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July 1, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Son of Hamas Founder Granted Asylum in U.S. - Eli Lake (Washington Times)
    Mosab Hassan Yousef, who spied against Hamas for Israel, won an immigration case Wednesday that will allow him to avoid deportation and stay in the U.S.
    The ruling came after the Department of Homeland Security abruptly withdrew its contention that Yousef should be kicked out of the country because of his ties to Hamas.
    His father, Sheik Hassan Yousef, is one of the founders of Hamas.
    Mosab's handler for the Shin Bet, Gonen Ben-Itzhak, traveled to San Diego to testify on behalf of his former agent.

The Arab-Israeli Military Balance in 2010 - Anthony H. Cordesman and Aram Nerguizian (Center for Strategic and International Studies)
    Hizbullah has not only rearmed, it has acquired longer-range and more effective rockets, greatly improved its command and control capabilities, and has augmented the survivability of its power structure in Lebanon.
    Iran is a declared chemical weapons power, and Syria almost certainly has been developing and producing some chemical weapons for several decades.
    Iran and Syria have at least unitary warheads and bombs that can be armed with nerve gas, and may have warheads and bombs with cluster munitions.

Iran to Boycott Coca Cola, Intel and "Zionists" - Dudi Cohen (Ynet News)
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad signed a law Wednesday that forbids the airing of advertisements for "Zionist companies" that operate branches in Israel.
    Among those on the list are Coca Cola, Nestle, Intel, and IBM.
    Iran also plans on bringing a resolution to boycott Israel in the UN and in other international forums.

U.S. Estimates Al-Qaeda Strength at Fewer than 500 - David E. Sanger and Mark Mazzetti (New York Times)
    Michael E. Leiter, director of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center, said Wednesday that American intelligence officials now estimated there were somewhat "more than 300" al-Qaeda leaders and fighters hiding in Pakistan's tribal areas.
    Taken together with the recent estimate by CIA Director Leon Panetta that there are about 50 to 100 Qaeda operatives now in Afghanistan, American intelligence agencies believe that there are most likely fewer than 500 members of the group in the region.
    However, American officials say al-Qaeda has forged close ties with a number of affiliated militant groups.
    Leiter said "we've had some incredible successes" against al-Qaeda's leadership, and that the group "is weaker today than it has been at any time since 2001."
    But he quickly added, "Weaker does not mean harmless."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Arms Syria with Radar - Charles Levinson
    Iran sent Syria a sophisticated radar system in mid-2009 that could threaten Israel's ability to launch a surprise attack against Iran's nuclear facilities, and could also benefit Hizbullah, say Israeli and U.S. officials. Any sharing of radar information by Syria could increase the accuracy of Hizbullah's own missiles and bolster its air defenses. The move was described as part of a dramatic increase in weapons transfers and military coordination among Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. (Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S. Envoy Welcomes Israeli Steps to Relax Gaza Blockade - Joel Greenberg
    Israel's first steps toward easing its blockade of Gaza were welcomed Wednesday by U.S. special envoy George Mitchell as he visited the Kerem Shalom crossing where goods are transferred to the Palestinian territory. Trucks carried glass kitchenware, baked goods and cables, and drivers said they were now bringing in chocolates, soft drinks, clothing and shoes that had been barred in the past. Military officials said home appliances, such as refrigerators and microwave ovens, were also being allowed in.
        "I saw firsthand today that progress is being made," Mitchell said after touring the crossing. "We welcome these changes. As implementation proceeds, these arrangements should significantly improve conditions for Palestinians in Gaza." "Israel has legitimate security concerns," Mitchell said. "The United States strongly reaffirms Israel's right to self-defense, and we support international efforts to prevent the trafficking of arms and ammunition into Gaza." He also called the continued detention of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit by Hamas "deplorable and unacceptable."  (Washington Post)
  • Turkish and Israeli Officials Meet Secretly on Flotilla Crisis - Dina Kraft
    Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Israeli Industry Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer met secretly in Zurich Wednesday to try to defuse tensions resulting from the Gaza flotilla incident, Israeli television reported. While Turkey has demanded a formal apology, Israel has refused, saying its troops acted in self-defense after being attacked by a group of passengers on a Turkish ship which was part of a flotilla trying to break Israel's blockade of Gaza. (New York Times)
  • British Court Clears Activists Who Broke into Brighton Arms Factory in Anti-Israel Protest - Bibi van der Zee and Rob Evans
    Five activists who caused £180,000 damage to a Brighton arms factory were acquitted after they argued they were seeking to prevent Israeli war crimes. A jury found them not guilty after they sabotaged the factory, which they believed was selling military equipment to the Israelis. They are the latest group of peace and climate-change activists to successfully use the "lawful excuse" defense - committing an offense to prevent a more serious crime. In his summing up, Judge George Bathurst-Norman suggested to the jury that "you may well think that hell on earth would not be an understatement of what the Gazans suffered" at the time of Israel's 2009 Gaza operation. (Guardian-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu to Mitchell: Time to Put Aside PA Preconditions and Begin Direct Talks for Peace
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting U.S. envoy George Mitchell on Wednesday: "It's time to put aside posturing. It's time to put aside preconditions. It's time to get on with direct talks - formal direct talks for peace....This is the only way that we'll solve the intricate problems that we're discussing...if we actually sit down, face one another in the same place and actually engage in serious deliberations for a solution....The best way that the Palestinian Authority can persuade the Israeli public that they're ready to live in peace with us is to talk peace with us - to talk directly."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Report: Saudi Arabia Wants U.S. to Press Iran - Roee Nahmias
    After the meeting between Saudi King Abdullah and President Barack Obama on Tuesday, the Lebanese paper an-Nahar, quoting a source in Washington, reported Wednesday that, "Saudi Arabia is not convinced that the economic sanctions on Iran will bear fruit, and it believes the alternative measures available to the Obama administration must be examined, since there is no guarantee that the current policies will stop Tehran from moving forward with its nuclear program."
        Despite the differences of opinion, the report said Washington and Riyadh were in talks towards the signing of an extensive weapons deal, in which the Saudis are to purchase two squadrons of F-15 fighter jets, as well as maintenance and development services for similar products acquired in the past, at a cost of $20 billion. (Ynet News)
        See also Report: Saudi King Abdullah Wants to Wipe Israel and Iran Off the Map - David Kenner
    On June 5, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah reportedly told French Defense Minister Herve Morin that "There are two countries in the world that do not deserve to exist: Iran and Israel." Georges Malbrunot, a French journalist with Le Figaro, said two sources have confirmed the story. (Foreign Policy)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Michael Oren: Israel Remains a Strategic Asset for the U.S. - Herb Keinon
    In an interview published on Friday, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren stressed, "Our security relationship with the U.S. is very important for the U.S., not just for us. We provide security benefits that the U.S. can't get from any other country in the world, whether in intelligence sharing, weapons development or just the mere fact that Israel has a sizable army that is highly trained, highly motivated, highly disciplined and under the authority of a democratically elected government that can field that army in a matter of 12 hours. Think about that. What other country in the Middle East can remotely do that - remotely. There is no substitute for Israel in the American security universe - nothing."
        Oren dismissed as "nonsense" the so-called "realist" foreign policy camp in the U.S. which argues that Israel is a strategic liability for America. "What are they going to do, build a strategic alliance with Syria, with Kuwait - where is the benefit? There are people in Washington who say this, there are think tank people who say it, but I have never heard anyone in the administration remotely intimate it."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also "Tectonic Rift" or "Tectonic Shift" in U.S.-Israeli Ties? - Herb Keinon
    Newspapers around the world ran reports Monday quoting Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, as saying there was a "tectonic rift" in U.S.-Israeli ties. Oren denied ever having said anything of the kind, telling the Jerusalem Post: "There are tectonic shifts - not rifts - in America's foreign and domestic policies, reflecting President Obama's commitment to changing the status quo, and these are posing new challenges for Israel. There is no rift in Israel's relations with the Obama administration, and no crisis."
        A few days earlier, at a briefing with the Jerusalem Post editorial board, Oren painted a much brighter picture of relations with the U.S., saying that the Obama administration was "as good if not better" on Israel than "many previous administrations." "We have had disagreements with other administrations in the past, and the litmus with the relationship is not whether there are disagreements, but how you approach the disagreements."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Could Jihadists Overthrow the Syrian Government? - Nibras Kazimi
    The Obama administration has signaled in word and deed that it would accommodate the Syrian regime and normalize relations with it. This is premised on the notions that the Assad regime is stable and that by drawing closer to the regime, Washington will make it more stable, not less. What these assertions ignore is the potential role that jihadism could play in undermining the Assad government.
        In Syria, the hated minority Alawite Shia sect rules. Islamists arguing for a jihad in Syria believe that in the Syrian regime they have an enemy that is at once tyrannical, secular, and heretical. Members of the jihadist internationale are asking themselves where to go after Iraq and Afghanistan. On jihadist online discussion forums, they have been authoring what amount to policy papers calling on the jihadist leadership to take the fight to Syria. The writer is a visiting scholar at the Hudson Institute. (New Republic)
  • Observations:

    Only Israel Is Making the Effort Toward Peace - Lee Rosenberg and Alan Solow (JTA)

    • Like the people and governments of Israel, the pro-Israel community in the U.S. has long sought a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through direct negotiations between the parties that would lead to a lasting peace agreement and Israel's acceptance by all its neighbors. The Israeli people dream of peace, and their governments have worked and sacrificed for it.
    • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his vision for peace - for two states - last June in a landmark speech at Bar-Ilan University, saying he supported the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside the Jewish State of Israel. Netanyahu declared a 10-month moratorium on all Israeli construction in the West Bank - a concession that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called "unprecedented" in advance of negotiations.
    • Israel also has taken significant steps to ensure that life improves for Palestinians in the West Bank, such as dismantling hundreds of West Bank roadblocks and checkpoints, which have helped produce double-digit economic growth at a time of global recession.
    • While the current Israeli government has proven its desire for peace, the leader of the Palestinian Authority refuses to meet or even speak on the phone with his Israeli counterpart, despite American demands that he do so. Abbas has said that his strategy is not to make concessions in negotiations but to encourage the U.S. and the international community to pressure Israel for unilateral concessions.
    • In recent months, the PA has intensified its efforts to delegitimize Israel in the international arena and increased the incitement against Israel. The PA media carries outrageous programs portraying Israel and Jews in the most negative ways.
    • As American friends of Israel we must continue to remind our leaders about how badly Israel wants peace - and how tragically the PA has only increased its demands and pulled away from the negotiating table. Don't blame Israel for the lack of progress.

      Lee Rosenberg is president of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Alan Solow is chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

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