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September 29, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

PA Maintains Palestinian Refugees in Ghetto - Sol Stern (Jewish Ideas Daily)
    The Balata refugee camp with its 20,000 residents is inside the West Bank city of Nablus - that is, within the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.
    Most of Balata's current residents are the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the original refugees. Thus, a new baby born in Balata today is still designated by the UN as a refugee dislocated by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and hence entitled to substantial material benefits for life, or at least until the conflict is settled.
    In UN schools and cultural clubs financed by American tax dollars, Balata's children, like the children in similar camps in Gaza and neighboring Arab countries, are nurtured on the myth that someday soon they will return in triumph to their ancestors' homes.
    While awaiting redemption, Balata's Palestinian residents are prohibited, by the Palestinian Authority, from building homes outside the camp's official boundaries. They do not vote on municipal issues and receive no PA funding for roads or sanitation.
    Sixty years after the first Arab-Israeli war, Balata might accurately be defined as a UN-administered, quasi-apartheid, welfare ghetto.

Palestinians at Work Building Jewish Settlements - Ori Lewis (Reuters)
    For thousands of Palestinian workers, settlements mean food on the table. Palestinian officials say some 25,000 Palestinians are employed in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
    The Palestinian Authority has told Palestinians to quit their jobs in settlements by the end of the year, but compliance could be patchy due to a lack of alternative employment in the West Bank.
    In the West Bank village of Hussan near Bethlehem, Ali, a Palestinian builder, spoke of new work opportunities rather than politics when asked about the expiration of Israel's construction moratorium.
    "What difference does it make? We have lived with Israelis and we will have to live together in the future. I'm pleased that I will be able to make a living."

Boycott Turns into "Buycott" for West Bank Lotions - Andy Campbell (Brooklyn Papers)
    Those who called for a boycott of Israeli-manufactured Ahava cosmetics ended up actually promoting the products as Brooklyn Heights residents flocked to Ricky's cosmetics shop with their wallets open.
    "I came in when I saw the flags - I think [the boycotters] are absurd," said Ginger Berman, who bought a tub of Ahava bath salts. "There are so many other big issues to protest, why this?"
    Ricky's employees said that they sell out of Ahava products every time there is a protest.

Israel Makes Major Gains in Raising Life Expectancy - Judy Siegel-Itzkovich (Jerusalem Post)
    The life expectancy of Jewish Israelis has increased significantly over the last 30 years and is longer on average than in the OECD countries.
    Even Israeli Arabs now live noticeably longer on average than Americans.
    Life expectancy in the U.S. grew by 4 years since 1980, and in the rest of the OECD it grew by 6 years. But for Israelis, both Jews and Arabs, the gain was over 7 years.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Terror Plot to Attack European Cities Foiled - Alex Watts and Huw Borland
    Intelligence agencies have intercepted a terror plot by militants based in Pakistan for simultaneous strikes in London, as well as cities in France and Germany. The planned attacks would have been similar to the commando-style raids carried out in Mumbai by Pakistan-based gunmen in 2008. (Sky News-UK)
        See also CIA Steps Up Drone Attacks in Pakistan Amid Fear of al-Qaeda Terror in Europe - Greg Miller (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Asks Israel to Weigh 60-Day Settlement-Freeze Extension - Nicole Gaouette
    The Obama administration is proposing a 60-day extension of a suspension on Israeli construction in areas of the West Bank claimed by the Palestinians, in exchange for security assurances, according to a person briefed by American officials on the matter. The initial 10-month building ban lapsed Sept. 26. The administration wants to strike a deal to overcome the impasse before an Oct. 4 meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, where the issue will be discussed.
        "There is a multilevel conversation going on," State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said Tuesday in Washington. "The Israelis, the Palestinians, others in the region, the United States, everyone is advancing ideas and formulas that we hope will convince the parties to stay in the negotiation."  (Bloomberg)
  • Gaza's Troubled Tunnel Trade Swings into Reverse - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Business has become so bad for Gaza's smugglers since Israel relaxed its blockade that some tunnel traders have turned into underground exporters. After Israel eased the blockade, over-priced clandestine imports from Egypt lost their allure as cheaper goods brought in through Israeli border crossings became available. Many smugglers went out of business. Easing the blockade has also led to a collapse of unofficial tax revenues which Hamas earned from the tunnel trade.
        Abu Khail, a Gaza tunneler, reckons 15 to 20 tunnels are now shipping to Egypt. "We're exporting raw materials like aluminum, copper, scrap metal, plus eggs, ducks and chickens," said one worker. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Leader: Arafat Ordered Hamas Attacks Against Israel in 2000 - Khaled Abu Toameh
    "President Arafat instructed Hamas to carry out a number of military operations in the heart of the Jewish state after he felt that his negotiations with the Israeli government then had failed" after the Camp David summit in 2000, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar revealed on Tuesday. Most of the "military operations" were suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians. This was the first time that a senior Hamas official disclosed that some of the Hamas suicide bombings during the Second Intifada were ordered by Arafat. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Chinese Ambassador: We Support Integrating the Israeli Mind in the Chinese Market to Generate Miracles - Ofer Petersburg
    Tuesday marked 18 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Israel, during which trade relations have grown from $42 million to $6 billion. China's Ambassador to Israel Zhao Jun said in an interview: "Israel contributes greatly to China in agricultural affairs....We have learned a lot from you." "China is Israel's No. 1 business partner in Asia. You are good with medicine, and our cooperation is good in this matter too." "By the end of 2009, Israel set up 292 projects for investment in China, estimated at $220 million. The volume of trade grows every year."
        "We believe in and support integrating the Israeli mind in the Chinese market in order to generate those same miracles you have created in this small country. History has taught us that we are true friends." "The friendship between Israel and the Chinese people has been going on for over 1,000 years, including during the Holocaust when Jewish refugees were given shelter in China although China was in dire straits, under a Japanese attack."  (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks Are Suspended. So What? - Elliott Abrams
    Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations were suspended on Sunday, perhaps briefly and perhaps for months. Yet war hasn't broken out, nor will it. Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have been an on-again, off-again affair since they began with the Oslo Accords in 1993.
        After Arafat's death in November 2004, negotiations between Israel and the PLO were almost continuous - until 2009. They broke down when the Obama administration made settlement construction the central issue. Abbas, who heads the PLO, could not allow President Obama to take a harder line than his own, so he echoed the demand. Under President Bush, an arrangement had been reached whereby the Israelis would build inside settlements but not expand them physically. The Obama administration junked that deal.
        The good news is that the West Bank's economy will grow 8% this year. Regarding security, cooperation between Israeli and PA forces has never been better. Most of this good news came, of course, during 18 months when there were no peace negotiations at all. Both sides want negotiations and sooner or later will find their way back to them. But Israelis and Palestinians could more easily find compromises if American officials would stop mentioning a freeze in every speech. The writer, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2009. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Why Israel Allowed the Settlement Freeze to Expire - Uriel Heilman
    In media accounts, Israel's decision not to extend its self-imposed 10-month freeze on settlement building has been portrayed as a slap in the face to the Obama administration and creating more stumbling blocks to a final peace accord. But what is perceived around the world as Israeli stubbornness is seen much differently in Israel. In Jerusalem, it is the Palestinians who are seen as stubborn for sticking to their insistence that settlement building be halted before coming to the negotiating table. Never before had such a precondition been imposed on negotiations; in the past, Israelis and Palestinians talked while both continued to build in their respective West Bank communities.
        Having offered the freeze unilaterally 10 months ago to coax the Palestinians back to the negotiating table and satisfy U.S. demands for an Israeli good-will gesture, the Israeli government sees itself as the accommodating party whose gesture was never reciprocated. Perhaps most important, however, the freeze was seen by many Israelis as unfair. The vast majority of the 300,000 Jews who live in the West Bank are families living in bedroom communities within easy commuting distance of Jerusalem or metropolitan Tel Aviv. These Israelis saw themselves as unfairly penalized: Why were they barred from expanding their homes when their Palestinian neighbors were not? (JTA)
  • The Metaphor of the Falling Man - Benny Morris
    According to a metaphor coined (I think) by Jeffrey Goldberg, a correspondent for The Atlantic, a man (a Zionist Jew), to save himself, leaps from a burning building (anti-Semitic and Holocaust Europe) and lands on an innocent bystander (a Palestinian), crushing him.
        But the metaphor is disingenuous, and it requires amplification to conform to the facts of history. In fact, as the leaping man nears the ground he offers the bystander a compromise - let's share the pavement, some for you, some for me. The bystander responds with a firm "no," and tries, again and again (1920, 1921, 1929, the Arab Revolt of 1936-39 and the 1947-48 War of Independence), to stab the falling man as he descends to the pavement. Later, again and again, the leaping man, now firmly ensconced on the pavement, offers the crushed bystander a compromise ("autonomy" in 1978, a "two-state solution" in 2000 and in 2008), and again and again the bystander says "no." The falling man may have somewhat wronged the bystander, but the bystander was never an innocent one; he was an active agent in and a party to his own demise. The writer is professor of history in the Middle East Studies Department of Ben-Gurion University in Beersheba. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    Israelis Are Not Prepared to Concede Jerusalem - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Post)

    • UN General Assembly Resolution 181, adopted in 1947 and known as the partition plan, recommended putting Jerusalem under UN control as a separate entity. The resolution was forcibly rejected by the Arab states and the UN never established the special regime for Jerusalem that it proposed. In fact, it failed to dispatch any forces to save the Old City when reports streamed in that its ancient synagogues were being systematically destroyed. Nevertheless, even after the war ended, leading diplomatic players including the U.S. insisted on resurrecting the idea of international control.
    • On December 5, 1949, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion told the Knesset that Israel rejected the demand for internationalization of Jerusalem. He explained that the UN "did not lift a finger" when invading Arab armies tried to destroy the holy city and declared that Israel no longer viewed Resolution 181 as having any further "moral force" with regard to Jerusalem. On December 13, Ben-Gurion declared that the Knesset and the rest of the government would be transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
    • Sixty years later, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has put forward a proposal for the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, to be overseen by "an international trusteeship." According to Olmert, Israel would renounce its sovereignty over the holiest sites of the Jewish people located in an area called "the Holy Basin."
    • Yet there is no basis for the naive belief that internationalization might now work. In the past 20 years, international oversight of areas of conflict has ended with one disaster after another. In 1994, a UN force in Rwanda, made up of mostly Belgian paratroopers, abandoned the Tutsi tribe to acts of genocide by Hutu supremists, resulting in 800,000 deaths. A year later, UN peacekeepers in Bosnia abandoned the Muslims they were supposed to protect in Srebrenica and the Bosnian Serb army slaughtered more than 8,000 innocent people.
    • Poll after poll in the past decade indicates that Israelis are not prepared to concede Jerusalem, and especially the holy sites of the Jewish people. The impression left by this proposal badly weakens Israel's ability to defend itself, since it implies that Israel has lost its will and might be prepared to concede what has been - and will remain - one of the core values defining the identity of the Jewish people.

      The writer, who served as Israel's ambassador to the UN between 1997 and 1999, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is the author of The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City (Regnery, 2007).

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