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July 5, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Zubin Mehta to Conduct Concert for Gilad Shalit - Rachel Lee Harris (New York Times)
    Zubin Mehta, a former music director for the New York Philharmonic, will conduct the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert on Monday near the Gaza border in southern Israel in support of demands for the release of Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who has been held prisoner by Hamas in Gaza for four years.
    Mehta said he hoped the program would inspire Gazans to pressure the Hamas government to allow the Red Cross to visit Sgt. Shalit.

Villagers Disarm UN Patrol in South Lebanon (AFP)
    Villagers disarmed a French patrol of UN peacekeepers Saturday and attacked them with sticks, rocks and eggs in south Lebanon, in the latest in a string of such incidents, the Lebanese army said.
    "The citizens disarmed the soldiers and briefly took control of their vehicle before the army intervened," a military spokesman said.

Obama Warns Erdogan International Gaza Flotilla Probe Bad for Turkey (Ha'aretz)
    President Obama warned Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan that an international probe into Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla could have negative consequences for Turkey, the British Arabic-language daily al-Hayat reported Saturday.
    Obama warned Erdogan that an international probe which Turkey has demanded could lead to accusations against the passengers on board the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, some of whom were members of the pro-Palestinian IHH organization.

Saudi Arabia Denies King Said Iran, Israel Should Not Exist (Al Bawaba-Jordan)
    Saudi Arabia on Friday denied a June 30 report by the French newspaper Le Figaro that Saudi King Abdullah told French Defense Minister Herve Morin in Riyadh that "two states in the region do not deserve to exist: Israel and Iran."

Report: Plague Suspected within the Syrian Military (International Society for Infectious Diseases)
    According to the Syrian opposition in exile, the Syrian president has ordered the shutdown of all Syrian military exercises due to an outbreak of plague that currently affects a large number of military, especially conscripts in training.
    The epidemic is related to the worst drought in 40 years.
    Original Report in French (JSS News)

U.S. Pledges $15 Million to Preserve Auschwitz Death Camp (CNN)
    The U.S. will donate $15 million to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation to preserve the site of the concentration camp and demonstrate America's commitment to Holocaust education, remembrance and research, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday in Krakow, Poland.
    Some 1.1 million people perished at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Calls for Direct Peace Talks with Palestinians - Matti Friedman
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday endorsed a U.S. call for direct peace talks with the Palestinians. "I have been willing to meet Abu Mazen from the first day of this government," Netanyahu told the Cabinet, referring to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, "and the time has come for him to be prepared to meet with us, because there is no other way to advance peace."  (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Palestinians Reject Israeli Push for Direct Peace Talks - Robert Berger
    After two months of indirect peace talks slated to last four months, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad says moving to direct talks would be premature. (VOA News)
  • Ahmadinejad: Rescue the American People from Its "Non-Democratic, Bullying Administration"
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad addressed the Iranian public on June 16 and described Israel's founding: "Over 60 years ago, by means of an artificial and false pretext, and by fabricating information and inventing stories, they gathered the filthiest, most criminal people, who only appear to be human, from all corners of the world. They organized and armed them, and provided them with media and military backing. Thus, they occupied the Palestinian lands, and displaced the Palestinian people."
        "All the anti-human plans in the world are carried out under [Obama] and his administration. All the occupations, massacres, and human rights violations are perpetrated under his administration, yet along he comes with complaints about our nation." "Today, the harshest dictatorship is the one operating against the American nation....The American people do not have the right to demonstrate freely or to oppose the crimes of their politicians....From now on, one of the main demands of the Iranian nation is to rescue the American people from its non-democratic, bullying administration."  (MEMRI)
  • Abbas Eulogizes Munich Massacre Mastermind
    Mohammed Oudeh, 73, the mastermind behind the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes who were taken hostage at the 1972 Munich Olympics, died Saturday in Damascus, according to WAFA, the official news agency of the Palestinian Authority. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas wrote in a condolence letter to Oudeh's family: "He is missed. He was one of the leading figures of Fatah and spent his life in resistance and sincere work as well as physical sacrifice for his people's just causes."  (CNN)
  • Lloyd's of London Curbs Insurance Coverage for Iran Petroleum Shipments
    Lloyd's of London is restricting insurance coverage for ships carrying petroleum to Iran in order to comply with new U.S. sanctions legislation, the Financial Times reported Thursday. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Abbas Didn't Agree to Let Israel Control Western Wall in Jerusalem - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat on Saturday denied a report that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas had given Israel a written proposal agreeing to Israeli control over the Western Wall in Jerusalem and carrying out a land swap in the West Bank, Israel Radio reported. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Abbas Never Offered Israel Continued Control over Al-Buraq Wall (Western Wall) of Al-Aqsa Mosque Complex (Temple Mount) - Mohammed Mar'i (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
  • Report: Obama May Accept Israeli Control of Settlements Blocs - Herb Keinon and Gil Hoffman
    President Obama would hint at U.S. acceptance of ultimate Israeli control over the major settlement blocs and Prime Minister Netanyahu would extend the settlement construction freeze in the West Bank in areas outside those blocs, according to ideas raised in Jerusalem as a way to move the diplomatic process forward on the eve of the prime minister's visit to Washington. The 10-month settlement moratorium is set to expire at the end of September. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Obama Mum on Bush's Borders for Israel - Eli Lake
    During a conference call Friday with reporters, Dan Shapiro, the White House National Security Council's senior director for the Middle East and North Africa, declined to say whether President Bush's 2004 letter to Prime Minister Sharon reflected the Obama administration's understanding of the parameters or borders of a final settlement to the conflict. The April 14, 2004, letter said a final peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians should reflect "new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers," and that "it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949."
        Shapiro said, "I don't think...we'll have a comment on these kinds of...private discussions that we're having with the parties. We have a very good understanding with our Israeli partners about the foundations of this relationship and this effort to move toward our shared goal of comprehensive peace and two states."
        Netanyahu's Cabinet has sought to establish the principle that Israel's final borders be "defensible." Moshe Yaalon, the Minister of Strategic Affairs, wrote in a recent essay for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs that unilateral withdrawal encourages terrorists. "The fact is that the mere discussion of removing Israeli settlements encourages jihadists across the globe," he wrote. "Their stated aim, after all, is not to establish a Palestinian state but to 'wipe Israel off the map.'"  (Washington Times)
        See also Israel's Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israel Concerned over U.S.-Saudi Defense Deal - Barak Ravid
    Israel has expressed a number of reservations over a big defense deal between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia that includes the purchase of scores of new F-15 fighter jets and the upgrading of the 150 F-15s already in the Saudi air force. The issue is expected to come up in Prime Minister Netanyahu's meetings in Washington on Tuesday.
        "Today these planes are against Iran, tomorrow they might turn against us," a senior Israeli defense source told Ha'aretz. Israel and the U.S. have held a number of meetings over the past 18 months on maintaining Israel's air superiority. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • U.S. Backed Nudge of Israel over NPT - Mark Landler
    At a meeting to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in May, the U.S. yielded to demands by Arab nations that the final document urge Israel to sign the treaty. Israel believed it had assurances from the Obama administration that it would reject efforts to include such a reference, an Israeli official said. In a recent visit to Washington, Israel's defense minister, Ehud Barak, raised the issue in meetings with senior American officials.
        Some analysts said the nuclear nonproliferation issue symbolizes why Israel remains insecure about the intentions of the Obama administration. In addition to singling out Israel, the document calls for a regional conference in 2012 to lay the groundwork for a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. Israel would be on the hot seat at such a meeting. (New York Times)
  • Appeal to Presbyterians on Israel: "First, Do No Harm" - David J. Michaels
    On July 3, the biannual General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) convenes in Minneapolis. American Jews do not regularly weigh in on deliberations of the Presbyterian Church. However, its Middle East Study Committee report embraces a Palestinian document demonizing Israel. It minimizes the roots of the Jewish people in Israel, as well as Israelis' painful sacrifices for peace, while magnifying Palestinians' suffering, but not their responsibilities and perpetuation of violence. What emerges is a caricature whereby Israel does no right, but its adversaries are seen as doing little wrong.
        The report sanitizes terrorism as "resistance" to occupation, when the practitioners of terror label Israel's very existence as "occupation" to be destroyed. Peace cannot be accomplished by aiming boycotts or divestment at businesses engaged with Israel and not those operating in the most oppressive regimes around the globe. Peace certainly cannot be accomplished by suggesting that the world's only Jewish state - but not dozens of countries whose symbols are associated with majority religions such as Christianity or Islam - is inherently racist on account of this unique identity. Israel remains the region's only democracy, the sole Middle Eastern country whose Christian population has grown, and the country whose successive leaders have accepted a two-state solution and taken extraordinary humanitarian steps despite acute friction. The writer is Director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs, B'nai B'rith International. (Washington Post)
        See also Presbyterian Vote on Israeli-Palestinian Dispute Spurs Advocacy Campaigns - Peter Smith
    Sixteen former Presbyterian moderators issued a joint statement in June endorsing the report, as have various Protestant and Muslim groups, but virtually all major Jewish-American organizations oppose it, as well as several Christian advocacy groups. (Louisville Courier-Journal)
        See also Presbyterian Study Committee Member Rejected Report for Failing to Affirm Israel's Right to Exist (CAMERA)
  • Observations:

    Measuring Actions, Not Just Attitudes: A New Paradigm for U.S.-Arab Relations - David Pollock with Cole Bunzel and Curtis Cannon (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • This project is not about polls, pundits, or public opinion, or about media and official rhetoric. Rather, it asks: What has been the record of actual Arab behavior toward the U.S.?
    • Conventional wisdom is completely wrong about U.S.-Arab relations during the past decade. Measured by objective behavioral criteria, relations with almost all Arab governments - and almost all Arab publics - improved steadily and strongly after the Iraq war's first year.
    • Did Arab states cut their overall trade ties with the U.S. or their purchases of American weapons? Did Arab publics turn away from traveling or studying in the U.S. or buying American brands? Did Arab streets explode with anti-American demonstrations? Did Arab countries turn against political or economic reform when such reforms were promoted by Washington? And have the much higher Arab approval ratings for President Obama and the U.S. as a whole translated into any concrete improvements in Arab interactions with America?
    • The evidence presented in this report demonstrates that the answer to all of these questions is "no."
    • We need a new paradigm for understanding U.S.-Arab relations - one that emphasizes actions much more than attitudes.

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