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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
January 5, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

Egypt Rejects Unloading Iranian Donations for Gaza (IRNA-Iran)
    Egypt is refusing to issue a permit to unload the cargo of a ship containing contributions of Asian nations to Gaza residents, an informed source told IRNA in Damascus on Monday.
    In addition, Cairo has asked for a high fine for the period that the ship is berthed at its Al-Arish port.
    Ten Iranian MPs accompanying the Asia One caravan were denied permits to leave the ship.

Netanyahu Offers Condolences to Abbas over Brother's Death - (Jerusalem Post)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday telephoned PA President Mahmoud Abbas and offered his condolences for the death of Abbas' older brother, Ata.
    Netanyahu also told Abbas: "We are neighbors, and I believe with all my heart that with shared efforts, and a strong desire, we can reach a true peace between our two nations."

Saudi Arabia Captures Israeli "Spy Vulture" (Ha'aretz)
    A vulture tagged by scientists in Israel strayed into Saudi Arabian territory, where it was promptly arrested on suspicion of being a Mossad spy, Israeli and Saudi media reported Tuesday.
    The bird was found wearing a GPS transmitter and a leg bracelet bearing the words "Tel Aviv University," Ma'ariv reported.
    Although the bird was part of a long-term research project into migration patterns, Arabic-language websites and forums claimed the "Zionists" had trained the bird for espionage.

Media Watch: Most Ignored Story of 2010? Israel - Jonathan Mark (New York Jewish Week)
    Only a handful of mainstream newspapers covered the Palestinian claims to the Western Wall and Rachel's Tomb; or that Palestinian rockets were still landing in Israel; or the 1930s level of anti-Semitism in the official Palestinian media; or the Palestinian claims that Haifa and Sderot are occupied territory.
    Yes, the general media covered the settlements incessantly, almost always depicting them as the singular obstacle to peace. But the latest data from the Pew Research Center shows that Israel was not even one of the five biggest stories in 49 of the 52 weeks in 2010.
    It's not that Americans are not interested in Israel. They're just not interested in the mainstream media's version of it.
    Americans are very interested in the alternative media's version, not only Arab or Jewish newspapers and websites, but also the blogs and e-mailed videos.
    See also Guardian Website "Preoccupied with Israel" - Jennifer Lipman (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    Israel was the sixth most written about country by the Guardian website in 2010, featured in 1,008 stories; more than double the combined total of mentions for its Middle Eastern neighbors Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.
    The only countries with more stories were the UK, U.S., Iraq, China and Afghanistan.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • A Growing List of Latin American Nations Moving to Recognize a Palestinian State - Daniel Hernandez
    Joining a widening trend across Latin America, Chile and Paraguay are poised to recognize a Palestinian state based on borders before the 1967 Middle East War. In recent weeks, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Ecuador and Venezuela have all done so. Chile is home to a significant population of about 350,000 mostly Christian Palestinians.
        Israel has said the South American declarations harm the peace process. "They never made any contribution to [the peace process] and now they're making a decision that is completely contrary to everything that has been agreed so far," a spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry said. Colombia, for its part, said it would not recognize a Palestinian state until a peace accord is reached with Israel. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Anti-Christian Drumbeat Loud before Egypt Attack - Maggie Michael
    In the weeks before the New Year's Day suicide bombing of an Egyptian church, al-Qaeda-linked websites carried a how-to manual on "destroying the cross," complete with videos on how to build a bomb and the locations of churches to target - including the one that was attacked. They may have found a receptive audience in Alexandria, where increasingly radicalized Islamic hard-liners have been holding weekly anti-Christian demonstrations. The blast, which struck Saturday as worshippers were leaving midnight Mass, killed 23 people. (AP-Washington Post)
  • 500 Americans Ask for Clemency for Jonathan Pollard - Jennifer Rubin
    A letter signed by 500 rabbis and other prominent Jewish and non-Jewish religious leaders has been sent to President Obama urging release of Jonathan Pollard. "I have written President Obama seeking a pardon for Jonathan Pollard," said Professor Charles J. Ogletree of Harvard Law School, who was President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama's law professor. "It appears that Mr. Pollard is in prison not because of the crime he committed but due to geopolitics," said Carlos M. Salinas, former Acting Director of Government Relations for Amnesty International USA. "No human being should ever be a chit in such a game."
        Obama now has all the cover he could need (including the support of former national security officials), should he decide to make a gesture both to the American pro-Israel community and the Israeli people, who remain suspicious if not downright hostile toward the American president. (Washington Post)
        See also Text of Statement by 500 Religious and Communal Leaders - Aaron Troodler (South Capitol Street)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Requests Clemency for Jonathan Pollard - Barak Ravid and Natasha Mozgovaya
    The Prime Minister's Office on Tuesday sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama requesting the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard for humanitarian reasons - the first formal request by Israel for the release of Pollard. "Even though Israel was in no way directing its intelligence efforts against the United States, its actions were wrong and wholly unacceptable," Netanyahu wrote. "Both Mr. Pollard and the Government of Israel have repeatedly expressed remorse for these actions, and Israel will continue to abide by its commitment that such wrongful actions will never be repeated."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Text of Letter to Obama
    "Jonathan Pollard has now spent 25 years in prison...longer in prison than any person convicted of similar crimes, and longer than the period requested by the prosecutors at the time of his plea bargain agreement."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Barak: Islamic Regime in Iran Won't Last Forever - Yaakov Katz
    Referring to the Islamic regime in Iran, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a conference in Tel Aviv Tuesday: "I am not sure that this regime will be in power 10 years from now....I can also not rule out the possibility that in a year from now, an opposition group like the Green Movement will not lead a new revolution. But we cannot count on this."
        "Sanctions are having an effect, but there is no chance that on their own they will stop the Iranians' efforts," Barak said. "There's still time for diplomacy, but the sanctions need to be much tougher and include Russia, China and India. Only this way will the Iranians be really tested." Maj.-Gen. (res.) Itzik Ben-Israel, the former head of the IDF's Research and Development Directorate, told the conference that in his opinion, Israel had the military capability needed to attack Iran's nuclear facilities and cause them extensive damage. (Jerusalem Post)
  • More Palestinian Workers in Israel in 2010
    11% of Palestinian workers work in Israel and the settlements, compared to 10% in 2009, a new survey from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics found. The increase helped push up the Palestinian GDP per capita. (Maan News-PA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Settlements Issue: Distorting the Geneva Convention and the Oslo Accords - Alan Baker
    Palestinian representatives at the UN have prepared a draft resolution that will seek to declare that Israeli settlements are "illegal and constitute a major obstacle to the achievement of peace." The issue of the legality of Israel's settlements policy has long been a central issue on the agenda of the international community.
        It is claimed that settlements are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians (1949). But both the text of that convention, and the post-World War II circumstances under which it was drafted, clearly indicate that it was never intended to refer to situations like Israel's settlements. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, Article 49 relates to situations where populations are coerced into being transferred. There is nothing to link such circumstances to Israel's settlement policy.
        A special regime between Israel and the Palestinians is set out in a series of agreements negotiated between 1993 and 1999 that are still valid - that govern all issues between them, settlements included. In this framework there is no specific provision restricting planning, zoning, and continued construction by either party. The Palestinians cannot now invoke the Geneva Convention regime in order to bypass previous internationally acknowledged agreements. Amb. Alan Baker, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is former Legal Adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry and former Ambassador of Israel to Canada. He participated in the drafting of the Oslo Accords. (ICA-Jerusalem Center)
  • Tension with Gaza: Israel's Deterrence under Pressure - Jeffrey White
    The IDF assesses that Hamas currently wants to concentrate on internal matters in Gaza and building its political and military strength rather than becoming involved in open warfare with Israel. Yet the multiplicity of armed actors within Gaza make this process difficult to undertake with complete assurance. Hamas appears to be suppressing some rocket and mortar fire, while permitting various groups to carry out actions along the security fence.
        The primary means of preventing attacks is through maintenance and periodic reinforcement of deterrence by applying threats and limited and controlled military power. But effective deterrence is not achieved at once, or forever, or without risk of escalation. The writer is a defense fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Countering Lawfare - Pat Toensmeier interviews Brooke Goldstein
    The UN's Goldstone Report is not just about Israel. It's about setting precedents in international law that can and will be used against U.S. and coalition forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, forces which are using the same methods and techniques that Israelis use on the battlefield, against the same type of terrorist combatants that engage in asymmetric warfare, the use of human shields and suicide bombings.
        Israel is the guinea pig for lawfare aimed at delegitimizing a democratic state's right to defend itself and to exert sovereign control over its territory. These legal "standards" will not only be used against Israel. Brooke Goldstein is director of the Lawfare Project. (Aviation Week)

Why Isn't Obama Pressuring the Palestinians? - Steven J. Rosen (Foreign Policy)

  • For the first time since the Oslo peace process started 18 years ago, Palestinian leaders are openly refusing to negotiate with the government of Israel. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, explained the policy on Dec. 9: "We will not agree to negotiate as long as settlement building continues."
  • But Abbas himself negotiated with seven previous Israeli prime ministers without such preconditions. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledges that the Palestinians are creating a new precondition for talks to begin. Settlements, she says, have "always been an issue within the negotiations.... There's never been a precondition."
  • In refusing to meet with Israel, Abbas is violating one of the most important commitments his predecessor Yasir Arafat made at the start of the Oslo process, which included this pledge to then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Sept. 9, 1993: "The PLO commits itself to the Middle East peace process, and to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides, and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved through negotiations." It is also a direct violation of the pledge that Abbas himself made barely three years ago at the Annapolis conference.
  • But the Obama administration is raising no public objection to the Palestinians' stance. It has not expressed one word of criticism of Abbas, nor used anything resembling the pressure tactics Obama has so freely used against the Israeli side. In fact, Obama did quite the opposite on Oct. 7, when he issued a special waiver of Section 7040(a) of the Foreign Assistance Act to transfer additional funds directly to the Palestinian Authority, just as it was announcing its refusal to negotiate.

    The writer served for 23 years as foreign policy director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

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