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December 17, 2010

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Israelis See Signs of Trouble in Gaza - Ethan Bronner (New York Times)
    In Gaza, official talk of resistance and rejection is standard. "I would rather die a martyr like my son than shake the hand of my enemy," Yusef Mansi, the Hamas minister of public works and housing, said in an interview, responding to a question about reconciliation with Israel.
    Since September there have been 20 to 30 rockets and mortar shells shot monthly into Israel, double the rate for the first part of the year. Although most seem to be the work of groups other than Hamas, Israel argues that Hamas is in charge and will be held responsible.
    "In the last two months there has been a shift, which means that from now on unless we start doing something different, the deterrence will go down," an Israeli military commander said. "Hamas has gained a lot of military capabilities in the last two years."
    See also Hamas Prepares for War with Help from Iran (CiF Watch)
    According to a briefing by a senior IDF official Thursday, Hamas is now better armed than it was two years ago, both in terms of the quantity of arms and their capabilities. Not only does it have more weapons, but it also has more activists.
    These more efficient arms have been supplied by Iran and smuggled into Gaza via Africa and Sinai.
    There is also evidence of Hizbullah involvement in the re-arming of Hamas, again with weapons supplied by Iran.
    In addition, the domestic capability for arms manufacture within Gaza has improved, with much of the technical know-how coming from Iran.
    While it is known that there are some Iranian experts in the fields of explosives and anti-aircraft missiles present in Gaza, the majority of the increased technical capability comes as a result of Hamas activists traveling via Egypt to Syria, Lebanon or Iran for training.

Arabs Target the Internet - Aaron Eitan Meyer (Lawfare Project)
    The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the entity responsible for assigning domain names on the Internet.
    On September 25, 2010, the ICANN board of directors approved the following resolution: "The definition of Continent or UN Regions in the Guidebook should be expanded to include UNESCO's regional classification list which comprises: Africa, Arab States, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North America, Latin America and the Caribbean." The new "Geographic Region" definition collapses Europe and North America into a single region, while creating a new "Arab States" region.
    The change marks a fundamental shift from what are more or less geographical regions to cultural/ethnic regions.
    Should the September 25 resolution become applicable to ICANN's board of directors, it would mean that the "Arab States" region would be entitled to between one and five directorships, while the collapsed "North American and Europe" region would have a maximum of five seats.
    ICANN's board also removed a reference to "terrorism" from the fourth version of its Draft Applicant Guidebook after complaints were received from several Arab individuals and organizations.
    Failing to retain the ability to investigate applicants for ties to terrorism would significantly hamper ICANN's effectiveness, and could lead to a proliferation of pro-terrorist websites.

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Columbia's New Center for Palestine Studies - Armin Rosen and Jordan Hirsch (New Republic)
    Columbia University's Center for Palestine Studies (CPS), launched in October, is the first institution at an American university specifically dedicated to the study of Palestinian Arabs.
    Yet there are already troubling signs that it may advance political interests under the guise of Palestine studies.

Jews Warned about Visiting Southern Sweden (The Local-Sweden)
    A U.S.-based Jewish group has issued a travel warning urging Jews to exercise "extreme caution" when traveling in southern Sweden.
    "We reluctantly are issuing this advisory because religious Jews and other members of the Jewish community there have been subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment," said Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director of International Relations with the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, in a statement.
    "There have been dozens of incidents reported to the authorities but have not resulted in arrests or convictions for hate crimes."
    Police reports in Malmo show a doubling in the number of crimes against the town's Jewish residents between 2008 and 2009.

The Escape from Holland - Lilit Wagner (Ynet News)
    Benzion Evers, the son of the Amsterdam chief rabbi, believes the city is not a safe place for Jews.
    He told Het Parool newspaper, "You constantly need to hide, to be careful and to carefully examine which neighborhoods to go into and which not to go into."
    He also told of how he hides his skullcap under a baseball cap when going through neighborhoods with high concentrations of Moroccan and Turkish immigrants.
    Five of his brothers and sisters have already left Holland, and he already has his bags packed.

Bethlehem Tourism Swells as Violence Ebbs - Ben Hubbard (AP-Washington Post)
    Bethlehem has seen a record number of tourists this year and its thousands of hotel rooms are fully booked for Christmas week, thanks to steadily declining violence in the West Bank over the past few years.
    Tourism is one of the few areas of strong Israeli-Palestinian coordination.

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Video: Where Do You Get Off (Spielberg Jewish Film Archive)
    In 1948, Edward G. Robinson solicits funds to help rehabilitate refugees from Europe in pre-state Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • No Israel Talks "In Any Format," Palestinians Insist
    "There will not be any negotiations with Israel, in any form - direct, indirect or parallel - without an end to settlement," said Azzam al-Ahmad, a senior member of the central committee of Fatah, the party of President Mahmoud Abbas. He spoke from Cairo, where Arab League foreign ministers on Wednesday had ruled out a resumption of negotiations without a "serious offer" that would ensure their success. Meanwhile, Dennis Ross, a senior advisor to President Obama, held talks in Israel with top defense officials. (AFP)
        See also With Mideast Peace Talks Adrift, U.S. Searches for Plan B - Joshua Mitnick (Christian Science Monitor.)
  • Iran in Secret Talks on Nuclear Swap in Bid to End Sanctions - Praveen Swami
    Iran has begun secret negotiations on proposals to surrender a substantial part of its uranium stockpile and suspend enriching nuclear fuel in return for an end to sanctions that have crippled the country's economy. The Turkish-led deal calls on Iran to ship about 1,000 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium, as well as its entire 30 kilogram stockpile of 20%-enriched uranium, to a safe location. In return, France and Russia will supply ready-made fuel rods for the medical isotope reactor for which Iran says it has been enriching uranium to 20% - a level which halves the time needed to manufacture weapons-grade material.
        Turkish and Iranian negotiators, diplomatic sources say, have met several times to discuss the contours of the deal. France, Russia and the U.S. have also been involved in the negotiations. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Palestinian Pleads Guilty in Miami Weapons Smuggling Case - Laura Figueroa
    Abdalaziz Azis Hamayel, 23, pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges he conspired to ship an arsenal of weapons and explosives to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian native was arrested in August at Miami International Airport after returning from a trip from Amman, Jordan. Federal investigators say he negotiated with undercover police officers to buy a stash of 300 rifles, 9mm handguns, Uzi submachine guns, silencers, grenades and remote control detonators during three meetings in 2009. When asked where the weapons were headed, Hamayel replied that they were bound for the West Bank, according to investigators. (Miami Herald)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Condemns Norway's Upgrade of Palestinian Diplomatic Standing - Barak Ravid
    Israel harshly condemned Norway on Thursday for upgrading the standing of the Palestinian representation in Oslo from a "general delegation" to a "diplomatic delegation." Naor Gilon, who heads the Western Europe division at the Foreign Ministry, told the Norwegian charge d'affaires the Norwegian move is not acceptable and is a step that will harm the peace process. "If the Palestinians start thinking that they can achieve political accomplishments without negotiations with Israel, they will never renew peace talks," Gilon said. The Norwegian envoy said that in contrast to media reports, Norway has not recognized a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders and the upgrading in the standing of the Palestinian delegation in Oslo is simply a symbolic move without any practical consequences. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Appeal to European Countries: Recognize Statehood Even Without Peace Deal
    Palestinian negotiators on Thursday asked a number of individual European countries to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza - even without a peace deal with Israel. Palestinian officials said they asked the consuls general of France, Britain, Sweden and Denmark as well as the EU envoy to the peace process to recognize the 1967 borders between Israel and Palestine. In response, the EU said it would recognize a Palestinian state when "appropriate," adding that negotiations are the only way to peace. (Ha'aretz)
  • South Lebanon Residents Renew Clashes with UNIFIL
    Residents in the south Lebanese village of Tayri, a Hizbullah stronghold, clashed Thursday with a French UNIFIL patrol as it was conducting a GPS demarcation. The Lebanese Armed Forces intervened and resolved the situation by taking the patrol's computer at the request of the villagers. Another clash took place earlier Thursday with a French UNIFIL patrol in the village of Hariss, another Hizbullah stronghold, when the patrol began to take photographs of the area. (Ya Libnan-Lebanon)
  • Key Congresswoman: "No Blank Check to PA" - Hilary Leila Krieger
    U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, incoming chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, blasted the Obama administration on Wednesday for giving the Palestinian Authority a "blank check" while pressuring Israel. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post she criticized the current approach to U.S. funding for the PA. "Itís a bailout for them which provides no incentives for them to reform. So they know they donít have to do a darn thing - with this administration they will get a blank check." "I think thatís the wrong approach, when weíre forcing the Israelis to make concessions and weíre giving the Palestinians anything they want."
        "This feeling that Abbas and Fayyad are the good guys...these are folks who have not wanted to be true partners for peace....These guys are moderate when you consider that theyíre not as extreme as [Hamas], but theyíre not the epitome of democratic governance or openness or transparency." "Itís shameful to make public statements about Israel as if a housing complex is an impediment to peace while the Palestiniansí so-called leaders get away with murder."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • European Nuclear Research Group CERN Accepts Israel as Candidate for Membership - Asaf Shtull-Trauring
    Israel is expected to become a full member of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in two to three years time, after the CERN board accepted Israel's request to become a candidate for full membership in the most important particle physics research center. The board also accepted requests by Slovenia, Serbia, Cyprus and Turkey. Israel currently holds observer status. "This is a great achievement for Israel that will advance science and enable more Israeli scientists to participate in this international project," said President Shimon Peres. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
    Peace Process

  • Palestinians' Future Is in Their Hands - Carlo Strenger and Akiva Eldar
    What does Saeb Erekat mean by demanding Israel's recognition of the Palestinian right of return? If it means that Israel will accept its part in the responsibility of the Palestinian tragedy, and primarily provide restitution, there is a realistic chance for resolution of the conflict. But Erekat's formulations do not bode well: when he says that Israeli recognition of refugee rights "will not change the reality in the Middle East overnight," he steps on the deepest fears of Israelis. Erekat cannot say in good faith that this "will not lead to an existential crisis for Israel," because he implies that, over time, Israel will disappear as a homeland for the Jews, because beyond a certain point Jews will be a minority in the pre-1967 borders. (Guardian-UK)
  • The Recognition of Palestine - Alex Sanchez
    In recent days Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay have recognized Palestine as an independent state. Paraguay is expected to follow suit. The State Department was quick to call the move "counter-productive." Latin America continues to ease out of Washington's sphere of influence, with Bolivia and Venezuela pursuing a growing relationship with Iran. Latin America's recognition policy is not that surprising since the region has growing commercial and political links with the Muslim world. The writer is a COHA research fellow. (Council on Hemispheric Affairs)
  • Can Israel Turn Enemies into Peacemakers? - David Suissa
    The State of Israel was built not by whiners but by Jews for whom no miracle was impossible - whether that meant defending against an Arab invasion or turning a desert into lush fields of agriculture. This can-do attitude has been the life force behind Israel's military success as well as its economic and cultural renaissance. There is one area, however, where Israel's can-do attitude has been a big failure, and that is in making peace with the Palestinians.
        With making peace, it's far from clear whether Israel has a product the Palestinians want to buy. Israel has been under enormous pressure over the years, internally and externally, to "do something" to bring peace. Israel has been too embarrassed to admit that "we can't solve this one," that the parties are too far apart, that peace, no matter how desirable, is simply not in the cards at the moment. What if there is nothing Israel can offer the Palestinians to get them to accept and deliver a durable peace with a Jewish state? What if the truth is that Israel can evacuate 300,000 Jews from the West Bank tomorrow and give up half of Jerusalem and that this would still not bring peace - and might even bring more war?
        The Palestinian demand for a "right of return" is a deal-killer. So is a return to nondefensible borders, and so is the presence of a terrorist state in Gaza. The fact that peace is immensely desirable has nothing to do with the reality that it is immensely unobtainable. If anything, the more Israel has shown its desire, the more the price has gone up. The Palestinians have said "no" to every peace offer Israel has ever put on the table. The status quo may be untenable, but a fake peace process makes it even worse. Israel should fess up that it doesn't have the power to turn enemies into peacemakers. (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)

  • Other Issues

  • Imagining an Iranian ICBM - Jonathan Kay
    Last week at a conference dedicated to "Countering the Iranian threat," put on by the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the most interesting speaker was a gruff Israeli engineer named Uzi Rubin, the former head of Israelís Missile Defense Organization. Rubin spent much of his professional life carefully scrutinizing Iranís growing inventory of WMD-related technology. His research is guided by the simple question: What are these people building?
        Everyone already knows that Iran has the technology to enrich uranium, he explained. And once that technology is in place, it is pointless to debate whether it is designed for "civilian" or "military" purposes - itís just a question of the number of spin cycles. The other aspects of bomb construction are relatively minor. In the Manhattan Project, he noted, 90% of the effort went toward enriching the needed nuclear material. Once that was completed, it took only six months till a successful explosion was achieved.
        Iran has developed an indigenous missile-production infrastructure. The country now has the capability to design, construct and deploy multi-stage solid-fuel systems roughly similar to the U.S. Polaris A1 and Minuteman I. "Donít be fooled by those who say the Iranians are incapable of [advanced projects]," Rubin said. "I can see the confidence of their engineers. Iíve seen the technology. I can see the way they are solving problems faster and faster."
        Rubin concluded by ticking off the elements of Iranís advanced tech research: (1) nuclear enrichment, (2) solid-propellant ballistic missiles, (3) space-launch technology. Then he asked: "If a scientist from Mars would come down and say 'Hey, thereís a country on earth that has these three programs - what does it want?' the answer is obvious: a nuclear ICBM."  (National Post-Canada)
        See also New Developments in Iran's Missile Capabilities: Implications Beyond the Middle East - Uzi Rubin (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Strange Survival of the Arab Autocracies - Fouad Ajami
    Five years ago, it felt like the springtime of the Arabs. The Iraqi experiment had survived the assault on it by the jihadists, the media, and the rulers of the neighboring Arab states. A democratic example was putting down roots in the most arid of soil. The Lebanese had come out into the streets of Beirut to demand the end of Syrian rule and tutelage over their country. The Egyptians, too, had wearied of the military regime and wanted done with Hosni Mubarak, an aging autocrat. There was even talk then of a Damascus Spring.
        The American enthusiasm for democracy in Arab lands had never been strong to begin with, and the Bush administration, in its final two years in office, began to lose faith in its own "freedom agenda." In the Palestinian territories, an election in 2006 went the way of Hamas. It had not been a pretty choice: the gunmen of the secular Palestine Liberation Organization and their politics of banditry and corruption versus the Islamists of Hamas. Palestinian politics had been poisoned by the cult of the gun, and the disillusionment with the entrenched ways of the Palestinian national autocracy had worked to the advantage of Hamas. There was no denying the American disillusionment with what a democratic election had wrought.
        America's own presidential election of 2008 was a boon for the Arab autocracies. Literally days into his presidency, President Obama extended an olive branch to the powers-that-be in Arab and Islamic lands: America would live with the status quo. The Wilsonianism unleashed on them by George W. Bush would be done and over with. This was nothing less than a reversal of the intellectual galaxy: a conservative American president had preached that Arabs did not have tyranny in their DNA, while his liberal successor proclaimed the ascendancy of realpolitik. The writer, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, is Professor of Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. (Hoover Institution)
        See also Who Needs Democracy? - Guy Bechor
    The victory of Egypt's ruling party and the independent candidates who belong to it, by a fantastic 95% majority, takes the Middle East years back to the era before the man perceived to be a menacing sheriff - President George W. Bush - demanded democracy in our region. Democratization in the Arab world was forced and short-lived, despised and detached from the region's heritage and religious traditions.
        The opponents of the Arab regimes in our neighborhood are much more hostile to Israel and are affiliated with radical Islam and the far left. The distant West may regret to see democracy evaporating in the Arab world, yet those who seek stability, responsibility, and quiet understandings in the Middle East can find encouragement in the return of the past, and in the 95% defeat suffered by President Mubarak's rivals. The writer is a lecturer in Arab law and Middle East politics at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. (Ynet News)
  • Illuminating the Possibilities - Michael B. Oren
    Earlier this month Israel struggled to extinguish a forest fire that engulfed the Carmel region of the Lower Galilee, claiming 42 lives. A country that has prevailed through successive wars and terrorist attacks, Israel had never before confronted such a devastating natural disaster. And we could not overcome it alone. A self-reliant people who are renowned as first responders to disasters abroad, we are accustomed to offering rather than requesting aid. And yet, as the Carmel fire spread, Prime Minister Netanyahu did not stand on pride. "We live in a global world," he explained. "We give and receive help, and it's not shameful to ask."
        For Israelis, who sometimes feel isolated in the world and misunderstood, the international outpouring of goodwill and common humanity aroused by the fire response gave us the rare opportunity to feel part of a caring global community. The writer is Israel's ambassador to the U.S. (Los Angeles Times)
  • The Dream of Restoring the Ottoman Empire - Kerim Balci
    The Ottoman state was not a nation-state organized around certain ideological positions. It was a state organized around a family. Hence, neo-Ottomanism is not a revivalist perspective because there is nothing to revive. The revival of the Ottoman state is not realistic and is not desirable. Even the foundation of a new transnational body that invites post-Ottoman states to membership is not a viable goal. Post-Ottoman states are unfulfilled nation-state experiments with thousands of problems. A Commonwealth of Post-Ottoman States won't have anything in "common."
        This is not to say that Turkey won't be a regional superpower and with a role to play in world politics. But expansionism is just not the mood of the day. (Today's Zaman-Turkey)
  • Settling Ethno-Political Conflicts by Negotiations - Steven Klein
    The settling of ethno-political conflicts by negotiations, in which the core issue is self-determination, is anything but inevitable. According to a study by the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, there have been nearly 370 episodes of armed ethnic conflict since 1946. More than 150 involved non-state actors seeking self-determination. A mere eight ended in a peace agreement that addressed the final status of the territory in question.
        There is a whole slew of cease-fires that have left conflicts frozen or that collapsed in the wake of renewed violence without ever progressing to the stage of resolving core issues, from Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea to South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Moldova. Given the lack of sufficient historical evidence that ethno-political rivals can resolve core issues at the negotiating table, particularly when neither side faces military catastrophe, there is no reason to conclude that a negotiated Palestinian state is inevitable. (Ha'aretz)
  • Can Israel Be Compared with Poor Charlie Brown? - Bob Siegel
    Do you remember the recurring Peanuts story line where Lucy used to set up the football for Charlie Brown? After Charlie Brown runs toward the ball, Lucy quickly yanks it out of the way and Charlie Brown lands flat on his back. Again and again Lucy offers to secure the football for Charlie Brown and he always tries again, with the same results.
        Voices similar to Lucy's have been bargaining with Israel for many years: "Hey Jews! Some wealthy Arab landlords have land for you to purchase. Of course, after you buy it, the land will be in dispute, but go ahead, take the land." "Hey Jews! We, the British Empire, run the entire Middle East. And in accordance with the League of Nations we are inviting Jews from all over the world to return to their native homeland, joining the Jews who were already living in the Middle East for several thousand years." "Hey Jews! Now that you agreed to give Yassir Arafat 90% of what he wanted in the Oslo Accords, please realize, that was not enough. He wants more!"  (Washington Times)

The Long Road to Peace in the Middle East - Interview with Itamar Rabinovich (Breitbart Big Peace) met with Prof. Itamar Rabinovich, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. (1992-1996):

  • The question is whether Abbas is "an effective peace partner." One that can sign an agreement, fulfill it and stand behind it for the long run. Under these criteria, Abbas is not an effective partner for peace. Even if we assume he has full control of the West Bank, he does not control Gaza and cannot deliver a full agreement.
  • As for the Palestinians self declaring their state, it is not a realistic scenario. It will not pass the UN Security Council. Furthermore, the issue of Gaza will turn up immediately.
  • I'm not willing to accept the term "right of return." If you look at UN Resolution 194, which describes the rights of refugees and on which the Palestinians rely on when discussing the issue, there is no mention of the right of return. When talking about this topic I call it the "claim of return" and here are some points to explain the issue:
    • Compared with the 600,000 Palestinians that left when Israel was established, an even larger number of Jews left their homes in Arab states.
    • Israel helped those Jews settle in and make a new home. They did not remain refugees. The Palestinians, however, remained refugees in the Arab states that took them in. UNRWA and its food stamps made the problem worse for the Palestinians.
    • Practically speaking, there is no way to allow 2-3 million Palestinians into Israel. If this is what you demand, you do not want peace.
    • Israel was established in 1948, 3 years after the end of WWII. So many people had been displaced in those years and yet none of them remained refugees. The only people that remained refugees were the Palestinians.
    See also The Arab Peace Initiative: Clarifications Needed - Itamar Rabinovich (Jerusalem Post)
  • The main problem raised by the text of the Arab Peace Initiative is its open-ended approach to the refugee issue. The 2002 Beirut summit final communique (though not the actual summit resolution as then published) was quite explicit and disappointing in this regard. It demanded full implementation of "the right of return of the Palestinian refugees based on the resolutions of international legitimacy and international law including General Assembly Resolution 194" and rejected "any solution that includes their settlement away from their homes."
  • This clearly was unacceptable to Israel and to a significant portion of the international community, and was superseded in 2007 by a reaffirmation of the 2002 resolution: "The Arab League further calls upon Israel to affirm...achievement of a just solution to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194" and "assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries."
  • These formulations represent significant improvements over the 2002 communique, but they still leave important issues in need of clarification. First, in the history of the Arab-Israel conflict, "just" has been an Arab term representing the need (from an Arab perspective) to rectify the original "injustice" of 1948. Second, it is important to clarify what the reference to General Assembly Resolution 194 stands for: an elegant retreat from the traditional demand of "return" or a clever way to exit through the main door merely in order to return through the back window.

    The writer, Israel's former ambassador in Washington and chief negotiator with Syria, is professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University.

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