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July 8, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Abbas: "If All of You [Arab States] Will Fight Israel, We Are in Favor" - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
    The official Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported on July 6 that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas supports negotiations with Israel today because it is the only option.
    Regarding the military option, Abbas said: "If you [Arab states] want war, and if all of you will fight Israel, we are in favor. But the Palestinians will not fight alone because they don't have the ability to do it."

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Overseeing Hizbullah - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
   Hossein Mahadavi, a senior member of the Iran Revolutionary Guards' Al-Quds Force whose official title is "commander of Iran's overseas division," has been deployed to Lebanon to oversee Hizbullah operations on behalf of the Islamic Republic, a senior IDF officer revealed on Wednesday.
    Iran has bolstered its control over Hizbullah since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the officer said. "We identify more Iranian involvement in Lebanon today....It is comprehensive and significant."

Don't Expect Obama Trip to Israel Any Time Soon (AP-Washington Post)
    During Obama's meeting at the White House on Tuesday with Netanyahu, the Israeli leader publicly asked the president to visit Israel. Obama replied that he looked forward to it.
    But on Wednesday, presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters that a trip is "not on the books for this year."

CNN Fires Middle East Affairs Editor - Brian Stelter (New York Times)
    CNN on Wednesday removed its senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, Octavia Nasr, after she published a Twitter message saying that she respected the late Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.
    The ayatollah routinely denounced the U.S. and supported suicide bombings against Israel.

Pro-Israel Voices in Sweden - Editorial (Wall Street Journal Europe)
    After Sweden's dockworkers' union staged a week-long protest against Israel in the wake of the Turkish flotilla incident, a 2,500-strong student union that supports Sweden's leading Moderate Party offered to load and unload Israeli cargo themselves.
    The students declared that "It is Hamas' fault that people are suffering in Gaza, not Israel's."
    Gustaf Dymov, 24, who chairs the student union, explained in an interview what outrages him the most: "It's very obvious [the dockworkers] did this not out of a will to support the Palestinians but to show hatred toward Israel."
    "We view this as a conflict between Israel, a democratic and free country that deserves our support; and Hamas, a terror organization that has an explicit aim to destroy and kill other people."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Abbas Cool on Calls for Resumption of Direct Peace Talks with Israel
    Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said further progress was needed before direct peace talks with Israel could be resumed, after President Obama expressed hope that direct talks would start before the end of September. A spokesman for Abbas said: "President Abbas...insists on the necessity of progress in indirect negotiations on core issues (borders, security) before going to direct negotiations."  (Telegraph-UK)
  • Netanyahu Spells Out Israeli Security Concerns to Gates
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday underscored security concerns that would need to be addressed in any peace initiatives, in talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Washington. Netanyahu told Gates that Israel would want assurances that a Palestinian state would not be able to smuggle in heavy weaponry, such as rockets.
        Gates' press secretary, Geoff Morrell, said the "conversation focused largely on our efforts to help Israel continue to bolster its security in the face of regional threats." "In addition to ongoing efforts to assist Israel's deployment of systems to protect against ballistic missile and rocket attacks, Secretary Gates committed to also help Israel develop new defenses against emerging threats to its security."  (AFP)
        See also Netanyahu, Gates Discuss Eastern Front Against Israel - Yitzhak Benhorin
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday and the two discussed Israel's ability to face a renewed eastern front. Israel is concerned over the rise of the eastern front amidst Iran's strengthening and the American forces' scheduled withdrawal from Iraq next year. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Leader: Our Plan Is to Have Palestine in Its Entirety
    In an interview with the Egyptian opposition newspaper Al-Wafd on June 23, 2010, Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar said that Hamas advocates the liberation of all Palestine, from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. He said that Hamas' consent to a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders is part of a phased plan, the first phase of which is to liberate the West Bank and Gaza. (MEMRI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Affirms Nuclear Cooperation with Israel - Barak Ravid
    Israel Army Radio reported Wednesday that the U.S. has sent Israel a secret document committing to nuclear cooperation between the two countries and pledging to sell Israel materials used to produce electricity, as well as nuclear technology and other supplies. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hizbullah Readying for Urban War in Southern Lebanon - Anshel Pfeffer
    Israel's military on Wednesday offered evidence of the growing Hizbullah threat in southern Lebanon, using aerial images to highlight the group's activities in towns and villages close to the Israeli border. IDF Col. Ronen Marley revealed previously classified photographs showing a unit of 90 Hizbullah militants storing weapons close to hospitals and schools in the village of al-Khiam. "Every day they are engaged in digging, building and laying communications infrastructure to prepare themselves for war," Marley said.
        The deployment of UN forces in the countryside has forced Hizbullah into built-up areas where UNIFIL troops have no authority. The IDF believes Hizbullah has an arsenal of 40,000 rockets stored in towns and villages south of the Litani River, with many of the weapons stored in private houses. Hizbullah has 20,000 armed men, a third of which have undergone combat training in Iran. Every Shi'a Muslim village had a detachment of between 30 and 200 fighters. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Deterring Hizbullah, Preparing the World for the Next War - Yaakov Katz
    The IDF's decision to declassify photos of Hizbullah positions in southern Lebanon carries an element of risk. Hizbullah will see that the IDF knows where its positions are. However, the declassification of the intelligence sends a clear message to Hizbullah that the IDF knows what it is doing and where its military installations are located. Also, the chances that Hizbullah will move its assets are deemed slim. "There is too much to move," one senior officer explained.
        "The world needs to understand that Hizbullah is deliberately positioning its military positions inside civilian centers, and that this strategy has consequences," a top IDF officer said. The IDF has said in the past that it will respond disproportionately to a new Hizbullah attack, and that each of the 160 villages in southern Lebanon containing Hizbullah positions will be targeted. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Maps and Videos: How Hizbullah Uses Lebanese Villages as Military Bases (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • President Obama's New Middle East Course Has Promise - Editorial
    Mr. Obama's attempt to insist on further Israeli retreats in Jerusalem and his aides' sometimes-harsh rhetoric produced a backlash both in Israel and in Washington - and encouraged Palestinians to escalate their own demands. By reaffirming U.S. support for Israel and pressing for direct talks, Mr. Obama has created an opportunity to put both Palestinian leaders and Mr. Netanyahu to the test and to discover who is serious and who is not about a two-state settlement. Mahmoud Abbas has been assuring the administration's envoys that he is ready to make peace. But until now he has been under no pressure to deliver.
        Mr. Netanyahu says that he needs guarantees that the West Bank will not become a base for Iranian influence and missiles aimed at Israel, as have southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. That's not an unreasonable demand. (Washington Post)
  • After the Obama-Netanyahu Summit - Dore Gold
    The head Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, refused to accept the call coming out of the Washington meeting for direct negotiations between the parties. Instead, he demanded that, as a precondition, Israel accept the idea that it must start any talks with the Palestinians from the point where the previous Israeli government of Ehud Olmert left off. Certainly, Israel is legally bound by past agreements signed by earlier governments. But it cannot be obligated to abide by past negotiations that simply led nowhere. Imagine a Soviet negotiator trying to force Ronald Reagan to take Jimmy Carter's positions on arms control.
        It is a problem when U.S. officials say, "We all know what the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will look like," because they base this claim on Israeli concessions at the Camp David and Taba negotiations at the end of the Clinton administration, which never produced a signed agreement.
        If leaders come to be bound by their predecessors' proposals, then, in the future, everyone will fear engaging in diplomacy and putting proposals on the table. Israel had democratic elections in 2009 that put in a new government with different ideas about how Israel must advance any future peace talks. It is putting security first, insisting on "defensible borders." Perhaps some Palestinians might want to pocket concessions offered in the past and hem in the current Israeli government, but that is no way to conduct international negotiations. (National Review)
  • Is the Temple Mount in Our Hands? - Efraim Halevy
    Various Palestinian spokespeople have stressed an unequivocal Palestinian position demanding full, exclusive sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Israel's demand for the Western Wall is not premised on it being a holy Jewish site in and of itself. It is a remnant of our Temple and part of a structure that Jews have no less attachment to than Muslims. One who has no right for the structure has no right for any wall of that structure. To repudiate Israel's attachment to the Temple Mount opens the door for denying the Jewish people any right for any part of the Land of Israel.
        Even the slightest concession over insisting on our equal sovereign rights for the Temple Mount will mark the beginning of the countdown on any Jewish right for this land. The writer is former director of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency and headed the National Security Council. (Ynet News)
  • Observations:

    At the White House, Netanyahu Makes His Case - Jackson Diehl (Washington Post)

    • Netanyahu has formulated a pragmatic and non-ideological position - one that he discussed with Obama at length on Tuesday. The argument goes like this: Times have changed in the Middle East since 1993, when Israel and the Palestinians concluded the Oslo accords calling for a gradual handover of the West Bank and Gaza to Palestinian government. Then, the main threat to Israelis in the territories was Palestinian rock-throwers.
    • Now, thanks to the growing power of Iran, Israel is surrounded by tens of thousands of short- and medium-range missiles. There are thousands in southern Lebanon, from which Israel withdrew in 2000 and which was subsequently occupied by Hizbullah. And there are hundreds, maybe thousands more in Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in 2005, and which was later taken over by Hamas.
    • Israel, Netanyahu told Obama, has to be able to ensure that the West Bank won't also become an Iranian missile base following a peace settlement.
    • The logic of his argument is hard to refute, from any reasonable standpoint. Who would contend that there is no danger that missiles would be smuggled to the new Palestinian state from the east, from Syria, Lebanon or Jordan? Is it reasonable to suppose that a UN peacekeeping force would suffice to protect the border, given the failure of such a force to stop smuggling to Lebanon?
    • The Israeli leader is demonstrating that he has figured out a way to talk to a president who hasn't displayed much sentimentality when it comes to Israel. Forget about sentiment; make a good argument.

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