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October 25, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Army and IDF Completed Joint Training Exercise (Israel Defense Forces)
    The U.S. and Israel concluded a several-day-long command post simulation and training exercise called Juniper Falcon 11 on Oct. 21.
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said: "This is an important part of our ability to operate in different scenarios at sea, on the ground and in the air. It emphasizes the deep, intimate relations between us and the United States when facing mutual enemies, such as when fighting terror."

Israeli SWAT Team Takes First Place at U.S. Urban Shield Training Exercise - Harry Harris (Oakland Tribune)
    An Israeli SWAT team took first place at the fourth annual Urban Shield Training Exercise, a 48-hour continuous competition involving 29 teams held in the Bay Area from Oct. 15-18.
    Among the 26 emergency scenarios were hostage rescue, maritime/train interdiction, weapons of mass destruction, and a nuclear facility threat.

Iran Renews Nasser's Three "No's" - Anthony Shadid (New York Times)
    To tens of thousands of supporters gathered in Beirut to welcome President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared that Iran's Islamic republic "supports the 'no's' that the Arabs declared at the time of Egyptian President Nasser in Khartoum before many abandoned them. Iran renews these 'no's' along with the Arab nation."
    At the Arab summit in Sudan in 1967, Arab states declared "no" to peace with Israel, "no" to negotiations with it, and "no" to recognition of it.

Hizbullah to Refuse to Hand Over Suspects to Hariri Tribunal - Yusuf Diyab and Michel Abu Najm (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
    According to political sources, all political and legal signs in Lebanon indicate that Hizbullah has recognized that it will almost certainly be indicted by the Hariri tribunal, and that it will not succeed in preventing or even delaying the issuance of this indictment.
    A political source within Hizbullah said the group will refuse "to surrender any of its members...indicted by the tribunal."

Iran Restricts Social Sciences Seen as "Western" - Nasser Karimi (AP)
    Iran has imposed new restrictions on 12 university social sciences deemed to be based on Western schools of thought and therefore incompatible with Islamic teachings, state radio reported Sunday.
    The list includes law, philosophy, management, psychology, political science, women's studies and human rights.
    Senior education official Abolfazl Hassani said the restrictions prevent universities from opening new departments in these subjects. The government will also revise the content of current programs by up to 70% over the next few years.
    Some two million out of 3.5 million Iranian university students are studying social sciences and humanities, according to government data.

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  • WikiLeaks Reports Detail Iran's Aid for Iraqi Militias - Michael R. Gordon and Andrew W. Lehren
    During the administration of President George W. Bush, critics charged that the White House had exaggerated Iran's role in Iraq. But field reports disclosed by WikiLeaks underscore the seriousness with which Iran's role has been seen by the American military.
        The reports recount Iran's role in providing Iraqi militia fighters with rockets, magnetic bombs that can be attached to the underside of cars, "explosively formed penetrators," or EFPs, which are the most lethal type of roadside bomb in Iraq, and other weapons. Those include powerful .50-caliber rifles and the Misagh-1, an Iranian replica of a portable Chinese surface-to-air missile, which, according to the reports, was fired at American helicopters and downed one in east Baghdad in July 2007. A June 25, 2009, report about an especially bloody EFP attack that wounded 10 American soldiers noted that the militants used tactics "being employed by trained violent extremist members that have returned from Iran."
        The reports make it clear that the lethal contest between Iranian-backed militias and American forces continued after President Obama sought to open a diplomatic dialogue with Iran's leaders. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force, under the command of Brig. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, has responsibility for foreign operations and works though surrogates, like Hizbullah. Quds Force objectives include efforts to weaken and shape Iraq's nascent government and to diminish the U.S. role and influence in Iraq. (New York Times)
        See also How Iran Devised New Suicide Vest for al-Qaeda in Iraq - Richard Spencer
    A threat report dated Nov. 17, 2006, claims that new techniques for suicide bombing, a favored al-Qaeda and Sunni insurgent practice in Iraq, had "surfaced" in Iran and Syria which involved the use of miniature cameras to allow remote monitoring of the attack. "Al-Qaeda remains the strongest organization among the insurgent groups in Iraq and directs the majority of attacks that take place in Iraq," says the assessment. "Instructors at the Islamic Jihad Center in Tehran are teaching a new tactic for SVIED (Suicide Vest Improvised Explosive Device) deployment."  (Telegraph-UK)
  • Despite Fanfare, Mideast Peace Talks Quickly Run Aground - Glenn Kessler and Janine Zacharia
    Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas haven't met since Secretary of State Clinton brought the two together on Sept. 15 in Jerusalem, two weeks after President Obama launched the resumption of negotiations on Palestinian statehood in Washington with much fanfare. The Arab League said it would wait a month - until Nov. 8 - before ending Abbas' mandate for negotiations, thus pushing the issue beyond the U.S. midterm elections.
        Asked whether he was still a member of the Palestinian negotiating team, Muhammad Shatayeh said Friday: "That's right. But there are no negotiations.'' Shatayeh said, "We are going to go to Washington to recognize a Palestinian state on 1967 borders. If that doesn't work, we'll go to the UN Security Council and will ask Washington not to veto.'' If Washington vetoes, he said, then the Palestinians will take their case to the UN General Assembly. (Washington Post)
        See also Netanyahu: We Expect the Palestinians to Honor Their Commitment to Direct Negotiations
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "We are holding intensive contacts with the American administration in order to restart the diplomatic process. Our goal is not just to resume the process, but to advance it in such a way that it cannot be halted in a few weeks or months, and will enter into approximately one year of continuous negotiations on the fundamental problems, in order to try and reach a framework agreement ahead of a peace settlement."
        "In these negotiations, we will - of course - uphold the vital interests of the State of Israel, with security first and foremost. We expect the Palestinians to honor their commitment to hold direct negotiations. I think that any attempt to bypass them by appealing to international bodies is unrealistic and will not give any impetus to a genuine diplomatic process. Peace will only be achieved through direct negotiations."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israel Slams Catholic Statement on Mideast, Singling Out Archbishop
    Catholic bishops from the Middle East concluded a conference in Rome, Italy, with a call for the international community, especially the UN, to work "to put an end to the occupation" of Palestinian territories. Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros, who leads the Greek Melkite Church in the U.S., said Saturday: "We Christians cannot speak of the 'promised land' as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people....This promise was nullified by Christ."
        On Sunday, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said: "We are especially appalled at the language used by Archbishop Bustros during his press conference....We call on the Vatican to distant themselves from Archbishop Boutros' comments which are a libel against the Jewish people and the State of Israel and should not be construed as the Vatican's official position." "These outrageous comments should not cast a shadow over the important relationship between the Vatican, the State of Israel and the Jewish people," he added. (CNN)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • WikiLeaks Reports Could Help Halt Iran's Nuke Drive - Yaakov Katz
    Israeli government and defense officials felt somewhat vindicated Sunday by the WikiLeaks reports released over the weekend, which detailed how the U.S. conducted itself in the war in Iraq, and also expose Iran's extensive aid to Iraqi militias, providing weapons, rockets and lethal roadside bombs. It will be interesting to see whether the UN establishes a Goldstone-like commission to investigate the U.S. for alleged war crimes - or if Goldstone-type investigations are reserved solely for Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Jerusalem Gets Highest National Priority Status - Roni Sofer
    The Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs approved a bill on Sunday defining Jerusalem as a national priority area of the first order in the housing, employment and education sectors. This means that construction priority will be given to Jerusalem's many neighborhoods - including in east Jerusalem, a measure which could lead to friction between Israel and the U.S. and Europe. The new bill will give Jerusalem the same financial and national priority given to periphery cities. Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon said that by passing the legislation the Israeli government is sending a "clear, unequivocal political message that Jerusalem will not be divided."  (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran: New Talks a Step in the Wrong Direction - Emily B. Landau
    It seems that a new round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 has been set for mid-November. Iran is dictating the pace and is now trying to take the lead as far as decisions regarding the content of the talks as well - by clarifying what it is and is not willing to discuss. U.S. leadership is sorely missing.
        Is there anything more central to Obama's nonproliferation agenda than stopping Iran on the road to a military capability? In June and July significant sanctions against Iran were agreed upon in the UN framework, followed by even stronger unilateral sanctions by a number of states, led by the U.S. To allow this impressive show of international determination to be squandered in another ineffective negotiation focused on a meaningless fuel deal - with Iran dictating the pace and content of the proposed three-day discussion - will be an enormous step in the wrong direction. The writer is director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies of Tel Aviv University. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Palestinian Tragedy - Martin Peretz
    Palestine was one of Obama's spiritual obsessions, firing his delusions of making harmony with Islam, which cares little about his delusions. One has to be fair, however: the president has finally admitted that the land the Romans called Palestine is the "historical homeland of the Jewish people."
        The Palestinians are going to the Security Council to get it to arrange a state for them. Of course, they can't. But they can go through the motions. This would not be the first time that the Palestinians have announced a state. They now have embassies in 100 world capitals and they sit in the General Assembly behind a desk labeled "Palestine." It is all a joke, save for the six real Palestinian battalions in the West Bank, thanks to the State of Israel.
        The failure of the peace talks was easily foreseen. Obama encumbered them with his ingenious prerequisite: that Israel stop building in the settlements. Never before had such a condition been put forth. (New Republic)
  • Observations:

    Can Israel Be Jewish and Democratic? - Douglas J. Feith (Wall Street Journal)

    • Israel, so the argument goes, affronts its non-Jewish citizens by identifying itself as a Jewish state and by using traditional religious emblems as official national symbols - for example, the Star of David on its flag. But are democratic principles necessarily violated when Israel asserts a Jewish identity based on the ethnic and religious heritage of its majority group.
    • In fact, most democracies have laws and practices that specially recognize a particular people's history, language, culture, religion and group symbols, even though they also have minorities from other groups. In the democracies of Europe, East Asia, and those in the former republics of the Soviet Union, numerous laws and institutions favor a country's principal ethnic group but are nevertheless accepted as compatible with democratic principles.
    • Christian crosses adorn the flags of Switzerland, Sweden, Greece and Finland, and the UK flag boasts two kinds of crosses. In the UK, Norway and Denmark, the monarchs head national churches.
    • Ireland allows applicants of "Irish descent or Irish associations" to be exempted from ordinary naturalization rules. Poland, Croatia and Japan have similar laws of return favoring members of their own respective ethnic majorities.
    • Israel was founded as a national home for the Jews, recognized as a nationality and not just a religious group. After Allied forces conquered Palestine from the Ottomans in World War I, Britain, France, Italy and other leading powers of the day supported the idea that the Jewish people, long shamefully abused as exiles throughout the diaspora, should be offered the opportunity to reconstitute a Jewish-majority state in their ancient homeland of Palestine.
    • It is not antidemocratic for Israel to protect its status as a Jewish state in ways similar to those used by the French, Swiss, British, Germans, Italians, Lithuanians, Japanese and others to protect the status of their countries as national homelands.

      The writer, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, served as U.S. Undersecretary of Defense from 2001 to 2005.

          See also Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People - Joshua Teitelbaum (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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