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October 19, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel: Hamas Has Anti-Aircraft Missiles (AP-Los Angeles Times)
    Hamas in Gaza has obtained anti-aircraft missiles, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, the first time an Israeli official has openly said Hamas possesses anti-aircraft weaponry.

Israel Invites Chilean Miners for Christmas in the Holy Land (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov on Monday extended an official invitation to the 33 Chilean miners who were rescued last week to visit Israel with their spouses for a week-long, all-expenses-paid sightseeing tour of sites holy to Christianity.
    "It would be a great honor for us to welcome you as our guests in the Holy Land," he wrote in the invitation.

Gaza Tunnels Become Export Channel - Mai Yaghi (AFP)
    With the lifting of restrictions on consumer goods entering Gaza through Israeli crossings, food, beauty products and second-hand clothes now flow the other way through the tunnels beneath the border.
    Palestinians even herd cows through the tunnels, leading them out of Gaza and into Egypt. "The Egyptian traders demand Israeli livestock to breed with their own to improve its quality," one smuggler said.
    The Egyptians also order Israeli coffee, blue jeans, mobile phones, and scrap copper, aluminum and used car batteries that can be recycled in Egypt.
    Another tunnel operator exports Israeli-made soap and hair gel, chickens, pigeons, and fresh fruit.
    A clothing store owner in Gaza City says he exports bed sheets and clothes made in Turkey and brought in through Israel. He sells his products in Egypt for twice what he pays for them because Egypt imposes high customs duties on imported goods in order to promote its own local industries.

World's Largest Underground Hospital Being Built in Haifa - David Ratner (Rambam Medical Center-IMRA)
    The foundations were laid this week for the world's largest underground hospital. The emergency facility at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa is designed to withstand conventional, chemical, and biological attacks.
    The project, slated for completion in 2012, will serve as a three-floor parking lot - that in times of emergency can be transformed at short notice into a 2,000-bed hospital.
    Designed to be self-sufficient, the hospital will be able to generate its own power and can store enough oxygen, drinking water and medical supplies for up to three days.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S., Israel Agree Iran Prime Threat to Mideast - Matthew Lee
    As part of the semiannual U.S.-Israel Strategic Dialogue, the two countries on Monday said Iran is among the "greatest challenges" to stability in the Middle East and they pledged to keep Iran from acquiring atomic arms. "Iran's continued noncompliance with its international obligations related to its nuclear program, as well as its continued support for terrorist entities, are of grave concern to our two countries and the entire international community," they said in a statement. (AP)
        See also GCC Secretary-General Warns Against Iran Nuclearization
    At a meeting between ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Turkish representatives, as part of the strategic dialogue between the sides, GCC Secretary-General Abd al-Rahman al-'Atiya warned that Iran is close to producing nuclear warheads and that there is a fear about the pace of armament in the region as a result of Iran's nuclear program. He called for examining the secret aspects of Iran's nuclear program, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyassa reported Monday. (MEMRI)
  • Palestinians Urge Boycott of OECD Meeting in Jerusalem - Allyn Fisher-Ilan
    Chief Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat called Monday for OECD members to "cancel their participation" in an Oct. 20-22 conference in Jerusalem on tourism. The Palestinians had earlier opposed OECD approval of Israel's membership in the 33-member club of free market democracies. (Reuters)
  • Four Found Guilty in NYC Synagogue Bomb Plot - Christina Romano
    Four men were found guilty Monday of planning to blow up a synagogue and Jewish community center in the Riverdale section of Bronx, New York. They also planned to fire surface-to-air-missiles at the New York Air National Guard Base at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York. (CNN)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. to Lebanon: Won't Tolerate Iran on the Mediterranean
    The U.S. warned Lebanon that it will not tolerate an Iranian foothold on the shores of the Mediterranean, Israel Radio reported on Tuesday. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman gave the warning to senior Lebanese officials whom he met with two days ago. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Netanyahu: New Building Permits in Jerusalem Will Not Affect Peace Process - Jonathan Lis
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday: "The discussions about the new building permits are superficial, as only a small percentage have been added. The addition is trivial and does not affect the situation in the settlements, or a possible peace treaty with the Palestinians....If the Palestinians want to find problems, then we won't proceed. If they want to solve the problems, I think that there are other ways to get over the gaps and move forward."  (Ha'aretz)
  • New Loyalty Oath to Apply to Jews as Well as Arabs - Attila Somfalvi
    Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered that the proposed amendment to the Citizenship Act requiring those seeking Israeli citizenship to pledge their allegiance to a "Jewish and democratic Israel" will also apply to Jews seeking Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • How Obama Sabotaged Middle East Peace Talks - Jackson Diehl
    For 15 years and more, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas conducted peace talks with Israel in the absence of a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Now, it appears that his newborn negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - and their goal of agreement on a Palestinian state within a year - will die because of Abbas' refusal to continue without such a freeze. The settlement impasse originated not with Netanyahu or Abbas, but with Obama - who by insisting on an Israeli freeze has created a near-insuperable obstacle to the peace process he is trying to promote.
        In July, following a meeting at the White House, it looked like the U.S. and Israeli leaders had overcome their differences. Yet to the surprise of both Netanyahu and some in his own administration, Obama reintroduced the settlement issue in his September address to the UN General Assembly. In doing so, he made it impossible for Abbas not to make the same demand. (Washington Post)
        See also Fixation on West Bank Building Hampers Mideast Peace - Editorial (New York Daily News)
  • Palestine's Web 2.0 - Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz
    In April 2010, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) commissioned ConStrat to study online Palestinian political sentiment. For nine weeks, ConStrat culled thousands of Arabic language posts from social media sites. We found that although the Palestinian web landscape is not devoid of users with moderate to liberal views, it is dominated by radicalism. Among radicalized users, a small but distinct group of Salafists view conflict with Israel as a religious duty, viewing jihad as the only answer. In addition, on Hamas' most popular discussion sites, a majority continue to support violence against Israel.
        While U.S. media has lauded Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's efforts to reform the West Bank, online forums indicate that Palestinians are not impressed. Some forums declared Fayyad a puppet of the West, while others claimed that his government is constitutionally illegitimate.
        Finally, our data showed that a majority of Palestinians do not support regional peace efforts. Discussion of peace talks was overwhelmingly negative and the social media environment suggests little support for a new peace initiative. As our study showed, now may not be an ideal time to push for a final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. (National Interest)
  • Israel's New Oath of Allegiance - Lee Smith
    The idea that mandating an oath of allegiance for new citizens is a sign of Israeli fascism is part of the delegitimization campaign against Israel. It fits so well with media blather about the decline of Israeli democracy that critics have conveniently ignored the fact that such oaths are normal fare in every major Western democracy.
        The U.S. oath of allegiance for new citizens requires new Americans to "absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty"; promise to "support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic"; promise to "bear arms" and "perform noncombatant" service at the direction of the U.S. government; and swear in the name of God Almighty himself, all of which makes swearing an oath of allegiance to the democratic Jewish State of Israel seem like pretty weak stuff. (Tablet)
  • Observations:

    Negotiations Amidst the Settlement Freeze - Michael Singh (Foreign Policy)

    • In Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's view, Arab efforts to eliminate Israel began in 1947 and have not truly ebbed since.
    • That those efforts began before Israel took the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, and that rocket fire from southern Lebanon and Gaza continued after Israeli troops withdrew from both territories, are to Netanyahu and many Israelis evidence that the presence of Israeli troops in the West Bank is not the cause of the animosity toward them.
    • It is this interest in defending the continued existence of a Jewish state - that has been under attack since its founding - that leads not only to Netanyahu's insistence that the Palestinians explicitly acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state, but also to his rejection of a settlement freeze.
    • If the Palestinians and Arabs will not do the former, Netanyahu and his allies view the latter as pointless at best and at worst dangerous succor to those who would delegitimize Israel.
    • While many Israelis do not share Netanyahu's position on settlements, they do share his interest in defending Israel's legitimacy, and thus have reacted negatively to what they view as Washington's harsh approach.

      The writer, a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council, is a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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