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September 2, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Calls Murder of Four Israelis a "Heroic Operation" - Isabel Kershner and Mark Landler (New York Times)
    Hamas described the killing of four Israelis, including a pregnant woman, in the West Bank on Tuesday as a "heroic operation" on its Arabic Web site.
    In Jabaliya in northern Gaza, hundreds of Hamas supporters took to the streets to celebrate the news of the attack, urged on by the calls of an imam over the loudspeaker even before Hamas had officially said it was behind the killings.

Planned Nuke-Free Mideast Talks Off - George Jahn (AP)
    Tensions between Israel and Islamic nations have scuttled plans by the UN atomic watchdog agency to convene talks this year on a Mideast free of nuclear weapons.
    A report from IAEA chief Yukiya Amano dated Aug. 31 notes "that currently there is no convergence of views on convening" such talks.

U.S. to Shun Military Drills in Turkey (AFP)
    The U.S. Air Force will not take part in upcoming air drills in Turkey in October, a U.S. embassy official said Wednesday, after Ankara sent out invitations to several countries but not Israel.
    The U.S. was also irked by Turkey's "no" vote to fresh sanctions against Iran, adopted by the UN Security Council in June.

Send Jewish New Year Greetings to Gilad Shalit via the UN (
    Kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit has been held illegally in Gaza for over 4 years.

French Teacher Suspended for Spending Too Much Time on Holocaust (AFP)
    Catherine Pederzoli, 58, a Jewish French history teacher, has been suspended from her school for spending too much time teaching her pupils about the Holocaust and for organizing trips to former Nazi death camps.
    She has been accused by education authorities in Nancy of teaching the World War II massacres with insufficient "neutrality."

Israel, Our Ally - Ksenia Svetlova (Jerusalem Post)
    Kurds in northern Iraq are reaching out to Israelis, whom they believe share a historic ethnic connection, and many common enemies.

Jewish Community in Venezuela Shrinks by Half - Gil Shefler (Jerusalem Post)
    Over the past decade the Jewish community of Venezuela has shrunk by half. "Ten years ago we had about 18,000 members," said Salomon Cohen, head of the Confederacion de Asociaciones Israelitas de Venezuela (CAIV). "Now we have about 9,500."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Netanyahu and Abbas Begin Direct Mideast Peace Talks - Helene Cooper and Mark Landler
    Israeli and Palestinian leaders were to open direct peace negotiations Thursday in Washington following a White House dinner Wednesday where President Obama vowed to do everything within his power in the next year to achieve a comprehensive agreement. Prime Minister Netanyahu, turning toward Palestinian President Abbas, called him his "partner in peace." "The Jewish people are not strangers in our homeland, the land of our forefathers," he said. "But we recognize that another people share this land with us. And I came here today to find an historic compromise that will enable both peoples to live in peace, security and dignity."  (New York Times)
        See also Israeli Peace Effort Rests on Netanyahu - Ethan Bronner
    "The prime minister is much more optimistic than I am," said one of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's top aides. "He has made an internal calculation that he is ready to make an agreement." Netanyahu has often said that he has three requirements for a deal. The potential for mass smuggling of rockets and other weapons into the Palestinian state must be avoided, Israel must be recognized as the state of the Jewish people by the Palestinian leadership, and the accord must declare a complete end to the conflict.
        After Tuesday's murder by Hamas of four Israelis, Netanyahu's focus on the need for security may carry more weight. Speaking in the White House on Wednesday, Netanyahu said it was crucial that any land Israel turned over for a Palestinian state would not become a "third Iranian-sponsored enclave aimed at the heart of Israel."  (New York Times)
        See also Remarks by President Obama after Bilateral Meetings Wednesday (White House)
  • Netanyahu Rules Out Extension on Settlement Freeze
    "It is impossible to take the issue of settlements in the West Bank, which is an issue for the permanent agreement, and deal with it separately at the beginning of the direct talks," a statement from his office quoted Prime Minister Netanyahu as telling Secretary of State Clinton during their meeting on Tuesday. "Israel does not condition its participation in the talks on the Palestinian Authority regaining control of the Gaza Strip or rehabilitating West Bank refugee camps to find a solution for refugees outside Israel's borders," he said. "We are not looking for excuses to stop the negotiations. The opposite, we came here to find a real solution without preconditions."  (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Poll: Israelis Oppose Continuing Settlement Freeze
    A poll of adult Israelis conducted for Channel 10 News and broadcast on September 1 asked: Should construction in the territories be renewed? Everywhere 39%, Only in settlement blocs 25%, Continue freeze 21%. Is Abbas serious in his intention to reach peace? Yes 23%, No 60%, Don't know 17%. Is Netanyahu serious in his intention to reach peace? Yes 51%, No 34%. (Israel Channel 10-IMRA)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Two Israelis Wounded in Second West Bank Shooting Attack in Two Days - Natasha Mozgovaya
    Two Israelis were wounded, one seriously, on Wednesday night in a shooting attack near Kochav Hashachar, east of Ramallah in the West Bank, one day after a similar attack left four Israeli civilians dead. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said Palestinian gunmen ambushed the Israeli car, which was riddled with bullets. Hamas claimed responsibility for both attacks. The victims were Rabbi Moshe Moreno and his wife. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Injured Israeli Recounts Shooting Attack - Ari Galahar
    "One of (the terrorists) stepped out of the car and opened fire at me from a meter away. I unlocked the door and pulled my wife out, and we rolled into the ditch," recounted Moshe Moreno, who was attacked by Palestinian terrorists Wednesday. "We were followed by another vehicle for about four or five minutes. The car's headlights blinded us," Moreno said. The terrorists opened fire from inside the vehicle, and one of them approached his car while firing his automatic weapon. "At some point, I guess his weapon got stuck. That's our miracle."  (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Mideast Peace Talks' Hidden Threat - Jonathan Schanzer
    In the past week, some Palestinian leaders have voiced concerns about the new U.S. initiative. In the words of Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, successful negotiations could "liquidate the Palestinian cause." Meshal is not exaggerating. A Palestinian state, as endorsed by the Obama administration, very likely would include only the West Bank, where the leaders are not democratically elected. Indeed, in the 2006 elections, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad won only 2% of the vote, and Abbas' term as president expired nearly two years ago.
        Who does the Obama administration suggest rule this proposed state? If it's Abbas and Fayyad, Obama will be advocating yet another illegitimate authoritarian Middle East regime. The writer is vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Politico)
  • Abbas Is No Arafat - Moshe Arens
    The negotiations between Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas will not be anything like the negotiations with Yasser Arafat, who had the support of almost all Palestinians. Abbas does not have the authority to carry out any agreement he might arrive at with Netanyahu. Maybe the Americans think that enough financial support for Abbas will eventually provide him with both the legitimacy and authority he lacks. But the American largesse and American pressure that have brought him to the negotiating table have made him look like an American puppet. Arafat could have made peace with Israel, but he did not want to. Abbas may or might not want to conclude a peace with Israel, but he cannot. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas: Tyranny in the Name of Resistance - Diana Mukkaled
    Hamas police closed a water park in Gaza due to the presence of "degrading and unethical gender mixing," according to news reports. Similar events occur routinely in Gaza. Only a few weeks ago, gunmen burned down a summer camp for children organized by UNRWA because young boys and girls would be mixing together, and there was a possibility of them swimming together. What is happening in Gaza is certainly far from an accident, and in fact represents the essence of Hamas and its religious viewpoint. Hamas took over Gaza through force of arms, and it is impervious to being held to account for its actions. Hamas practices tyranny in the name of resistance, and hides behind slogans.
        When we read the daily reports about what is happening in Gaza under the shadow of Hamas, we cannot help but recall the final verse of the last poem written about Gaza by [Palestinian poet] Mahmoud Darwish before his death: "If we can't find someone to defeat us again, we defeat ourselves with our own hands."  (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • Observations:

    At Mideast Peace Talks, a Lopsided Table - Hussein Agha and Robert Malley (Washington Post)

    • Staggering asymmetries between the Israelis and Palestinians could seriously imperil the talks. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is the head of a stable state with the ability to deliver on his commitments. Celebrations of supposed institution-building notwithstanding, Palestinians have no robust central authority. Their territory is divided between the West Bank and Gaza. On their own, Palestinians would find it difficult to implement an agreement.
    • Participation in direct talks was opposed by virtually every Palestinian political organization aside from Fatah, whose support was lethargic. Abbas' decision to come to Washington is viewed skeptically even by those who back him. If Abbas reaches a deal, many will ask in whose name he was bartering away Palestinian rights. If negotiations fail, most will accuse him of once more having been duped. Abbas will be damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.
    • The demographic threat - the possibility that Arabs soon might outnumber Jews, forcing Israel to choose between remaining Jewish or democratic - is exaggerated. Israel already has separated itself from Gaza. In the future, it could unilaterally relinquish areas of the West Bank, further diminishing prospects of an eventual Arab majority.

      Hussein Agha is a senior associate member of St. Antony's College at Oxford University. Robert Malley is Middle East program director at the International Crisis Group and was special assistant to the president for Arab-Israeli affairs from 1998 to 2001.

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