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October 13, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Support for Israel Costs Canada Seat on UN Security Council - Benny Avni (New York Sun)
    Canada's increasing ties with Israel and its defense of Jerusalem have cost it a seat on the UN Security Council, diplomats said.
    Only a few years ago, the American ambassador would have made a public issue in defense of Canada, but in the maneuvering leading to the vote, American diplomats were all but absent.
    Members of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Conference were united in voting for Portugal over Canada, mostly because of Prime Minister Harper's record of supporting Israel.
    See also Punishing Israel's Ally - Stephen Brown (FrontPageMag)
    Canada, a founding UN member, paid the price for its principled foreign policy stance, especially for its support of Israel, when it lost its bid Tuesday for a seat on the UN Security Council.
    "The principles that underlie the policy of foreign affairs - freedom, democracy, human rights and common law - are the foundation of each of these decisions. Some would say that because of our attachment to these values, we lost the seat. If that is the case, so be it," said Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon.

As Prospects for Peace Talks Grow Dim, Opposition Mounts Against Abbas - Charles Levinson (Wall Street Journal)
    Prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace have gone dim since talks broke off last month. Once-optimistic Obama administration officials seem to have nearly given up hope of brokering a deal to revive talks anytime soon.
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, 75, is facing mounting dissent from within his own party, including an increasingly public challenge from a bloc of influential, next-generation leaders. Internal criticism of Abbas is nothing new, but the current opposition within Fatah has gained a broader base and appears more organized than in the past.
    This bloc appears to favor Nasser al-Qudwa, 51, as the next leader, a nephew of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and a seasoned diplomat. The bloc also includes Mohammad Dahlan, 49, who enjoyed cozy relations with Washington, beginning with the Clinton administration, and Jibril Rajoub, 57, who controlled Palestinian security forces in the West Bank until 2002.
    The Fatah faction that has emerged to challenge Abbas is less supportive of negotiations with Netanyahu's government.

Two German Journalists Arrested in Iran - Matthias Gebauer (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    Two German reporters have been arrested in Iran after trying to interview the lawyer of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who has been condemned to death by stoning. The case is likely to cause diplomatic tension between Germany and Iran.

Hamas Interrogates Gaza Journalists, Closes Office - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Journalists Syndicate on Tuesday condemned the closure of its offices in Gaza and the summoning of its representatives for interrogation by Hamas security forces.
    The group said that in the past few years, Hamas security forces had closed down more than 25 press offices and detained dozens of journalists.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S.: Israel Is a Jewish State
    State Department Spokesman Philip J. Crowley said Tuesday: "We have recognized the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people. It is a state for other citizens of other faiths as well....A core demand of the Israeli government, which we support, is a recognition that Israel is a part of the region, acceptance by the region of the existence of the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, and that is what they want to see through this negotiation. We understand this aspiration and the prime minister was talking [Monday in the Knesset] about the fact that just as they aspire to a state for the Jewish people in the Middle East, they understand the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own."  (U.S. State Department)
  • Poll: 95% of U.S. Jews Support Requiring Palestinians to Recognize Israel as a Jewish State
    49% of U.S. Jews approve, while 45% disapprove, of the Obama administration's handling of U.S.-Israel relations, according to a new American Jewish Committee survey of 800 respondents conducted Aug. 31-Oct. 5. An earlier AJC earlier survey conducted in March found that 55% approved and 37% disapproved. In contrast, 62% approve how Prime Minister Netanyahu is handling U.S.-Israel relations, while 27% disapprove. In March, 57% approved and 30% disapproved.
        Only 43% approve of the Obama administration's handling of the Iran nuclear issue, while 46% disapprove. In March, 47% approved and 42% disapproved. 72% believe there is "little" or "no" chance that a combination of diplomacy and sanctions can stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, while 23% believe these approaches do have a chance. 59% support, and 35% oppose, U.S. military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. 70% would support Israeli military action, while 26% are opposed.
        48% favor, and 45% oppose, establishment of a Palestinian state. Regarding West Bank settlements, 6% say "all," 56% say "some," and 37% say "none" should be dismantled as part of a permanent agreement with the Palestinians. 60% support a united Jerusalem as Israel's capital, while 35% say Israel should compromise on the city's status in the framework of a permanent peace with the Palestinians. 95% supporting requiring the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state in a final peace agreement. 50% of American Jews say the Turkish government today is not a friend of the U.S., while 35 percent think it is. 71% say it is not a friend of Israel, and 16% say it is. (American Jewish Committee)
        See also Poll: 76% of American Jews Think Arabs Want to Destroy Israel - Natasha Mozgovaya
    76% of American Jews believe that the goal of the Arabs "is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel," while only 20% disagreed, according to a recent poll by the American Jewish Committee. 82% said Israel could not achieve peace with a Hamas-led government. 69% feel "very close" or "fairly close" to Israel, while 30% feel "fairly distant" or "very distant."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Rapturous Welcome for Iran's Ahmadinejad in Lebanon - Jocelyne Zablit
    Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was greeted by tens of thousands of Hizbullah supporters as his convoy made its way toward the presidential palace in Beirut under a shower of rice, sweets and rose petals. (AFP)
        See also Ahmadinejad Accused of Meddling in Lebanon's Affairs
    Some 250 Lebanese politicians, doctors, teachers and journalists issued an open letter to Iran's president on Tuesday, accusing him on the eve of his official visit to Lebanon of meddling in the country's affairs. "One group in Lebanon draws its power from you...and has wielded it over another group and the state," said the letter. "You are repeating what others have done before you by interfering in our internal affairs," referring to Tehran's financial and military backing of Hizbullah, considered a proxy of Iran. Hizbullah is the only party in Lebanon that refused to surrender its weapons after the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.
        "Your talk of 'changing the face of the region starting with Lebanon'...and 'wiping Israel off the map through the force of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon' the impression that your visit is that of a high commander to his front line."  (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israeli Official: Settlement Construction Moratorium "An Artificial Issue" - Herb Keinon
    Despite PA rejection of Prime Minister Netanyahu's proposal to extend the settlement construction moratorium if the Palestinian leadership recognized Israel as a Jewish state, an Israeli official said Tuesday that the "ball is still in play, this is still a work in process." "If the Palestinians are willing to engage seriously in a process of give and take, Israel is willing to show flexibility," the official said. "But it has to be a process of give and take, not demand and take."
        The official said the whole moratorium matter was an "artificial issue." The vast majority of construction is in large settlement blocs that Israel would retain in any agreement. The amount to be built outside the major settlement blocs is minuscule and not going to change anything, he added. "No settlement growth in the coming year would influence the final map of peace, so for that reason this is an artificial issue," he explained. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Arabs Attack Knesset Delegation in East Jerusalem - Roni Sofer
    A large rock thrown by Arabs Tuesday hit the front window of a minivan carrying nine members of the Israeli Knesset returning from a tour of the east Jerusalem Silwan neighborhood. Border Guard troops dispersed the attackers. Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said, "We will stop the stone-throwing with covert and overt forces, and we will bring back the quiet."  (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A New Israeli Settlement Freeze? What's Behind Netanyahu's Offer - Joshua Mitnick
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revived a previous offer Monday, saying he would support a new settlement freeze if Palestinians would recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a demand he made when he first endorsed a Palestinian state a year ago. Israelis see Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish homeland as confirmation that their neighbors accept Israel's legitimacy.
        Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN under Netanyahu, said that the prime minister is responding to what he sees as Palestinians front-loading the peace process with divisive issues that should be part of the negotiations rather than a precondition. "Israel is essentially saying that if we are going to abide by these new rules of putting the substance of the negotiations ahead of time, why can't Israel do the same thing?'' he said. "Either they will do it, or they are going to drop the notion that you have to have preconditions for negotiation.''  (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Ahmadinejad's Lebanon Visit and the Fate of the Hariri Tribunal - Ash Jain and Andrew J. Tabler
    One purpose of Iranian President Ahmadinejad's trip to Beirut this week may be to influence the fate of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), charged with investigating the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri. As the tribunal inches closer to indictments that reportedly include Hizbullah operatives, both the group and Syria - apparently backed by Tehran - have stepped up what seems to be an orchestrated campaign to pressure Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his Western allies into ending their support for the judicial process.
        The Obama administration should use its nascent dialogue with Damascus to make clear that Syrian efforts to undermine the tribunal will have adverse consequences. Washington should continue to reaffirm support for the tribunal and make clear that it will not countenance any political deal over its future. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Observations:

    Lattes and Beach Barbecues in the "World's Biggest Prison Camp" - Peter Hitchens (Daily Mail-UK)

    • British Prime Minister David Cameron recently fawned on his Islamist hosts in Turkey by stating Gaza was a "prison camp." This phrase is the official line of the well-funded Arab and Muslim lobby, who want to make sure Israel is seen by the world as a villainous oppressor.
    • But if you think Israel is the only problem, think again. Realize, for a start, that Israel no longer rules Gaza. Its settlements are ruins. No Israelis can be found inside its borders. And, before you say "but Israel controls the Gaza border," look at a map. The strip's southern frontier - almost as hard to cross as the Israeli boundary - is with Egypt. And Cairo is as anxious as Israel to seal in the Muslim militants of Hamas.
    • Gaza was bombed on the day I arrived in retaliation for a series of rocket strikes on Israel, made by Arab militants. Those militants knew this would happen, but they launched their rockets anyway. Many Gazans hate them for this. The Islamist rocket-firers are also the government here, supported by Iran and others who care more for an abstract cause than they do for real people.
    • I won't give the name of the rather pleasant establishment where young women with bright make-up and colorful silken hijabs inhaled apple-scented smoke from their water-pipes. Their menfolk, nearby, watched football on huge, flat-screen televisions. Nor will I say where I saw the Gazan young gathering for beach barbecues beneath palm-leaf umbrellas. Of course this way of life isn't typical. But it exists, and it shows the "prison camp" designation is a brain-dead over-simplification.
    • Can anyone think of a siege in human history where the shops of the besieged city have been full of Snickers bars and Chinese motorbikes, and where EU and other foreign aid projects pour streams of cash (often yours) into the pockets of thousands?
    • What about Gaza's "refugee camps." Most of those who live in them are not refugees, but the children and grandchildren of those who fled Israel in the war of 1948. All the other refugees from that era were long ago resettled. These places are not much different from the poorer urban districts of Cairo, about which nobody, in the Arab world or the West, has much to say.
    • One of the distressing things which I feel all of us should be aware of is the plight of Christian Arabs under the rule of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. More than once I heard them say: "Life was better for us under Israeli rule." One young man, lamenting the refusal of the Muslim-dominated courts to help him in a property dispute with squatters, burst out: "We are so alone! All of us Christians feel so lonely in this country."
    • What is most infuriating is that many Christians in Britain are fed propaganda blaming this on the Israelis. Arabs can oppress each other, without any help from outside. Because the Palestinian cause is a favorite, some prefer not to notice that it is largely an aggressive Islamic cause.

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