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June 8, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Poll: Pro-Palestinian Activists to Blame for Flotilla Deaths (Rasmussen Reports)
    49% of U.S. voters believe pro-Palestinian activists are to blame for the deaths on a Gaza-bound aid ship, while just 19% think the Israelis are to blame.

Report: Bin Laden Guarded by Iranian Troops in Iran (MEMRI)
    The Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa reported on June 7 that Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and five other high-ranking al-Qaeda figures have been hiding for five years in the mountains of Sabzevar, a city in northeastern Iran.
    The information, from a source linked directly to Iranian security apparatuses, said bin Laden and al-Zawahiri had entered Sabzevar at the invitation of Iran and through the mediation of Lebanese Hizbullah.

International Donations Not Always Welcome in Gaza - Ulrike Putz (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    Zaed Khadar of Gaza has little hope of seeing any of the aid that the activist flotilla tried to bring to Gaza last week. Like many of his neighbors, Khadar is a die-hard supporter of the Fatah party, the sworn political enemy of the more radical Islamists in Hamas.
    "People who are not in with Hamas don't see any of the relief goods or the gifts of money," Khadar says.
    He appeals to aid organizations to do everything they can to try and deliver their goods directly to the citizens of Gaza. Hamas should not be allowed to get hold of it.

Israeli PR Machine Won Gaza Flotilla Media Battle - Antony Lerman (Guardian-UK)
    The Israeli PR machine succeeded in getting the major news outlets to focus on its version of events and to use the Israeli authorities' discourse for a crucial 48 hours.
    The repeated screening of the video, taken from an Israeli assault craft, of the commandos abseiling down ropes onto the Mavi Marmara and then being set upon by the activists waiting for them on the deck, became the defining image of the capture of the boats.
    The activists' actions were described by Israeli spokespersons as a premeditated terrorist attack by al-Qaeda sympathizers, using clubs, knives and guns, carried out with the intention of "lynching" the commandos who were carrying out an entirely legal and peacefully executed operation.
    The Israeli version of the events and the presentation of legal arguments to justify Israel's actions by friendly commentators continue to occupy significant media space.

Arab Cartoonists on the Gaza Flotilla (Anti-Defamation League)
    Editorial cartoonists across the Arab and Muslim world have once again turned to using "deeply offensive and hateful caricatures of Israelis and Jews" in their criticism of Israel in the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla affair.

Flotilla Crisis May Hurt Turkish-Israeli Trade - Ari Rabinovitch and Joseph Nasr (Reuters)
    The Gaza flotilla crisis between Israel and Turkey may disrupt a $3 billion trade channel that has been central to their once-strong alliance, Israeli and Turkish officials said on Monday.
    The Israel Travel Agents' Association said about 100,000 of the 150,000 Israelis who had planned vacations in Turkey this summer have cancelled.
    "Even tourists who had planned to fly to other destinations via Turkey have asked to fly through other countries," said Yossi Fatael, the group's director.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Presses Case Against Iran Ahead of Sanctions Vote - David E. Sanger
    With a vote on new sanctions against Iran only days away, the Obama administration is making the case to members of the UN Security Council that Iran has revived elements of its program to design nuclear weapons that American intelligence agencies previously concluded had gone dormant. Classified intelligence briefings for foreign leaders "made the point that the Iranians are doing both dual-use research and some things that you can explain only by an interest in nuclear weapons," said a senior administration official. Asked whether the new findings constituted a rejection of the 2007 intelligence estimate, the official said it was not a reversal as much as an "evolution based on new information."  (New York Times)
        See also Iran Uses Stratagems to Avoid Sanctions - Jo Becker
    Iran has used a succession of stratagems to smuggle weapons in violation of an international embargo - changing not just ships' flags and names but their owners, operators and managers, too - to stay one step ahead of its pursuers. This cat-and-mouse game offers a case study in the difficulties of enforcing sanctions. (New York Times)
        See also Iran Using Dubai to Smuggle Nuclear Components - Con Coughlin
    A Dubai trading company has sold Iran a range of high-grade German electronic equipment for use at its Natanz uranium enrichment facility, including computers, controllers, communication cards and cables. The equipment was sold to Iran without the knowledge of its German manufacturer using false end-user certificates for companies in Asia. "The Iranians are still managing to smuggle sophisticated technology through Dubai for its nuclear program by using false certificates and unscrupulous intermediaries," said a senior UN source. (Sunday Telegraph-UK)
  • Israel Backlash Divides Turkey - Marc Champion
    Turkey is dividing over the government's handling of the Gaza flotilla affair and the role of the Islamist charity that organized the aid convoy. Opposition politicians and some newspaper columnists have expressed concern that the government has been riding public anger at Israel's actions. That, they say, puts at risk Turkey's delicate balance between East and West and allows the charity, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or IHH, to have a hand in determining the nation's political agenda.
        "The [EU] and the U.S. consider Hamas as a terrorist organization. We should be careful," Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the main opposition Republican People's Party, told Turkish NTV television Monday, referring to the support the IHH and Turkey's government have shown to Hamas. He also demanded the government release communications with Israel prior to the incident, suggesting it let the flotilla proceed despite knowing that violence was likely. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Flotilla Creates Cracks in Turkish Politics (Hurriyet-Turkey)
  • Nuclear Watchdog Calls on Syria to Cooperate
    Syria hasn't cooperated with international nuclear inspectors since June 2008 on some sites, Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told the IAEA board of governors Monday in Vienna. Amano called on Damascus to cooperate with the agency "on all matters."  (UPI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Refuses to Allow Aid Supplies into Gaza - Hanan Greenberg
    Hamas is preventing the goods brought by the flotilla from entering Gaza. In the meantime the goods continue to pile up in the army's warehouses. (Ynet News)
  • Turkey's Support of Hamas Worries PA - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Palestinian Authority is concerned about Turkey's increased support for Hamas, a PA official in Ramallah said on Monday. He said the PA leadership was "unhappy" with Turkey's policy toward Hamas, especially with regard to pressure to lift the blockade on Gaza unconditionally. "Turkey's policy is emboldening Hamas and undermining the Palestinian Authority," he said. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, who visited Istanbul on Monday, was said to have relayed to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan his concern over the rapprochement between Turkey and Hamas. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Obama's New Vision of Jewish State Guarantees Rights of Israeli Arabs - Aluf Benn
    President Obama has updated America's official vision of Israel's future to stress that the Jewish state must ensure equal rights for Israeli Arabs. His new National Security Strategy, released by the White House last month, defines the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a way that differs from the terminology used by previous American administrations. According to the document, the U.S. seeks two states that will live side by side in peace and security: "a Jewish state of Israel, with true security, acceptance, and rights for all Israelis; and a viable, independent Palestine with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people."
        Earlier statements by Obama had described Israel as an "independent Jewish state," but made no mention of the rights of its citizens. The new version apparently seeks to address the Palestinian claim that recognizing Israel as a Jewish state would harm the rights of Israeli Arabs. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Managing the Gaza Blockade - Editorial
    No one who supports a peace settlement in the Middle East can also favor the removal of all controls on ships traveling to Gaza. The result would be a repeat of what has happened in southern Lebanon since Israel's withdrawal: the massive supply of weapons, including medium-range missiles, to Tehran's client. Hamas used Iranian missiles against Israel during their 2008 conflict, and an open sea border would only multiply the odds that such a war would be repeated. It would hand Hamas, which vehemently opposes an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, the means to interrupt peace talks at any time. (Washington Post)
  • Why I Defend Israel - Bernard-Henri Levy
    The most elementary honesty requires one to make it clear that the blockade imposed "by Israel" has been undertaken by Israel and Egypt jointly, with the thinly-disguised blessing of all the moderate Arab regimes. The latter are only too happy to see someone else contain the influence of this armed extension, this advanced base and, perhaps one day, this aircraft carrier of Iran in the region. We mustn't tire of reminding others the blockade concerns only arms and the material necessary to manufacture them. It does not prevent the daily arrival, via Israel, of 100-120 trucks laden with foodstuffs, medical supplies, and humanitarian goods of every kind; humanity is not "in danger" in Gaza, and it is a lie to state that people are "dying of hunger" in the streets of Gaza City. (Huffington Post)
  • Turkey Is Making a Play for Regional Power - Josef Joffe
    Next to Iran, NATO member Turkey is now the biggest headache for the West. Turkey has seen the leadership of the region up for grabs - and is going for it. It has drawn Syria into its orbit and has reached a nuclear deal with Iran, its rival for hegemony. What better way to pursue this end than to lead a crusade against the Jewish state? Going after the "Little Satan" is the card that trumps them all, and it embarrasses the "Great Satan" to boot. The real game is about dominance at the expense of America. The U.S. must learn that the real contest is between itself, Turkey and Iran. It is now up against both.
        Obama thinks that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source of all trouble. If it were, Iran would not be trying to develop nuclear weapons and Turkey would not be seeking mastery over its ancient domain. Nor were Palestinians on the mind of the previous claimants to hegemony - from Nasser's Egypt to Saddam's Iraq. Terror in Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan is not designed to uproot Jewish settlements. It is not Israel that motivates Syria's recolonization of Lebanon. Turkey and Iran are not vying for control so as to promote a two-state solution. Palestine has got nothing to do with it. The writer is editor of Die Zeit, a senior fellow at Stanford's Institute for International Studies and Abramowitz fellow of the Hoover Institution. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Much to Ponder for Turkey and Israel Once the Dust Settles - Simih Idez
    Once the dust settles down, as it has started to, sensible and level-headed minds in Turkey and Israel will have to sit down and consider how matters could have been brought to such a head. How can such a large country as Turkey be dragged to the brink of war by a nongovernmental organization?
        This happened because the NGO in question is a "governmental non-governmental-organization." There can be no mistake that the Erdogan government is morally and politically behind the IHH. It will be recalled that the same group tried to force its way through the sealed off Rafah gate between Egypt and Gaza some months ago, only to end up clashing with Egyptian forces and straining ties between Ankara and Cairo. (Hurriyet-Turkey)
  • Observations:

    Abandoning the Gaza Blockade Would Hand a Victory to Israel's Enemies - Jonah Goldberg (Los Angeles Times)

    • The Gaza blockade is entirely the fault of Hamas and the Palestinians who support it. The brutal terrorist outfit rained missiles indiscriminately down on Israel for years (talk about collective punishment). Israel finally launched a strike to stop the attacks and was, predictably, denounced as an aggressor by the usual suspects.
    • This is a terrible moment to consider abandoning the blockade because it would rightly be seen as giving the organizers and supporters of this seaborne propaganda stunt a victory.
    • It would signal that America can be conned. It would reward Turkey's outrageous insult to us and to Israel, a longtime friend of Turkey. It would undermine Egypt and other Arab governments (including Fatah) that don't want Iran's clients in Hamas strengthened.
    • And it would signal that Iran is the most important power in the Middle East.

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