and a UN nuclear watchdog probe to determine what the target was has stalled due to Syrian non-cooperation, diplomats say. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is currently on a state visit to Syria, seeking to reinvigorate ties after Russia has forgiven most of Syria's multi-billion dollar debt.
        Shmatko also suggested Russia might build more nuclear power reactors in Iran beyond the one it plans to switch on this year near Bushehr. "We are in favor of continuing cooperation with Iran in the energy sphere to the full extent, including in building light-water reactors," he said. Russia is aggressively seeking contracts abroad to build atomic power plants. (Reuters)
        See also Why Russia's President Is Visiting Syria - Claire Duffett (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Israel: North Korea Shipping WMDs to Syria
    Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday accused North Korea of supplying Syria with weapons of mass destruction. He told Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in Tokyo: "The cooperation between Syria and North Korea is not focused on economic development and growth but rather on weapons of mass destruction." He cited the December 2009 seizure at Bangkok airport of an illicit North Korean arms shipment which U.S. intelligence said was bound for an unnamed Middle East country. Lieberman said Syria intended to pass the weapons on to Hizbullah and Hamas. (AFP)
        See also North Korea Arms Plane "Bound for Hizbullah" - Anne Barrowclough (Times-UK)
  • Obama, Abbas Discuss Need to Move to Direct Negotiations with Israel
    The White House released the following statement Tuesday: "The President spoke today with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. The President congratulated President Abbas on the start of Israeli-Palestinian proximity talks. He reiterated his strong support for the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state living in peace and security with Israel. The President and President Abbas discussed the need for both parties to negotiate seriously and in good faith, and to move from proximity talks to direct negotiations as soon as possible in order to reach an agreement on permanent status issues."
        "The President expressed appreciation for President Abbas' recent outreach to the Israeli people by appearing on Israeli television, and urged that President Abbas do everything he can to prevent acts of incitement or delegitimization of Israel. The President confirmed his intention to hold both sides accountable for actions that undermine trust during the talks. He said he looks forward to receiving President Abbas at the White House soon."  (White House)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: "We Never Gave Up on Jerusalem" - Kobi Nahshoni
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the traditional Jerusalem Day rally at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva on Tuesday, where he said, "We never gave up on the connection to Jerusalem - not when the Temple was destroyed for the first or second time and not afterwards." "The struggle for Jerusalem is a struggle for the truth," he said. "We are building it, will continue to build it and to develop it." Netanyahu added that while there were attempts to portray Israel as a foreign invader, "No other people are as connected to their capital as the Jewish people are to Jerusalem."  (Ynet News)
        See also Israel Celebrates Jerusalem Day - Abe Selig
    43 years after the battle for Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, Israel is marking Jerusalem Day on Wednesday with a wide array of ceremonies and festivities to mark the city's reunification on the 28th of Iyar in 1967. Jerusalem is Israel's largest city, with 774,000 residents, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, with 63% Jews, 34% Muslims, and 2% Christian. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Air Force Commander: Hizbullah Has Firepower Unparalleled by Many States - Nadav Deutscher
    Maj.-Gen. Ido Nechushtan, Commander of the Israeli Air Force, told the Fisher Institute for Strategic Air and Space Research in Herzliya on Tuesday: "We are fighting against missiles and rockets in large numbers, which the enemy sees as an efficient weapon and therefore invests money and effort in it." Hizbullah has firepower unparalleled by many states, he added. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Will the Obama Administration Enable More of Hosni Mubarak's Autocracy? - Editorial
    Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak, who celebrated his 82nd birthday last week, arranged for his rubber-stamp parliament to extend, for another two years, the emergency law under which he has ruled since October 1981. Mubarak took advantage of the policy of the Obama administration, which has chosen to soft-pedal the cause of democracy and human rights in Egypt and across the Middle East. By using more of the U.S.' considerable diplomatic and economic leverage in Egypt, President Obama can still exploit a rare opportunity to support change in one of the Middle East's most important countries. (Washington Post)
  • Accepting Israel as the Jewish State - Daniel Pipes
    Arab-Israeli diplomacy has dealt with a myriad of subsidiary issues while tiptoeing around the conflict's central issue: "Should there be a Jewish state?" Disagreement over the answer to that question - rather than over Israel's boundaries, its exercise of self-defense, its control of the Temple Mount, its water consumption, its housing construction in West Bank towns, diplomatic relations with Egypt, or the existence of a Palestinian state - is the key issue. Among the Palestinian and the broader Arab and Muslim publics, polls suggest a long-term average of 20% acceptance of Israel, whether in the Mandatory period or now.
        The Middle East Forum commissioned Pechter Middle East Polls to ask a thousand adults in each of four countries: "Under the right circumstances, would you accept a Jewish state of Israel?" The results: 26% of Egyptians and 9% of urban Saudis answered "yes," as did 9% of Jordanians and 5% of Lebanese. The writer is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. (National Review)
  • Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Not Black and White - Rhoda Kadalie
    Why Israel is always held to the highest standards of democracy when every other country flouts them intrigues me. I think the world is jealous of a small country that has turned a desert into a garden, adversity into prosperity. Those who are prejudiced against Israel for ideological reasons do us a disservice when they portray the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in black-and-white terms.
        In Algeria there were 140,000 Jews in 1948, by 2008 none; in Morocco there were 250,000, today there are about 6,000. For more than half a century there was a flight of more than 850,000 Jews from Arab lands, which, in effect, means that more Jews were forced to flee Muslim persecution than the approximately 762,000 Palestinian Arabs who left their homes in the newly declared State of Israel. Add to this the successive wars against Israel after 1948, by Egypt, Jordan and Syria in 1967, the Yom Kippur war in 1973, and the constant destabilization by terrorist incursions, then Israel's socioeconomic and military strength is quite astounding. The writer is a South African human rights activist. (Business Day-South Africa)
  • Observations:

    The Middle East Peace Industry - Walter Russell Mead (American Interest)

    • The Middle East peace process is the longest running piece of diplomatic theater on the world stage. The outside powers want the conflict to end but aren't wedded to any particular ending.
    • There is no line between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea that the EU and the U.S. couldn't accept as the border provided only that the Israelis and Palestinians both agree. Most outsiders truly don't care how the two combatants divide responsibility for the Noble Sanctuary and the Western Wall so long as they just stop fighting over it. We can live with 0 Israeli settlements or 5 or 5,000 on the West Bank as long as both the West Bankers and the Israelis buy in.
    • That isn't and can't be the way the two parties think. Israelis and Palestinians both care, passionately, about where the boundaries are, who gets what water, and what happens to the holy places.
    • The Middle East peace industry isn't going away. The Americans want peace so this whole distracting and annoying headache will just stop. The major Arab countries want to deprive Iran of the opportunity to play the Palestinian card as Iran struggles to gain street credibility in the Sunni world.
    • The EU hates all the noise and the brawling in the neighborhood, and with a growing Muslim population at home the Europeans want to reduce friction between the West and the Islamic world. China, India and Japan would like to see less chaos and trouble in the part of the world that sends them so much oil.

      The writer is Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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